Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A-League Semi Finals, second leg round-up (cont.)

Minor semi, Newcastle Jets 2 v Sydney FC 0 (NJ win 3-2 on aggregate)

Major semi, Melbourne Victory 2 v Adelaide United 1 (MV win 2-1 on aggregate)

RECOGNISING the ills of the way they played last week and the way they have stuttered through the past month, where they have been dwelling on the ball (taking too many touches, not moving it around quickly enough and looking to go one-out rather than share the ball around), Melbourne seemed intent on playing an up-tempo game here.

After conceded an early goal due to an inability to shut-down the man on the ball (Diego) and some lax marking at the back post, the Victory were quickly into their 2006 groove; quick movement of the ball and equally decisive movement off it. With Caceres back in the starting line-up on the left and Fred, Thompson and Allsopp taking turns in providing some width down the right, the Victory looked mobile and capable of getting in behind early on. And they did, Caceres wasting a good chance.

Adelaide, content to sit deep after their early smash-and-grab were being over-run in midfield, Diego looking sharp on the ball but struggling to assist Aloisi going the other way. Fortunately for United Costanzo was in supreme form once again, reading everything Melbourne dished up.

After looking great for the first half of the first half, Melbourne slipped back into the recent/frustrating habit of becoming too narrow, and United's defence started to take control.

Just like 48 hours earlier, half time would prove pivotal. Would Ernie Merrick panic, frustrated by his team's inability to break United down in the final 25 minutes? No, his words as the teams came out were positive, re-inforcing that he was happy with the performance and that his men needed to remain patient. If there was any despondency he wasn't showing it.

His mood was upbeat and it was mirrored by his players. They started the second period on fire and Allsopp soon had a wonderful equaliser, driving like the Allsopp of old. Valkanis, never the most comfortable with a striker taking it too him on the floor (as exposed by Kuwaiti livewire Bader Al Mutwa in August), retreated and was punished, Allsopp shifting it to his left and shaping it into the top corner before Costanzo could intervene. Thrilling strike. It was an otherwise immaculate performance from Valkanis but this moment of hesitation proved fatal.

While Melbourne buzzed around at the start of the second half, they were unable to find a go-ahead and the pattern soon became familiar. With Costanzo seeing everything, his defensive colleagues following suit and Beltrame lending a hand, more and more it was looking like the Victory were out of ideas and would miss out on hosting the big one. They had huffed and puffed but hadn't been able to blow the Adelaide resistance over.

Seemingly out on their feet, it was time for re-inforcements. On came Alessandro, Sarkies and Robinson, the latter for Fred. And what an impact they made, combinig for a sensational winner. When Alessandro took on two players down the flank and won a free-kick it was time for dead-ball man Sarkies. Two minutes into stoppages he flighted one into the traffic. Adelaide could only clear it to the edge of the six yard box, where Robinson guided it back across Beltrame. It dropped in. Cue for mayhem as 47,000 odd Vics went mad.

If there was a bit of fortune in the finish, Melbourne deserved it. Magnificent tonight, magnificent for most of the season, Melbourne (both the team and the fans) deserve their grand final, but will need to be more ruthless if they wish to win it.

Adelaide had come hoping to 'kick a Vic' but were left kicking themselves.

Ccontent to park themselves on the edge of the box, rarely looking to counter, they'd been made to pay. Cruel indeed. Even then they showed some character to create a heart-stopping moment, but, while most in navy blue were still celebrating Robinson's goal, Theoklitos was alert, denying Dodd. Now United must do it the hard way, knowing they are yet to win a regular season final in five attempts and facing a team full of attacking thrust.

Some of the other talking points

Save of the week; The work of all four keepers was excellent this week. Bolton made a number of brave stops while Covic was solid coming off his line and dealing with the aerial ball. Ditto Beltrame. But Theoklitos's 94th minute effort to rush off his line, narrow the angle and space for Dodd was the pick of the work. Wonderful concentration.

Goal of the week; all five this weeked were decent. Newcastle's second involved some excellent work from Thompson, while Robinson's late late effort will live long in the memory, more for its significance than its beauty. For beauty it has to go to Allsopp, a positive and direct run followed by a pin-point blast. His first in over a month.


Anonymous wayne said...

I didn't realise all three subs combined to get their last goal - Ernie threw a "super hiddink" there! Funny that, because sending a previously ineffective Robinson on seemed the very last desperate act of Merrick - Allessandro was a given, Sarkies next best, but I thought "geez, Fred must be stationary out there to be subbed at this time".

Wed. Feb. 07, 09:45:00 am AEDT  
Anonymous frank f said...

Glad that the Victory came through. Now a GF at the Dome should see a sellout. Does anyone know what the capacity is? Could they think of moving game to the MCG if ticket sales are outstanding?

Wed. Feb. 07, 10:49:00 am AEDT  
Anonymous colin said...

Capacity is about 56,000. Dont think they would change the venue as tickets go on sale today.

Wed. Feb. 07, 10:57:00 am AEDT  

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