Sunday, September 16, 2007

Two new winners, but the surprise is in who's yet to win

A-League Round 4 analysis

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

IF last weekend was one to forget, than it has to be said that this one was only slightly better, but at least there were three results, which has opened up the ladder a little and doubled the number of teams that have won from two to four.

The suprise is the make-up of the teams that have yet to win, which includes three of the competitions heavyweights; Melbourne, Adelaide and bottom placed Sydney.

What odds of that at the start of the season?

It's early days, yes, but the signs are a little worrying, especially for Sydney, who have only picked up two points and are struggling at both ends of the park.

While there is little doubt that Branko Culina is light on quality options in the front third (Patrick struggled for the second week running), it has been the work at the back that is causing most concern. After going a goal up on Friday thanks to some powerful running from Adam Casey and some lax work from Tony Lochhead, FC soon gave up two goals.

While the first was brilliantly taken by the impressive Felipe, there's no doubt that somebody should have stepped out of the backline when the Brazilian had gotten in behind Mark Milligan.

And then the penalty give-away by Ruben Zadkovich just added to the litany of defensive errors -mainly from Clint Bolton - that have cost Sydney so far this season. While Brendan Santalab offered some energy off the bench, Sydney were very blunt again at the front end, meaning they can't be so generous at the other end.

But as Queensland proved late against Perth, the succession of draws to date means it's not hard to climb up the ladder with a win. Facing the prospect of a third draw and more frustrations in front of goal, Matt McKay eased the pressure considerably, his late winner sending the Roar from the bottom three to the top three, all with one deflected winner.

In truth, it is no less that the Roar deserve, for, while they mightn't have much punch up front, at least they are bombing forward and trying to win games, with Danny Tiatto proving somewhat of a fulcrum from his new vantage point in the centre of midfield. Here they put pressure on the Glory from the outset, and but for a couple of smart Tommi Tomich saves, might have had the lead.

The fact they fought back from Jamie Harnwell's well-taken opener to win away from home is a great sign, especially after the front third frustrations of last week. While both goals were second ball scraps, at least the Roar demonstrated a good mentality to keep coming when it might have been easier to throw the hands up in the air and complain it was all too hard.

As for Perth, they were finally able to register a goal, but for the most part they were disappointing and now face a tough trip to Gosford next Sunday.

The Mariners will be crossing their fingers that striker duo Nik Mrdja and Sasho Petrovski can get back on the pitch quick smart. While Petrovski went down after rolling an ankle midway through the first period at Telstra Dome and should be back soon, Mrdja is more interesting.

Out for two seasons already, he appeared to jar his knee in an early challenge in Queensland last week. While he saw out that match, he was invisible. Then he trained with the Socceroos in Melbourne, came off the bench for his international debut and apparently felt tenderness at Mariners training on Friday. Perhaps someone somewhere is questioning the wisdom of such a heavy workload. If not, they should be.

In any case, the confident Adam Kwasnik stepped into the central breach from his wide position and had an excellent game, twice rattling the crossbar with some neat skill and generally proving a nusiance with his movement and surprisingly subtle touch. Amazing what a couple of goals can do.

How Melbourne's front duo could do with a couple of goals. Mobile and hungry, both Archie Thompson and Danny Allsopp provided plenty of work for the Mariners defence, but won't able to find that final touch, such a hallmark of the A-League v3, let alone the Victory strikeforce.

While the first half fizzled out after a good start, the second got better and better. Both teams started the knock the ball around, side to side, and showed a bit of patience, something that has been missing in the hussle and bussle of this season.

Too much of the football has been physical and rushed, huff and puff stuff, but in the second period, both the Mariners and Melbourne slowed things down a touch, went sideways instead of looking forward every time, and there were chances created.

A-League teams, please take note. It doesn't always have to be a million miles and hour, a contest at every pass. What's wrong with a little bit of space and a more controlled pace?

Certainly Wellington and Sydney provided it in their clash, and the football was often easy on the eye.

While the Jets haven't been as easy on the eye this season in comparison to last, Gary van Egmond continues to touch gold. Realising that Denni was being hammered by the physical Jonas Salley, another of the A-League hatchet men, and that Mark Bridge was being wasted out wide, he threw Bridge into the central playmaking role, one he filled with disinction on a couple of occasions last season, when Nick Carle wasn't available, and it worked well.

While Adelaide had dominated the opening half hour without success, gradually the Jets got themselves into the game, and by the time Bridge danced around Richie Alagich, carrying on his good work with the Olyroos, it wasn't a surprise.

While they mightn't be flowing in attack, van Egmond has made sure they are mighty tight at the back, and the work of both Adam Griffiths and Jade North over the past couple of weeks has been excellent. Three cleans sheets and two one-nils on the trot sees them sitting in second spot, a wonderful achievement from van Egmond with such a thin squad and so many problems up front.

Here he gave some time to Mario Jardel, who put one quality move on Angelo Costanzo, but it looks like Super Mario will need time.

Time. It is the something the likes of Branko Culina, Ron Smith, Aurelio Vidmar and Ernie Merrick will be hoping brings a changes in their fortunes.

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

Goalkeeper; Michael Theoklitos (MV)
Defenders; Jade North (NJ), Adam Griffiths (NJ), Tony Vidmar (CCM), Matthew Kemp (MV)
Midfield; Michael Ferrante (WP), Danny Tiatto (QR), Kristian Sarkies (AU), Matt McKay (QR)
Attacking central midfeilder; Felipe (WP)
Striker; Adam Kwasnik (CCM)


Anonymous AA said...

Tony dear,
Matty Kemp in the team of the week? Oh dear son, we need to talk!

Still, love your work anyway, especially now that you are a famous blogger!

Mon. Sep. 17, 02:55:00 pm AEST  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

AA, thanks for the comment bud

thought that might ruffle your feathers a touch the inclusion of mat kemp...thought he had a pretty decent game.....the mariners were dominating up down the left, but I thought kemp pretty much controlled the mariners right (gumprecht and osman)....i was essentially looking at it from a defensive perspective, but i guess you wanted more from him offensively?

and when i weighed him up against other left backs this week, i thought he stacked up ok, but i guess there wasn't much quality form the fullbacks this week, which is why i shifted jade north out to the right.

take it you weren't that impressed by the victory?

Mon. Sep. 17, 03:33:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i thought cassio was ok at left back

Mon. Sep. 17, 06:20:00 pm AEST  

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