Saturday, January 13, 2007

Roaring right back into the race

Round 20 match review, Melbourne Victory 1 v Queensland Roar 2

JUST remarkable. A team that was on its knees only a fortnight ago, the autopsy under way, has Roared back to life, a patchy and gutsy win over Adelaide followed by a spirited and wonderful win last night over the Victory. Suddenly there is life up north.

Remarkably, the team now sits third, behind Sydney only on goal difference. Anything is still possible; second and a crack at a home grand final or missing out altogether.

Of course, much will depend on a pivotal night of action in the penultimate round tomorrow, where three of the teams in and around Queensland play; Sydney away to Adelaide and Newcastle away to a Bobby Despotovski inspired Glory.

The one things that is certain is that Melbourne will be playing at home in the second week of the finals. Where they will play in a fortnight remains a mystery.

The other thing that is likely is that the Mariners will miss out, but even they have a hope, if Newcastle lose their last two, Sydney knock off United tomorrow and Lawrie McKinna's men get over Adelaide next Sunday. In this amazing run in, who knows?

Last night the Roar were excellent, kept in the game by some wonderful work from their stand-in keeper Tando Velaphi and inspired by a wonderful contribution from their midfield quartet; Hyuk-Su Seo as the anchor, Matty McKay driving from central midfield and the wonderful feet of their two wide men, Dario Vidosic on the right and Spase Dilevski on the left.

Indeed, there wasn't a bad contributor for the Roar, Sasa Ognenovski back in the fold and back in his home city, looking solid alongside Josh McCloughan after their problems mid-term, while the two fullbacks, Ben Griffin on the right and Andy Packer on the left kept their shape defensively and ventured forward at opportune moments. Griffin was particularly thoughtful, waiting for Vidosic to drift infield, as is his want, and utilising the space left wide.

Indeed, this was the most organised the Roar defence has looked in some time, defending deep on their 18 yard box, rarely allowing the likes of Allsopp, Archie, Fred and Caceres in behind, restricting the Victory to the odd pot-shot from outside, which the young gloveman had covered, in spectacualr style.

Helping the Roar stay compact was the fact the Victory were playing rather narrow, thanks largely to a new-look 3-5-2 formation in which Vince Lia on the right and Adrian Caceres on the left failed to provide the width expected of them. With both Caceres and Lia ducking inside far too often, it allowed Queensland to exploit the space out wide and they were able to consistently stretch the Victory defence and create space in the middle for those ghosting in from midfield, especially McKay and Vidosic.

The tempo from Queensland was fantastic, right from the start, and its midfield was able to get on top early. While the opening goal was somewhat fortunate, Mori appearing to be offside when Vidosic played him in, the build-up was easy on the eye, Dilevski threading a delightfully weighted ball to Vidosic throw two Melbourne midfielders.

In any case, Queensland and its supporters will feel some luck was overdue after a number of decisions went against them earlier in the year.

It stung Melbourne into life, the tempo lifting as Sarkies and Muscat became more involved and Thompson and Fred went in search of some combination play to unlock a retreating defence.

Dragging themselves back into it through the lightning quick feet of Thompson, it appeared a draw would be just about all the Roar could hope for, but Frank Farina had other ideas.

Realising that you get nothing if you don't take the odd gamble and that he was already without some key personnel the following week, he begged his men to press on, and with Massimo Murdocca providing a spark off the bench, the Roar created a remarkbale injury time winner.

Once again they'd pulled the Melbourne defence out wide, and profitted in the middle, Reinaldo, Murdocca and Griffin combining out on the right for Milicic to deflect, luckily, into the path of an aware Vidosic. The game-plan had worked.

As for Ernie Merrick, he'd gambled on a new formation and lost, and now he and the vast Melbourne support base will be hoping it doesn't disrupt their momentum, much as the minor premiership did to Adelaide last season.

As for the Roar, 14 rounds after arriving at this same ground as a genuine title contender and being on the recieving end of a 4-1 thumping, they were back. Talk about exorcising the demons.

Farina is right to emphasise that nothing has yet been achieved, particularly in light of the fact he will be without a key players McKay and McCloughan next week, while young guns like Vidosic and Dilevski will be on Olyroo duty in the build up to Saturday's game.

Regardless, it's all intriguing.


Blogger Hamish said...

Thanks for this review Tony. As you can imagine, an extremely gratifying game for a Roar fan (despite Mori's goal being from an offside position). I can't read about it too much.

Sun. Jan. 14, 10:27:00 am AEDT  

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