Monday, December 11, 2006

A-League, round 16 round-up

The four games

Queensland Roar 0 v Newcastle Jets 3; With Sasa Ognenovski out and Spase Dilevski a late withdrawal, the most fascinating aspect of Frank Farina’s selection would be who would partner Josh McCloughan in central d. Which one of Gibson or McLaren would get the gig? Low and behold, neither did. Instead Farina went for Swiss Remo Buess, hitherto a left back, a struggling one at that. Both McLaren and Gibson were deployed in midfield, the latter playing in the unfamiliar surrounds on the right, a role he hasn’t played since his early days at Marconi. After getting so much right last week against Perth, the starting 11 looked unbalanced to say the least. On the opposite bench, and backing up from a game four days earlier, Gary van Egmond refreshed his unit by keeping elder statesmen Paul Okon and Vaughan Coveny on the bench and bringing in Andrew Durante and Mark Bridge. With the thoughts of some no doubt lingering about the two points dropped in NZ a few days earlier and so much riding on this result, the tinkering was a gamble, but it worked a treat, Bridge in particular having a massive influence. So flat were the Roar that at times it looked like a comfortable training drill for the Jets, a series of triangles played out of the back, with Stuart Musalik always there as the link. Even when the Jets ventured into the final third, the Roar stood off, ball watching, giving the Jets time to play their wall-passes, not that they ever need an invitation to try one. So resulted the first goal, as both McCloughan and Buess stood off as Milton Rodriguez and Bridge went one-two-three-toe-poke-goal. Next it was Griffiths, teed up by a characteristic driving run from Matt Thompson, peeling away from Buess and forcing an error from Reddy, before Bridge toyed with both McCloughan and Buess, showing terrific feet and awareness to send the defenders one way and then the other. The Roar had no answers, save for an encouraging performance off the bench from Dario Vidosic. After last week’s impressive showing against Perth and with so much at stake, more was expected, but as alluded to by Hamish over at Football Down Under and Beyond, it is hard to see them bouncing back from this dispirited performance, almost impossible in the context of this. The Jets, meanwhile, march on, two wins out of four consecutive games on the road.

Melbourne Victory 0 v Sydney FC 0; a bumper occasion in front of an unbelievable crowd, but as is often the case with these mega-hyped encounters, the game failed to take off. Tight and competitive, Melbourne shaded it overall, with Archie Thompson looking the only man likely to score a goal, but on three separate occasions he was wasteful, first firing over in first half injury time, then, after the break, forcing Clint Bolton into a sharp reaction save that rebounded agonisingly close to Danny Allsopp’s head, before shooting wide after skinning a couple of Sydney defenders. In truth, he was the only consistent threat for the Victory as Sydney did a decent job of denying both Muscat and Fred space in the middle. Terry McFlynn was deployed in a shadowing role, told to get up close and personal with Muscat. All of it was clean. With Mark Byrnes doing the same for Melbourne – shadowing Sydney’s main threat, Steve Corica – a stalemate developed, the visitors seemingly content to play for the draw. For Sydney it was another clean sheet and another game on their undefeated run. Momentum is everything in sport, and if Sydney can keep picking up points on the road, perhaps the flowing stuff might follow.

Central Coast Mariners 1 v Perth Glory 0; the team that was so easy on the eye last season has been harder to consume this year, but they are still in the mix and still with aspirations of bigger things. Make no mistake, this hasn’t been the fluent and purposeful Mariners we saw march all the way to the grand final, the feelgood story of the first season, but they are still picking up points, wins no less, and with such a cushy run home might expect to be in the mix come the finals. If they can just turn on the chemistry that so signified their 05/06 campaign, then watch out world. Here, against a desperate Glory, they were typically physical and combative. It has been the hallmark of their version 2, more grinders than high-flyers. Much of the success of late has been down to a tightening of things at the back, and the return of Andrew Clark to central defence the past two weeks (albeit off the bench) has helped the Mariners defend higher up the pitch. Amazing what a bit of pace can do. Ditto the use of Damien Brown at left back. A couple of times yesterday, when Luka Glavas raced through, Brown came across in cover, reminiscent of some of the work from Dean Heffernan last season. In midfield, Mile Jedinak has also helped stiffen things up and his ability to defend in front of the back four has been evident. With the defensive platform in place, they have been able to do enough in attack to get the job done. Here they profited from another moment of hesitation from Naum Sekoulovski, Adam Kwasnik reacting quickest to what looked an innocuous Stewart Petrie cross. The Mariners march on while the Glory are in big, big trouble, missing their inspiration in Stan Lazaridis. In games he hasn’t player, the Glory have lost five of six. In games he has played, Perth have lost four of ten.

Adelaide United 1 v New Zealand Knights 1; if Newcastle were kicking themselves after dropping two points in Auckland last week, then United will be even more frustrated by their inability to obtain maximum points at home. In truth that is somewhat underselling the Knights, who produced yet another decent performance against Adelaide to go with their 1-0 win in round 2 (remember that Buari bomb?). Better organised with Dean Gordon at the back, Richard Johnson and Jonas Salley in unison in midfield and Alen Marcina busy running off the shoulder of defenders, the Knights stung Adelaide early, Leilei Gao profiting from some space down the left, symptomatic of Richie Alagich’s continuing poor form this campaign. It is a mystery why Greg Owens, surly one of the finds of the season, can’t get a start ahead of Alagich after impressing in that role earlier in the campaign. Eventually he did come on for Ross Aloisi, impressing as a driving force from midfield, grabbing an equaliser and being involved in many other good moments. Only the sharp work of Mark Paston, making two or three excellent saves, kept United at bay, while Daniel Beltrame at the other end also had to be on his guard as the Knights created a couple of openings on the counter, getting down smartly at the feet of both Marcina and Michael White. Certainly Adelaide looked far more mobile when Romario and Aloisi were replaced, and while the merits of the Brazilian legends guest stint can’t be questioned from a commercial and branding perspective, John Kosmina will be hoping there is still time to recover from the current malaise. At the start of the season he spoke openly about how having such a deep squad would make for some tough selection choices. With a number of his senior players struggling, now might be the time to make some tough choices.

Some of the other talking points

Save of the week; Clint Bolton produced a sharp save down to his right to keep out what looked a goal-bound Archie Thompson effort, but Kiwi Mark Paston produced a string of fine efforts in the final quarter hour to keep the scores level at Hindmarsh, none better than a brilliant reflex stop sharp down to his left with less than 10 minutes left. When Jason Spagnuolo produced a first time volley, Paston was heading quickly across to his right, only to change his direction and thrust out a quick left hand, turning the volley around for a corner. Smashing reactions.

Goal of the week; take your pick from either of the two wonder goals scored by Jets young striker Mark Bridge. While his first was a sight to behold, a combination of two wall-passes followed by a Futsal style toe-poked finish, I loved the way he shook off two defenders for his second, driving infield and taking McCloughan and Buess with him before shifting back to where he came from, leaving them in his wake and blasting into the top corner. Lovely stuff.


Blogger Hamish said...

Only two things I wish to add to your Roar vs Newcastle round-up. First, they were missing Matt McKay too, arguably Roar's best player, and the heart of their midfield game. Sure he was on for the first 20 minutes, but he was sick, noticeably slow, and shouldn't have been on at all.

Second, Mori looked like he just didn't care.

My loyalty to the Roar is as rusted on as ever, but my loyalty to Farina is struggling. I miss Miron.

Tue. Dec. 12, 06:56:00 am AEDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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Tue. Dec. 12, 11:37:00 am AEDT  
Blogger john said...

Re Bridge's goal of the week - I thought the idea was to tackle strikers weaving in and out of the penalty area. If necessary you have to foul them. When the commentators talk about an unnecessary foul, isn't this a case of the necessary one?

Can't believe the Roar have paid all this money for Zhang and leave him in the stands in a suit. Does Frank really think Chad is better than him? And what about Reinaldo - is Frank serious? Does he really believe the publicity on 19 year old Chris Grossman to start him 2 games in a row? Reinaldo never gives up.

The Packer blast could well have been in response to Chad's 442 column where Chad blasts Miron squarely in the back.. 'I'm not going to say he lost the change room but.. 'you could be player of the match one week and out the next.' People bang on about this but I watched every game and all I saw was poor performances from Chad, and Miron looking for new options. Did the Reddy - Willis deal really have that much impact - I think not. Last year Willis kept the Roar in it - he had the best stats in the league - why wouldn't Miron give him a go.

Lots of raw nerves here in Qld.

Sat. Dec. 16, 03:37:00 pm AEDT  

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