Monday, October 01, 2007

Too D-jite to quit

A-League Round 6 analysis

MV 2 v QR 0
SFC 1 v NJ 0
WP 4 v PG 1
AU 2 v CCM 1

FINALLY a victory for perseverance for the team that has played among the most entertaining brands of football this season.

Hitherto Adelaide United have dished up some of the most enterprising stuff in a league that has been consumed by negativity, but they have often come up short, punished for some lax work at the back.

But there's little doubt their play in the front third, lead by the two Olyroos, Nathan Burns Bruce Djite, has been good, if not always the most clinical.

New manager Aurelio Vidmar has been patient, persevering with his youngsters and developing them in the cut and thrust of a serious competition, and he's to be commended for that. Zero wins from five might have convinced him to look at more experienced options, but he kept the faith, realising they have been among the most hard-to-handle strike-forces in the league, and here was his reward, a pulsating late winner from the new ironman of Aussie football, Djite, giving United a deserved win over the comp pace-setters.

At one stage, very late, it looked like being one of those frustrating nights that have been all too familiar this season, where the team taking the initiative comes up short, but Djite, never one to quit, kept coming.

Earlier he had been denied twice by a combination of desperate defending and poor officiating, but he kept knocking, kept presenting himself and kept asking questions of the Mariners defence. A lesser man may have gone hiding, especially after one effort was cleared off the line by Damien Brown and another was denied by some over-zealous work from Matthew Breeze, who failed to play advantage after a Mile Jedinak foul on Burns on the edge of the box.

But when Djite got on the end of a late Richie Alagich cross, not even his magnificent Olyroo teammate Danny Vukovic could keep out his bullet header, despite his best efforts.

It was no less than United deserved, and other than their manager, perhaps Breeze was the most relieved man in the ground.

Another referee who might still be feeling the heat after his match is Ben Williams, who was as responsible as the home manager for one of the scrappiest games on record, as fellow blogger Mike Salter has pointed out. Allowing the Victory-Roar game on Friday night to develop into a niggly and physical slug-fest, he then turned down what appeared to two reasonable penalty claims to the Roar when they were down 1-0.

First Williams waved play-on when Reinaldo appeared to dragged down by an arm across the shoulder from Steve Pantelidis, before Josh McCloughan ventured forward from a set-piece a short time later and appeared to suffer the same fate. Neutrals and Roar fans alike might have wondered whether the Victory had been doing a spot of cross-training with the Melbourne Storm, for it seemed the arm around the neck 'grapple-tackle' was back.

The fact that Queensland have only ever been awarded one penalty in two and a third seasons adds fuel to those who believe they have been dealt a rough hand by the officials. Kevin Muscat, in comparison, has had more than a dozen spot-kicks.

Ultimately though, the way the Roar have been finishing, who's to say they would have put away a penalty? One of these days they might just put the cleaners through a team, but for now it's status quo. Once again they were the side showing all the initiative against an extremely negative home team, prepared to sit back and counter, perhaps knowing that they had a get-out clause in Archie Thompson, who was able to set up the first with some sublime foot-work, before pinching the second.

Remarkably, the Victory are the only team yet to lose, but fans will soon start demanding some style, if they aren't already.

One team with no such problems on the style front is the Wellington Phoenix, who again relied on sparkling display from one of their Brazilians to give them their first home win on a bitterly cold Wellington afternoon. For the past few weeks it's been Felipe, but this week the supply line was all Daniel, who created three of the Phoenix's four in a brilliant display of crossing, from both right and left.

A few weeks ago I had a go at Ricki Herbert for dropping a striker to draft in Felipe (a negative move which I thought contributed to a 1-0 loss at home to Newcastle), but on this occasion he is to be applauded for finding room in his formation for two strikers (Shane Smeltz and Vaughan Coveny) as well as the two creative Brazilian buzzers. Here was his reward, a comprehensive hiding of a Perth Glory side that is struggling to live up to it's pre-season form. They remain the only team without a win.

Some of the interplay between Felipe and Daniel was too much for the Glory defence to handle, best summed up by their work down the left in teeing up Tony Lochhead, who crossed to Coveny for Wellington's third. Goal of the week, involving some lovely one-touch football.

Little doubt that along with the marquee man Juninho, Felipe and Daniel have been the best of the Brazilian buys.

Juninho, back after three weeks out, showed his quality and worth on Saturday night with a sublime left-footed defence-splitting ball for the lively Alex Brosque, which was enough to decide an otherwise lacklustre match bereft of goalscoring opportunities.

The Jets owner, Con Constantine, meanwhile, demanded a start for his own big name Brazilian, Mario Jardel, but he clearly looks out of shape and is quickly shaping as the flop buy of the season. Little wonder Gary van Egmond appears to have been so reluctant to use him.

Missing Joel Griffiths and Stuart Musalik, he gave a debut to Steve Laybutt, who looked slow and sloppy, both on the ground and with his distribution, while Adam Griffiths looked less suited to the driving midfield role he was deployed in, out-pointed by Ruben Zadkovich.

While Newcastle tried to make a conscious effort to keep the ball, their work was sloppy, allowing Sydney to control the game.

FC are far from the finished product, but are showing improvement and the combination between Juninho and Brosque looks promising, while Zadkovich has been excellent in midfield the past two weeks.

Branko Culina had been criticised in the pre-season for comparing his club with Manchester United, but in the past two weeks the comparison has certainly been favourable, 1-0 becoming each club's preferred mode of victory.


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

Goalkeeper; Danny Vukovic (CCM)
Defence; Richie Alagich (AU), Rodrigo Vargas (MV), Mark Milligan (SFC), Tony Lochhead (WP)
Midfield; Ruben Zadkovich (SFC), Richard Johnson (WP), Nathan Burns (AU), Daniel (WP)
Strikers; Archie Thompson (MV), Bruce Djite (AU)

6 Comments:

Blogger Mike Salter said...

I had to laugh at the press conference after the SFC-NUJ game when Branko was asked about the slow start to the season and the recent improvement; one of the first things he said, concerning the gradual upturn in SFC's fortunes was "We're not Manchester United". He had a mischievous smile on his face.

Very glad to see Adelaide notch up a win at last. They've richly deserved it.

Tue. Oct. 02, 11:10:00 am AEST  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

Mike, indeed, the irony couldn't go unmentioned...was at the match with a friend who supports both fc and manu and i couldn't help but have a dig...further, we were in a hospitality box munching on, you guessed it, prawn sandwiches.

Still reckon AU could be the team to beat if they can sort out some issues at the back. Blessed with attacking thrust.

Tue. Oct. 02, 01:07:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous Guido said...

A honorable mention should go to Theoklitos whose mother died less than 24 hours before the match.

Wed. Oct. 03, 10:09:00 am AEST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tony,

Is this some sort of gee up. Mariners concede their first goals of the season and Vukovic makes the Team of the Week.

Macka

Wed. Oct. 03, 04:21:00 pm AEST  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

guido/macka,

the decision on the keeper - indeed, it was between theoklitos and vukovioc for me....i thought theoklitos had an exceptional game, especially in the air, defusing numerous aerial balls, all over the box....he is the most improved keeper at commanding his box, bar none, and his concentration, as guido pointed out, is to be commended.

but he was caught out by one late cross from the right which zullo headed onto the post.

for that reason, i went with vukovic, who was as responsible as anyone for keeping the mariners in the game for as long as they were, with a string of outstanding saves, especially from burns in either half (in the first half he tipped one spectacularly over the bar, in the second he had a bit of help from brown who was there on the line).

...and he did everything but keep out the winner.

Thu. Oct. 04, 01:50:00 pm AEST  
Blogger druryfire said...

Just seen the highlights here in the Uk, and oh boy, if Perth don't do something about their defence, then boy is it going to be a long long season.

Thu. Oct. 04, 08:09:00 pm AEST  

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