Monday, October 08, 2007

Derby week turns into bash-a-ref week, quite literally

A-League round 7 analysis

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

AFTER the up-lifting performances of two Roar youngsters on Friday night, it was hoped the two ‘big derbies’ – Sydney v Melbourne on Saturday night and the F3 Mariners v Jets clash yesterday – would provide some riveting action to round out what has been a largely disappointing first third of version 3.

Such a pity then that the attention has instead turned to the officiating of both games, with flash-points and controversies dominating both.

The first thing to note of course was the absence of Ben Williams from the panel this week. Was this down to his poor handling of the previous week’s Victory v Roar clash at the Telstra Dome, where he waved away what appeared to be two decent Roar penalty claims and generally allowed the match to develop into an overly physical one? Quite possibly.

In any case, the premier whistle-blower in the country, Mark Shield, was back on deck this week and seemingly intent on making a statement in one of the calendar’s biggest clashes. From very early on in the Sydney/Melbourne match it was clear Shield wouldn’t be tolerating much, and it wasn’t long before Ruben Zadkovich and Kevin Muscat were in the book.

Both were massive talking points. Zadkovich, already on three cards and one away from a mandatory suspension, chopped down Muscat, giving Shield little choice. The talking point is that he now misses a trip to Perth he was going to miss anyway, because of Olyroo duty. Talk about a convenient card.

Muscat’s was even more fascinating, reportedly booked for mimicking the referee’s whistle. Now we’ve all heard the stories about how Muscat is constantly in the ear of his teammates and the officials, trying to coach and referee every game he plays, but surely this is taking it a step too far!

In any case, this incident was soon forgotten thanks to Steve Corica’s dismissal for petulant karate-kick style raised leg on Steve Pantelidis. Flashbacks of last season’s Robbie Bajic/Fred/Telstra Dome incident came rushing back, and there could only be one response from Shield, a deserved red.

The Sydney fans and manager were livid, a few idiots losing the plot as the referee departed for the break.

At the time I sensed much of this frustration from the Sydney camp was down the lack of consistent application. For much of the season, referees had allowed this sort of 'thuggish' stuff to do unpunished. Suddenly, with the spotlight on, it warranted red.

Certainly, when you compare William’s lax officiating of the above-mentioned round 6 clash or the round one match up in Queensland (when Danny Tiatto re-introduced himself to Aussie football) with Sheild’s tough handling of this one, it is easy to see why fans get confused.

In any case, Corica’s dismissal steeled the hosts and, led by Mark Rudan, they produced a dogged display of defending, keeping out the champions until Adrian Caceres was able to again provide impact off the bench.

After his silly impersonation of Sheild, Muscat put his mind to better use and produced his most dominant performance of the season, combining with Grant Brebner to control the flow of the midfield. Crisp and well weighted, some of his passing was the best seen this season.

Indeed, Melbourne moved the ball around the best they have in a very long time, their goal coming from a crisp interchange of passing in midfield involving Kaz Patafta, Archie Thompson and Danny Allsopp, before Leandro Love dragged a couple of defenders infield and allowed Allsopp get around the back and meet Caceres’s cross.

Lovely goal, reminiscent of some of the stuff the Victory produced last season.

While Shield took the no-nonsense approach, Matthew Breeze was far more lenient less then 24 hours later when he allowed two ‘red-card’ incidents involving Joel Griffiths to go relatively unpunished.

While Griffths earnt a yellow for his fourth minute jab at assistant referee Alex Glasgow’s private's, replays showed he was extremely lucky to stay on the pitch. This sort of the stuff should be frowned upon, but Griffiths is very lucky he’ll escape further censure as the incident was “dealt with” on the pitch.

Later, in the 56th minute, Griffiths was through with only Danny Vukovic to beat, and as he tried to go around him, the Olyroo keeper appeared to make contact just outside the box. Strangely, Breeze swallowed his whistle. It was neither a red to Vukovic nor a yellow to Griffiths for ‘simulation’.

The two incidents and a yellow card count of 6-1 against the visitors again overshadowed an otherwise absorbing derby. While the first period was rather lacklustre, things really livened up in the second. Just as they had in the first period, it was the Jets making most of the running, with Denni and Griffiths looking a threat in the front third.

Yet when Tommy Pondeljak, finally getting a start, provided a wonderful finish, it looked like all Newcastle’s cut and thrust, and initiative, would go to waste. Increasingly frustrated by the mounting yellow card count and their inability to score, it looked like one of those nights, but they ultimately got what they deserved when Mark Bridge profited from a bit of ping-pong in the area and volleyed home through a forest of Mariners defenders.

Over to Members Equity Stadium and the under pressure Perth came out determined to do the pressing, pushing Adelaide back and dominating most of the match. It wasn’t a flowing show but any means, but at least it was a positive statement that not all is lost.

Once again, Ron Smith did his best impersonation of Rafa Benitez, chopping and changing his unit, looking for that elusive chemistry, and for once Perth had the better players on the pitch, the likes of Leo Bertos, Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Simon Colosimo having their best games of the season.

But ultimately, the luck and the composure wasn’t with the Glory, best summed when Topor-Stanley’s header crashed against the crossbar and substitute Jamie Harnwell blazed away with only the keeper to beat. That, and a couple of outstanding defensive performances from Angelo Costanzo and Robbie Cornthwaite.

Fortunately in the end for the hosts, Nathan Burns had a quiet one, missing a terrific second half chance.

So, a third of the way in, the heat remains on Perth and Smith, just as it was on the Jets and Nick Theadorakopoulos at the same time last season. The pity for the competition is there are a few referees who know just how Smith is feeling.

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

Goalkeeper; Michael Theoklitos (MV)
Defence; Mark Rudan (SFC), Robert Cornthwaite (AU), Angelo Costanzo (AU), Nikolai Topor-Stanley (PG)
Holding midfield; Kevin Muscat (MV), Simon Colosimo (PG)
Attacking midfielder; Denni (NJ)
Front three; Robbie Kruse (QR), Joel Griffiths (NJ), Michael Zullo (QR)

Updated Tuesday 9.26pm; Joel, not Adam, Griffiths as striker in the TRBA TOTW.


Blogger john said...

Great post Tony

Did you see Ross Alosis elbow Seo out of sight of ref? Fox picked it up but I can't see the FFA doing a Tiatto with it.

Why Denni in your team?

Tue. Oct. 09, 06:12:00 pm AEST  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

Thanks John,

....Did you see Ross Alosis elbow Seo out of sight of ref? Fox picked it up but I can't see the FFA doing a Tiatto with it....

Like everyone else John I only saw it on replay. It looked a little sly and Aloisi's apolegetic gestures when he realised the cameras might have caught it, told a tale...the good news for you and fellow Roar fans is that he's been sighted to appear before the judiciary on Friday afternoon and I dare say he'll face at least a week on the sidelines if precedent is anything.

....Why Denni in your team?....

I thought it was one of his better games and he was quite influential, i thought, in allowing the Jets to have the ascendancy for most of the game...indeed, when he came off in the 72min, ironically that's when the mariners created some of their better chances...i have to say however, it really wasn't a weekend from the creative players (which made denni stand out) truth, it could have a been a team of defenders this week.

Which is not why i included Adam Griffiths as my central striker, that was a mistake. It was meant to be Joel, of course.

Tue. Oct. 09, 09:21:00 pm AEST  
Blogger Hamish said...

Have you considered adding "Ref of the week" to your line-up? I reckon it would be an interesting addition.

Wed. Oct. 10, 07:11:00 am AEST  
Blogger Neil said...

I have to agree with you that Melbourne did move the ball around well - it probably helped having a man advantage. Hopefully it continues this week against Adelaide.
I really don't understand how Joel Griffiths gets away with a yellow card for hitting a referee. We should be throwing the book at him - I don't care what the FIFA regulations say. Its just not on.

Wed. Oct. 10, 09:38:00 am AEST  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

...Have you considered adding "Ref of the week" to your line-up? I reckon it would be an interesting addition....

Hamish, given I've only ever had a few attempts at it and absolutely hated it, might leave it for others with a more trained eye to make their assessments on the refs.

In my mind it's a really really tough job, and I'm generally loath to criticise, but I think what we're all after is consistency.

the question for me is, do we want games refereed the way Williams has been doing it (let everything go - the games generally become far too physical) or do we want to go the way mark shield tried to go (bring everything up and hope it might produce some better football)?

I think I'd rather is go the way of shield and hope that this eventually sanitises the physicality...i think if you look at the standard of the asian champs league and asian cup (which were refereed the way shield tried to do it), the quality of football was excellent.

No, we don't want diving, but we don't want rugby either.

Any thought?

Wed. Oct. 10, 12:53:00 pm AEST  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

...I have to agree with you that Melbourne did move the ball around well - it probably helped having a man advantage. Hopefully it continues this week against Adelaide.....

Neill, thanks for the comment. Yep, no doubt the extra space helped MV, but i really liked the goal - both Archie and Allsopp dropping off to link up with Patafta, a neat series of one and two touches in central mid, before the ball was moved wide - movement off the ball and great delivery, the goal of the week for mine, ahead of zullo's strike.

Wed. Oct. 10, 01:33:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous wayne said...

Hate to say it, but Denni was actualy quite handy for the Jets on Sunday and controlled the play whenever he got the ball. That Melbourne goal was quite reminiscient of last year, wasn't it.

Thu. Oct. 11, 06:33:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous dhd said...


I'm a bit late on this one. Against QR I felt that Hernandez played a reasonable game, got too few touches but could make some good opportunities with passing vision far above any of his teammates.

I was frustrated when he was subbed while alsopp, completely anonymous remained on the park. Of course, Alsopp scored from Caceres' somewhat fortuitous falling cross, but I fancy we'd have created more opportunities by taking alsopp off for Caceres.

I was away for the weekend and missed us getting whalloped by an understrength AU. Probably a good thing.

Keep it up

Sun. Oct. 14, 09:47:00 pm AEST  

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