Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A -League, round 17 round-up

The four games

Sydney FC 1 v Perth Glory 0; bit of a fizzer all round, not helped by Robbie Williams's work over the past couple of weeks. Ron Smith did some tinkering, playing Mark Lee in the problem area of left back (for Sekoulovski) and bringing Harnwell back into the starting side up front. With Colosimo starting well and Bertos’ mobility causing Sydney’s backline a few problems, Perth looked the most likely to score early on and Bertos had one glorious opportunity after being teed up by Colosimo, but blazed away on the left peg. Little wonder he’s yet to score, despite his impressive all round play. Next time he was through, Rudan clattered him from behind, clear red card. Terry Butcher re-shaped things by going to three at the back, Milligan splitting Fyfe and Ceccoli, with Carney and Middleby meant to provide the depth out wide. Not surprisingly it detracted from Sydney’s attack, Brosuqe foraging alone up front, working hard but well looked after by the imposing Tarka. It was a game for the defenders, until Smith made the decision to replace Tarka with 15 or so minutes left. It was the pivotal move, Colosimo shifted back and Kovacevic going from right to left central defender, where Tarka had dominated. A few minutes later Corica turned Kovacevic (in the mood he was in, Tarka would have taken man or ball, or both) and it was game, set and match, Brosque rewarded for his hard work. The overall performance was hardly flowing, but Sydney, a man down, again demonstrated the character and will to win that took them to the title last year. Corica, so influential since his return home, provided the one classy moment, while Brosque might finally get his season going.

Adelaide United 3 v Newcastle United 2; an absolute classic, two teams having a real go at each other, the luck finally going with the hosts after a wretched few weeks. Gary van Egmond is a philosophical manager, thoughtful and insightful, and even pre-empted that that probability was leaning towards an Adelaide win, and with Carle suspended and Okon out, he had a bit of re-shaping to do. Bridge, so eye-catching a week earlier, got the Carle role, and did wonderful job early, giving Veart his fair share of problems. Kosmina had finally taken the plunge, ‘resting’ his skipper Aloisi, starting Owens out on the right and shifting Burns into the middle. The idea, it seemed, was to provide some much needed drive out of midfield, and play through Romario. Hitherto he’d been seen as being one dimensional, a finisher. Here the emphasis seemed to be on playing it to him whenever he wanted it, and good players generally known how to use a ball. Even in his first game in Gosford, when much was made of his missed chances, I remember his first half for the fact he only gave the ball up once. While there weren’t that many touches, his work was simple but efficient. Here he was wonderful, involved throughout. As one enthusiastic reader commented by text, his movement off the ball was fantastic, his positional sense exquisite. As Kosmina had hoped, it created space and time for others, particularly Spagnuolo, who terrorised Eagleton and North, setting up the first with a sublime dribble. Finally Romario had his 987th, although with a degree of doubt about whether he got a touch, but who could deny him? There was more to come, both from Romario and the game in general. The Jets, despite losing Griffiths at the break, showed they have the character to go with the flair, twice fighting back to equalise, both wonderfully taken. With Griffiths off, Bridge moved to the right but popped up everywhere, his confidence flowing and work on the ball a treat. Then Thompson continued his fine form, dipping the shoulder on Rees and shaping one around Beltrame. Could it get any better? Yes, Romario turning on the edge of the box and squaring it to Owens, who twinkled to his left, shifted the ball to his right and shaped it around a bamboozled debutant in Covic. Thrill a minute stuff that could have a decisive impact on the make-up of the final four.

Central Coast Mariners 2 v Queensland Roar 3; after a couple of dour A-League weeks on the trot (seven goals in round 15, six last week), it was refreshing to see a second game in two nights where the goals and goal-mouth action flowed. After the disappointment of last week’s hiding to the Jets, Frank Farina had a major re-think, and rightly so, shifting Buess to the left, McLaren to central defence, Seo into central midfield and Packer up to left midfield. It looked far more balanced and natural, and it showed, the Roar competing from the outset against a Mariners unit looking to maintain its clean sheet and home record runs. With Vidosic, McKay and Seo dominating the midfield and Mori looking sharp up front, the Roar were on top against a Mariners outfit that appeared to miss a focal point in attack (Mrdja). Despite that, referee Matthew Breeze did his best to keep the hosts in the contest, awarding two penalties that appeared lucky. Given their lack of fortune, the Roar may well have dropped their bundle, but they remained organised, disciplined and hungry, eventually getting a bit of a break (thank goodness it wasn’t literally one) when Jedinak (the ‘silent assassin’ as he’s been dubbed - he is better than that) went recklessly flying two-footed into Seo. A similar incident a few weeks earlier had received only half the punishment, but the FFA would do well to set a precedent tomorrow and rub Jedinak out for a few weeks. There is simply no room in the game for this on-field thuggery. Instead, flair should be encouraged, like that produced by Vidosic when he showed the awareness to chest down a long McKay delivery, despite the attentions of Brown, and score the winner, wonderful stuff.

Melbourne Victory 4 v New Zealand Knights 0; at last count James from Confessions had the Knights as having used 27 players so far this campaign. That was before this most tumultuous of weeks, when they could barely scrape together a starting 11. Give the circumstances, Ricky Herbert, who has done a decent job as All Whites boss and should have been in this role a lot earlier, put out a team that did a decent job in the opening exchanges, until the might and finishing potency of the Victory front-line took over in a breathtaking 10 or so minutes before the break. Four goals, two from quickly taken free kicks, two exposing a lack of pace and organisation on the flanks (Caceres took on Fleming for the second goal down the left, Allsopp powered down the right for the third) and it was game over. The most fascinating aspects after that were the words of Ernie Merrick before the start of the second half (paraphrased; “Terribly disappointed about the first half display, not good enough ahead of the finals.”) and the noise and atmosphere generated by the Olympic Park crowd, particularly in the last 15 minutes, when the crowd went ballistic. Merrick’s words demonstrated that Melbourne have learnt from Adelaide’s mistake last year and there’ll be no taking the foot off the pedal despite having the minor premiership wrapped up, while the noise and atmosphere was a fitting reminder of just how far the game has come in 2006, a slap in the face to those who had tried to put the game down in the preceding week. Marvelous work Melbourne.

Some of the other talking points

Save of the week; not that he knew much about it, but when Roar substitute Reinaldo met a corner at the near post, his header appeared destined for the back of the net, only for Vukovic to somehow get a piece of it. Replays showed it cannoned off his head. Regardless, it was another piece of great coverage from this agile kid.

Goal(s) of the week; it really is hard to go past Ben Griffin’s perfectly timed volley, running onto a wonderful switch from Mori, but I also loved the build up and finish to Owens’s winner against Newcastle, the work of Romario followed by the twinkle toes of Owens, who sent Old one way before cutting back and leaving Covic for dead, crucial and classy. Earlier in the night I thought we’d be hard-pressed to see a better goal than Romario’s, not for the finish, but for the wonderful bit of work down the left by Spagnuolo, dipping inside Eagleton and Griffiths before skinning North and forcing the spill from Covic. Then came three more gems, first Bridge shaping one into the top corner before Thompson and Owens followed suit. Then came Saturday night, with Griffin and Vidosic scoring gems, before Melbourne scored three beauties of their own on Sunday from Caceres, Allsopp (his second) and Thompson. Oh, and the work from Corica to set up Brosque’s neatly placed header on Thursday night wasn’t bad either. So there you go, 15 goals in total, at least 10 worthy of goal of the week in any other round. Given I can’t split Griffin and Owens, have decided to leave it up to you, the reader, to decide. Was it Griffin, was it Owens or was it another of this fine bunch of strikes? Leave a comment with your choice.


Anonymous the orange peeler said...

You are right, very hard to choose this week. I go for the Roar right back - it was a bit of a fluke I reckon but one he'll probably never score again.If Spanguolo had scored though, that would have been my pick.

Keep up the great analysis, I awlays enjoy your weekly wraps.

Wed. Dec. 20, 11:47:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger Jeccy - for the Roar said...

hmm. Is it just me or did anybody else think that Ben Griffin was a defender?

Thu. Dec. 21, 04:43:00 am AEDT  
Blogger Hamish said...

Thankyou again Mike. I don't get to see all the games so your wrap up is priceless.

Given that I only saw the Roar vs CC game, I'm just not qualified to make a call on goal of the week, but who ever heard of an informed electorate? My vote goes to Griffin of course! Does he get votes for, 1) being a young codger who's never scored in this League before (encouragement award), 2) scoring the first goal against the Mariners for a good stretch, and causing them to go down on their own turf for the first time for ages (spoiler award) and 3) single-handedly putting the Roar back in the competition from a place of lowest morale (bouncebackability award)?

I don't want to take anything from Dario or for that matter the rest of the boys, but Griffin's goal rekindled a fire, and it's impact was hence much greater than just the point.

Thu. Dec. 21, 07:21:00 am AEDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have to go for the van Basten-like Grffin goal

Thu. Dec. 21, 08:04:00 am AEDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Loved Grego's.

Thu. Dec. 21, 10:27:00 am AEDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

owens - goal of the week.
also has the ability of a few other midfielders in the a-league of being a regular goal getter.

owens and spagnuolo potential socceroos of the future?

Thu. Dec. 21, 02:58:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger Mike Salter said...

...Thankyou again Mike. I don't get to see all the games so your wrap up is priceless....

Much appreciated Hamish, but I believe Tony deserves the credit on this one... ;-)

Thu. Dec. 21, 03:19:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger Hamish said...

Oh dear. It's a week for gaffs from me. Apologies Tony!

Thu. Dec. 21, 11:09:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

Hamish, I know it's the festive season and all, but just how much have you had...:-)

Thanks all for your comments, seems opinion is divided.

Even had a friend call to say I was nowhere near the mark and that Matty Thompson's goal to make it 2-2 on Frid was the best of the lot.

As I said to him, it is hard to argue with that, it was a peach, a one-two down the left, a drop of the shoulder to leave Kristian Rees for dead and a delightfully bent right footer around Beltrame into the top corner. Quality.

Hamish, can't say I was totally surprised to see you go with Griffin, and particularly good to see you back on board the Roar Express, impressive work against the Mariners. But as Frankie said in the post-match, it's all about producing consistency.

And speaking of consistency, I like the thought process behind the following anonymous question;

.....owens and spagnuolo potential socceroos of the future?.....

Definitely agree that these two guys have the potential, if they keep producing it consistently. Spagnuolo has been a revelation on the left flank since coming into the squad during the finals last season. In truth we didn't see much of him then, but the wraps were glowing. So far he has delivered.

This year, with Lucas Pantelis (who I have plenty of time for) out injured, the kids has been exellent, especially during the past month or so (since coming back from injury) when the rest of his team have been poor. A sign of his development is the fact he has kept the likes of Dodd and Petta on the bench the past few weeks. He is quick, good on the ball, likes to try things, isn't afraid of getting stuck-in and works back. Next season is the crucial one for him. If he can consistently string it together for a couple of seasons, why not the Socceroos!

As for Owens, he has always been a promising kid, but his maturity this year has been the feature. He finally looks a real footballer, in touch with the game and what to do in any given scenario. His drive and pace, both from right back and central or wide midfield has been terrific, and I'd love to see him given a chance at a higher level some time in the new year. Problem is, the Socceroos have a wealth of quality in midfield, but no reason, at the very least, why he shouldn't be in any all A-League squad.

Fri. Dec. 22, 02:01:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger john said...

Greg Owens has been linked to the Roar next year (probably for Wedau). Could be Frank's Christmas present?

I agree with you re-the Reinaldo chance - talking of bouncebackability - he gets left out for 2 weeks plus half a game - charges on and nearly steals the show. He is an away-game player.

Fri. Dec. 22, 11:16:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

John, thanks for the comment...

I think anyone who lands Owens would be doing very good business indeed, but I'd be suprised if Kosmina would let him go anywhere, unless of course it was a European offer he couldn't resist. Definitely good enough to be there.

As for Reinaldo, I have to agree as I was very suprised not to find him in the starting line-up against the Jets a couple of weeks back, just the type of player I can imagine they don't like playing against.

Admittedly he had gone off the boil in the month or so preceeding that clash, but I have been disappointed with Simon Lynch of late. Perhaps its the injuries?

Wouldnt be surprised to soon see Reinaldo get an opportunity alongside Mori.

Sun. Dec. 24, 12:46:00 am AEDT  
Blogger john said...

tonight you got your Reinaldo suggestion... and it worked...

Thu. Jan. 04, 11:08:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

john, i just thought that reinaldo's time was due, particularly as lynch has gone off the boil since coming back from injury. he hasn't combined at all well with mori, so it was time for reinaldo or milicic. i thought the brazilian had a decent start to the season, and was worth another crack. Thought he played pretty well overall last night and his effort to get in front of Alagich for the goal was strong. While the roar were lucky to grab all three points, I'd be giving him another go up front next week

Fri. Jan. 05, 12:06:00 pm AEDT  

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