Monday, September 24, 2007

Blue skies at last as the Brazilian beat begins

A-League round 5 analysis

NJ 2 v MV 2
WP 2 v AU 2
QR 0 v SFC 1
CCM 1 v PG 0

AFTER the gloom of the past few weeks, it was great to see some blue sky over the weekend, the standard of play improving across the board, providing some decent entertainment at most of the venues.

Probably the pick of the lot came in the first match, the one between the two best sides of last season, Newcastle and Melbourne.

Gary van Egmond, the Jets manager, had promised some free-flowing football from his side and that’s exactly what they delivered, all but playing the winless champions off the pitch in the first period.

Much of this improved football was down to not only the make-up of the midfield (Adam D’Apuzzo in for Jobe Wheelhouse made a massive difference, his good work complementing the technical capabilities of Denni and Stuart Musalik), but the renewed focus on movement off the ball. Troy Hearfield was playing up front, and moving all over the place along with Joel Griffiths, Mark Bridge and Denni. The Victory defence was all over the place, almost as if a couple of Derby defenders had suddenly been drafted in.

Complement the movement up front with the drive and excellent use of the ball from Andrew Durante down the right, and it was Jets throwing all the punches. The tragedy for them was that they weren’t able to kill off the game early in the second period, Michael Theoklitos keeping the visitors in it with a couple of fine saves.

While Leandro Love was quiet early, Ernie Merrick’s patience was eventually rewarded, Love showing some good feet as he started peeling out to the left and providing Melbourne with the width they have been lacking this season.

One piece of good work resulted in a well delivered cross for Archie Thompson to prod home, and by the time Adrian Cacares was introduced, perhaps the Jets were thinking about all their missed chances. After an excellent few weeks, Adam Griffiths will want to forget the equaliser in a hurry.

The irony is that Newcastle had played well and only picked up a point, whereas in past fortnight they had been less convincing and won. On the evidence of this performance, there is hope for their fans they can do both, while Melbourne at least demonstrated some fight.

Another team that has made a habit of fighting back is Wellington. After last week’s come from behind win in Sydney and the round one heroics against Melbourne, the Phoenix kept the feel-good factor going with a late equaliser in front of another bumper and loud home crowd.

It was another entertaining, yet physical affair, most of the flair coming from the four Brazilians starters and most of the fireworks coming in the confrontation between Karl Dodd and Bruce Djite.

The one time the Olyroo was able to escape the attentions of Dodd he was able to hold off Steven O’Dor, turn and put Adelaide into a deserved lead.

While United dominated the midfield and flooded forward down the left through Cassio, Wellington always looked likely at the other end through the wonderful gifts, mobility and surprising strength of Felipe. Not all the Brazilians are struggling to adapt to the physicality of this league. Indeed, collectively, it was their best weekend by some way.

Adelaide looked sharp and incisive throughout, but had to deal with the deep and crowding defending of Wellington. On this evidence, United should soon start winning, but the aerial work of Robert Bajic will need addressing.

Another thing that needs addressing quick smart is that finishing of the Queensland Roar strikers, who continue to frustrate. While they came up against a hungry Sydney and a keeper that tends to save his best work for his trips to the northern state, just how much can the Suncorp crowd continue to take?

Already this season I have delved on a number of occasions into just how invisible both Ante Milicic and Simon Lynch have been, yet when the heat was on and Frank Farina was looking for an equaliser, he took-off Reinaldo instead of Lynch (Milicic was already off). As frustrating as he can be, at least Reinaldo was presenting and getting on the end of things.

The fact Farina had to resort to throwing Sash Ognenovski up front told of his frustrations. Sydney, battered by the press, clearly came with a smash-and-grab siege mentality and applied it to a tee, picking their moment to pounce.

Afforded a rare bit of space in midfield, Ruben Zadkovich proved it’s within his capabilities to deliver a final ball and picked out the movement of Steve Corica, who laid it on a plate for Patrick, who couldn’t miss.

FC had defended desperately for most of the match, and in all likelihood would have been punished by a more ruthless side than Farina’s, but their first win should at least provide a starting point for their season. Branko Culina still has much work to do, but at least the attitude was right on this night. Sydney fans will be hoping the football follows.

For now they join the traffic on five points.

How either side at Suncorp could have done with the cutting edge of Sasho Petrovski, whose finishing again proved to be the difference between the two sides yesterday.

Ron Smith had given the Perth formation a shake-up by relegating Mate Dragicevic to the bench and drafting in James Robinson, and early on they looked up for the challenge, with Mitchell Prentice and David Micevski combining well and dominating central midfield.

But gradually the Mariners wrestled back the control. While gun-for-hire Damien Mori was quiet, it was Petrovski who grabbed the game at the start of the second half and gave it a shake, eventually getting his reward a moment or two after some clueless work at the other end from Tyler Simpson.

That minute or so summed up the match and their respective positions on the ladder – impotent at one end, lethal at the other.

TRBA team of the week (3-4-1-2)

Goalkeeper; Clint Bolton (SFC)
Defenders; Andrew Durante (NJ), Mark Rudan (SFC), Ian Fyfe (SFC)
Midfield; Ruben Zadkovich (SFC), Stuart Musalik (NJ), Diego (AU), Cassio (AU)
Attacking midfield; Felipe (WP)
Strikers; Sasho Petrovski (CCM), Leandro Love (MV)


Anonymous Jack said...

Another top notch weekly summary Tony.

I'm a regular reader but first time commenter and have to say your consistent delivery of high quality football writing is appreciated by all real fans of the game.

Having watched most of the action myself this week, I agree the quality was far better than it's been to date especially in Fridays game. Thought it was great to see Newcastle knocking it around - lets hope for more of that.

A question - do you think Steve Laybutt should come into the Jets side for the trip to Sydney after the Adam Griffiths error?

Tue. Sep. 25, 12:44:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous Ed Vegas said...

Tony, I could not agree more regarding Reinaldo's substitution. To see him sitting on the bench while Sasha bumbled around up front just compounded the emense frustration that I have come to expect. I'm not sure what Farina is playing at. Reinaldo is leading the comp's shots on goal tally and Milic and Lynch are, as you rightly point out, invisible.

Tue. Sep. 25, 01:19:00 pm AEST  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

jack, thanks for the comment and interest, nice to have you on board.

....A question - do you think Steve Laybutt should come into the Jets side for the trip to Sydney after the Adam Griffiths error?...

It's an interesting one, and I'm sure it'll be high on van egmond's list.

Apparently he's been doing well at training and there is talk of maybe shifting griffiths into midfield or north out to the right. i reckon griffiths form has been good enough up until the 2nd half on frid. he had a nervy debt but has been good since then, but if he has another poor one against sydney, laybutt has to get a chance. status quo for now.

Actually, as I write, word has just filtered through tht stuart musalik will face a disciplinary hearing on thursday on a charge of using offensive or insulting or abusive language and/or gestures, so a suspension for him might prompt a move for griffiths to midfield, and give laybutt his chance, just one of the possibilties

Tue. Sep. 25, 02:08:00 pm AEST  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

Ed, it's not like reinaldo has been setting the world on fire, but right now, for me, he's the best of the Roar's struggling trio of least his workrate is, in a small way, making up for the lack of goal return, which i guess is ultimately what he's paid to do, so i can understand fans's frustration.

But most of that frustration should be pointed at Lynch and Milicic.

Tue. Sep. 25, 02:28:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I notice in the last 4 of the 5 rounds played only one CCM defender has made your team of the week, Tony Vidmar. Given that the Mariners have yet to concede a goal, please explain.

PS Keep up the great summary you do each week. As a coach, I learn from some of the things you comment on, more so than the Fossie's of this world.

Did you down load the Barca game this morning.


Thu. Sep. 27, 11:08:00 am AEST  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

...I notice in the last 4 of the 5 rounds played only one CCM defender has made your team of the week, Tony Vidmar. Given that the Mariners have yet to concede a goal, please explain...

Macka, it's a good b!oody question, but it really has been a season where the defences have dominated so far, so there's been a bit of competition...I've been really impressed by Nigel Boogard and have been singing his praises since seeing him against Blacktown in the pre-season, good on the ball and good football brain

Also, Matt Osman and dean Heffernan have been consistently good.

I think, overall, it's been their work as a unit that's caught the eye, plus Mile Jedinak offers plenty of protection.

PS, thanks for the wrap.

Fri. Sep. 28, 04:29:00 pm AEST  

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