Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Left-sided libero leaves Lebanon for dead

Beijing Olympic Games qualifier, group A, matchday 3, Australia 3 v Lebanon 0

Tony Tannous
in Gosford

FAR too comfortable for the Olyroos. 1-0 after six minutes, 2-0 after 24, this was a one way procession towards Hassan Moghnieh’s goal in the first half, and Lebanon seemed powerless to stop it.

But for Mark Milligan, Trent McClenahan and Stuart Musalik, every Olyroo was bombing forward, too much for the slight of size Lebanese to handle.

Had it not been for a number of excellent saves from the Lebanese keeper, the score could have been five or six by the break. The bombardment eased up in the second period, the Olyroos having to wait till substitute David Williams pounced on the counter three minutes into stoppages to round out the scoring.

Lebanon were clearly not expecting much from this match, taking happy-snap on the field an hour before kick-off. They shaped up in 5-3-2, sitting deep, hoping to soak up some pressure. Missing a number of key players including defender Mootazbellah El Jounaidi (suspended) and striker Tarek El Ali (injured), this was always going to be a difficult task against an Olyroos side that continues to grow by the game.

Graham Arnold, who described himself later as the “ex-Socceroos” coach was back from Melbourne and put out a more attacking formation than the one seen on Saturday. This time it was a 3-5-2, with Bruce Djite joining Mark Bridge up front, no doubt keen to make up some goal difference on Iraq. Ruben Zadkovich played down the right flank, while Kristian Sarkies shaped up on the left, always looking to push on and create a three-man attack.

While Topor-Stanley was essentially playing as the left stopper in a back-three, he soon became Australia’s key man, an attacking libero, free to do as he pleased. With Lebanon’s right wing-back, Ali Hamie, preoccupied with Sarkies and the three central midfielders busy trying to deal with the drive of Billy Celeski and Nick Ward, Topor-Stanley was left to romp forward at will.

Neither Lebanese striker, Hassan Maatouk or Imad Saad, bothered to track the Perth Glory man. The lack of accountability was astonishing.

With Stuart Musalik also being afforded acres to dictate the play from his deep midfield position, he was able to constantly switch the play from right to left, feeding Topor-Stanley for fun.

With Celeski, Ward, Sarkies, Bridge and Djite providing movement all over the place, the options were plentiful. Bridge remarked later how he had “two or three” options every time he had the ball and Arnold described the opening 35 minutes as “champagne”.

On six minutes Bridge linked up beautifully with Topor-Stanley, who provided a peach of the cross for Nick Ward’s neatly volleyed opener, before Topor-Stanley and Bridge combined well with Djite, who played in Bridge for the second, expertly finished.

By that stage the score could have been anything, Moghneih replaying his heroics from matchday 1 in Pyongyang.

The second half was far less productive for the Olyroos, partly because the Lebanese made a few adjustments and played a bit better, but they never once threated Danny Vukovic’s goal.

Perhaps some of the boys were thinking ahead to the matchday 5 clash against Iraq in Gosford on November 17, which appears likely to decide who goes to Beijing.

Arnold said later that Iraq was in the box seat, but if the Olyroos continue to play with the verve and drive of the opening half, they will be hard to halt.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Tony,

I was there and watched as you said a very one-sided game. It never seems to amaze me and probably one of the reasons why Arnold never got the results to keep him in the Socceroos, (geez I hate that name, name change please), job. With Lebanon sitting back, the Olyroos ( and another name change please), would string together 5 or 6 passes across the backline with no one challenging, even though they also had the run of midfield as well. If they needed goals to try and improve their goal difference it didn't show. He is such a negative coach. Obviously nothing learnt from Guus.

Thu. Sep. 13, 02:56:00 pm AEST  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

Macka, interesting you say about how negative Arnold is....thought this was actually one of his more positive games, especially the first period, which I guess says a bit about some previous games.

You're right, in the 2nd half, with goal difference at stake, Australia should have been more ambitious, but Lebanon improved, just a bit.

Thu. Sep. 13, 05:43:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


As a coach, it is not just about one half of the game but the overall game, and given that Lebanon had several 3 on 2 situations they did not look like they were going to score. Why not go for more goals. Playing 5 or 6 passes across the backline with the opposition not interested in pushing up achieves nothing.

I was talking to Lawrie McKinna during the game and even he could not believe how poorly Lebanon played. So why not push for more goals.


Fri. Sep. 14, 09:13:00 am AEST  

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