Tuesday, January 09, 2007

A-League, round 19 round-up

The four games

Adelaide United 0 v Queensland Roar 1; after last week's insipid display in Auckland and a month of win-loss-win-loss action, which Queensland would turn up at Hindmarsh? On a scorcher of a night, played in front a healthy 10,000 odd fans, it was the winning Roar, although it truth they had to rely on some more wastefulness in front of goal from the home team, particularly from young gun Burns. While his build up play caught the eye, twice going past Buess as though he wasn't around, his finishing needs a little work, and that will come with maturity. His wasn't the only young gun shining, Vidosic and Spagnuolo doing their emerging reputations no harm with accomplished displays over the ball. Vidosic was hard at work early, dancing on the edge of the box, exchanging a give-and-go with restored striker Reinaldo, only to be denied by Beltrame, quick off his line. Back came Spagnuolo and Burns, teasing and running at a deep defensive line that appeared to have some communication problems between Buess and McCloughan. But when you don't take your chances, you know what happens at the other end. Eventually Queensland counter-attacked, Mori playing the ball square from the right for Vidosic, who held it up, waited for Mori to wrap around him and played a delightful futsal-style back heel (with the studs) into his path. Mori needs no invitation, especially at Hindmarsh, and thundered a left foot strike which rebounded off the crossbar. Reinaldo, a handfull throughout, still had a bit of work to do, shaking off Alagich and finishing with the aplomb he had shown earlier in the campaign. No doubt a few weeks on the sidelines had re-charged the desire. The Roar were content to defend (which they did well for the last 30 minutes) and counter, Mori so nearly doubling the lead. Remarkably, a team that has struggled since its round 7 visit to Melbourne was in the top four at the end of the night. Just amazing.

Newcastle Jets 1 v Central Coast Mariners 0; both teams coming off consecutive defeats and the Roar having gone ahead of them a night earlier, much was riding on the outcome of this game, and it showed in the early exchanges, a semi final type tempo evident as both teams got stuck in. There was also much talk in the build up about how both sides would deal with the under-prepared Energy Australia surface. The Jets had been hopelessly exposed a week earlier by a physical Sydney side that disrupted it's passing game, so would they stick to the pass and move style that had pushed them to the brink of a finals spot or would they go a little more direct, playing to the conditions? The impressive Gary van Egmond answered that question in the pre-game build-up, saying his side would mix it up, playing it into the channels when necessary. Adaptability, at least in theory. But they delivered in practice, forgoing their usual motto of playing everything through Musalik and Carle. While it caught the Mariners out early via a couple of balls over the top, eventually the visitors settled into the game, the defensive midfield duo of Spencer and Jedinak getting on top, and bringing wide men Petrie (left) and Osman (right) into the game. With Brown joining in from left back, the Mariners were dishing up some decent stuff, the Jets having to rely on Covic to make two brilliant stops, the first to his left from Brown, the second to his right from a Jedinak header. In between the saves, the Jets counter-attacked from a Spencer error, Carle moving the ball through midfield onto Bridge, who found Rodriguez. Thrilling stuff. Knowing much hinged on this game, the Mariners upped the ante in the second half, just as they had a week earlier, but again Covic came up trumps, saving well from a Spencer blast and then from a beautifully executed Osman volley. It was all hands on deck for Newcastle, and Kohler was particularly busy. While it wasn't the flowing Jets we've growing accustomed to seeing, in the conditions and given the circumstances, it could well be their most character building win, and the keeper's perfomance will give them hope they can re-produce it in a crunch game down the track. Certainly by the time Melbourne arrive in a fortnight, the pitch should be back to it's early season best.

Sydney FC 0 v New Zealand Knights 1; another newly laid pitch (what is it with this obsession of running repairs during the football season?), but this one didn't really detract from the spectacle. With Middleby out, Sydney re-shaped things from last week, moving Zadkovich from right back to left midfield and Ffye from central defence to the right, with Jacob Timpano coming in for the first time this season. In truth he was caught cold at an early set piece, Bunce reacting quickest to a Gao corner, volleying past Bolton at an unguarded near post. It was Sydney's first goal conceded in over 500 minutes, a record to be proud of. Also a matter of taking pride in is the Knights new-found emphasis on keeping the ball. Shortly after the goal they strung eight passes to shift the ball to the far left corner, where Gordon gave it up. Just before the break, under pressure on the edge of their box, they strung 11 passes to build the ball up down the right and through the middle, winning a free-kick. Rarely before had we seen that many successful passes in a game, let alone one move. It is the type of work that relieves pressure, a credit to Ricki Herbert. Here he had Emblen playing between the midfield and Marcina, somewhat of a centre half forward (to borrow terminology from another code), taking the inital out-ball and bringing his midfielders and Marcina into the game. The latter was causing FC's defence a few headaches, but it was mainly the hosts asking the questions. With NZ defending on their 18 yard box, Sydney were invited forward, the urgency picking up after the break. With Carney, Corica and Brosque keen to get on the ball, it appeared only a matter of time before the equaliser, but if it wasn't keeper Paston producing save after save, it was the post which consigned Sydney to it's first defeat since round nine at home to Melbourne. As Terry Butcher noted afterward, 'it was one of those days'. While it shouldn't dent their confidence ahead of the finals, it gives them a bit of work to do to get into the play-off to decide who hosts the big one. As for NZ, very well done.

Perth Glory 2 v Melbourne Victory 2; no Allsopp, Thompson, Muscat, Fred, Leijer, Theoklitos, Storey or Piorkowski, just how would this second string Victory unit fair? It provided an opportunity for the likes of Lia, Robinson, Ferrante, Alessandro, Caceres, Byrnes, Galekovic and Sarkies, and early on they looked to be struggling for cohesion. Understandable really. Perth boss Ron Smith had also done some tinkering of his own, giving opportunities to the likes of Saric and young Ukraine striker Nikita Rukavytsya, a product of the AIS. The latter was partnered alongside skipper Harnwell, back up front and grabbing an opener from what looked a foul on Byrnes. The Melbourne defender's evening was about to get worse, an own goal followed by two second half yellows. But Perth, despite youngster Magdic doing well as a half time replacement for Saric, were unable to capitalise, Melbourne getting into the game thanks to their spirit and the work of young substitute central midfielder Leigh Broxham, neat and tidy on the ball. Profiting from some good work from skipper Brebner, Sarkies had a gift first, before finally fulfilling his potential over the dead ball. A perfect away record may have been lost, but given the line-up and the loss of a man, plenty of positives for Ernie Merrick.

Some of the other talking points

A race with plenty of appeal; as pointed out by Hamish over at Football Down Under and Beyond, it really is an engrossing race for spots two to four, so much more than we might have expected. In truth it has been tight even as far back as October, where there was only five points seperatng second from second last at the end of round 10. While alot of it has been down to teams slipping up rather than seizing their opportunities, at least it provides some edge of the seat appeal, such a feature of season one.

The surface at Energy Australia and beyond; while there are questions about why football remains the poor cousin of Australia sport, always the one to have work done throughout it's season, the Newcastle surface was better on Friday, thanks to some extensive watering before the game and at half-time. With work also going on at Aussie Stadium, at least the new surface looked better than Sydney's last fixture against Perth. It was a fair cry from the carpet-like conditions at both stadiums earlier in the year. When will people in this part of the world realise that the surface is among the most vital part of getting a decent product out there? The likes of Terry Butcher, Robert Baan and Milton Rodriguez, recent arrivals from football cultures which demand pristine conditions, must be scratching their heads. It mightn't matter so much in other codes, so do the work during their seasons. Lets hope the carpet it rolled out for the finals.

Save of the week; again, there was some brilliant work from the custodians this week, especially from Paston and Covic. Paston produced one point blank effort to keep out a Milligan header from only a few metres out, but Covic was sublime, rekindling memories of his wonderful work for Marconi at least five years ago. His flying effort, full stretch to his right, as high as he could get, to keep out a bullet Jedinak header that seemed sure to equalise, was my pick.

Goal of the week; only seven to choose from and there were a couple of good ones, including Newcastle exposing the Mariners on the counter, but given how long we've waited for a Kristian Sarkies set piece, it is hard to go past it. While there might have been question marks over Tomich's wall and positioning, good to see Sarkies nail one.


Blogger Hamish said...

Thanks once again Tony for an excellent round up.

Wed. Jan. 10, 08:00:00 am AEDT  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

Cheers Hamish, glad you enjoyed.

What about the news on Murdocca?

That would be a terrific boost for you guys, especially if he's anywhere near the form he was in when injured (unfortunately that might take time).

Still stick by my earlier thoughts that QR haven't been the same since his departure. The combination he had with McKay at the time was sensational, dominating games through their collective buzzability.

I remember Miron quite openly stating that he mightn't been easy to replace, and so it's proved.

Wed. Jan. 10, 06:18:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger Hamish said...

I completely agree Tony. The only risk I guess is that he won't be 100% due to not playing for a while, but if I was Farina I'd be taking the risk.

Conventional thinking in these situations (it seems) is to have Murdocca on the bench and give him a run in the last part of the game. Jacob made a suggestion which is so simple that it could only come from a kid - put him on and see how he goes. If he's in form, give him as long as he can handle; if not replace him after half an hour. I could only agree.

Apart from Reddy who as I speak is still in doubt due to that ridiculous (IMHO) charge of 'violent conduct', Farina has the opportunity to put the winning side of the beginning nof the season on. What have we got to lose? Everything of course! And everything to win as well.

Wed. Jan. 10, 07:54:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

Hamish, gotta love the logic of a kid.

You're right about the conventional wisdom being to plonk him on the bench, and I'd say that's how Farina will go, especially in light of last week's win. Don't think he'll tinker too much with that winning combo and his preferred 4-4-2, but an extra body in central midfield would certainly complement McKay and Seo, imho.

In his home city,if he's ready, and especially if things aren't going the Roar's way, it'd be nice to see Murdocca get at least 45mins.

Who know, you mighn't need him given they way the team has performed when little is expected, as McCloughan pointed out this week.

As for Reddy, assume by now you've heard about the week's suspension and that the replacement is Tando Velaphi, the Young Roos keeper at the recent ill-fated world youth cup qualification campign. From the reports from those that watched some of it, like James, he didnt have the greatest tournament.

But, if you cast your mind back to round 12, and Perth custodian Tommi Tomich made a fantastic debut, and it was as the Dome, no doubt pumped up by playing in front of such a bumper crowd.

Thu. Jan. 11, 11:46:00 am AEDT  

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