Monday, November 05, 2007

Away glory but for the Victory

A-League round 11 analysis

WHAT a bizarre weekend. Three 1-0 wins for the away sides, and the truth it should have been four, with the Melbourne Victory, reduced by a man for three-quarters of yesterday's match, finally dishing out a performance worthy of the title champions. Ironically, it wasn’t enough, the Mariners pulling the finger out in the final 10 minutes. This game at least featured a rousing finish in an otherwise stagnant weekend, a bit of a come down from the recent highs, but at least it emphasised just how tight this whole thing is, with only six points now separating top (the Mariners) from sixth (the Victory). Here’s a snap-shot;

AU 0 v QR 1

A deserved win for the Roar, who came with a revised template and a much improved performance from their back four. Farina made the right call by shifting Seo to right back, dropping Griffin, who had been poor the previous week. Into the holding role came veteran McLaren, who had a good game screening Moore and Ognenovski, both of whom clearly lifted their game after such sloppy performances against Perth. Adelaide was off, badly, and the short turn-around looks like it didn’t help. Dodd, Burns, Pantelis, Spagnuolo and Giraldi all had quiet nights, but it didn’t help that McCloughan and Seo nullified them down the flanks, while McKay, Murdocca, Kruse and Zullo also worked back with real energy. Indeed, the Roar pressed Adelaide high and rarely allowed them to build any momentum. While the Roar were brilliant defensively, they weren’t much chop in attack, and their goal, while delightfully struck by Reinaldo (finally!!!), who was well spotted by Kruse, resulted from a spot of aerial ping-pong. In a way it summed up the game; Queensland were the hungrier side.

PG 0 v WP 1

Not surprisingly, under pressure Perth, fielding the same 11 for the first time this season, pressed early, only to be denied on more than one occasion by Moss, back between the sticks. For all their flow and in-touch work in Queensland last week, the Glory were far less convincing this time around, and often Harnwell, who never stops trying, was isolated as Celeski and Robinson lost touch and Perth resorted to a more direct approach. For his part, Ricki Herbert made plenty of changes, dropping not only Paston, but Aloisi, Old and Felipe, bringing Brown, Johnson and Dodd into the mix. The addition of Brown and Johnson certainly stiffened the midfield, and Lia was perhaps the biggest beneficiary, having his most influential game yet for Wellington. Ultimately, it was the Phoenix midfield that got on top, and by the time Brown pinched a ball in midfield and played in Daniel, it was no major surprise. Ron Smith’s fate had been sealed.

NJ 0 v SFC 1

Gary van Egmond was spot on in his post match summary; at no stage did the Jets have enough players on the pitch that looked like they believed they could win. While it was close and competitive, Sydney shaded this one throughout, especially in the second period. While the Jets created their fair share of half chances, Sydney looked a little more convincing in the front third, with Bridges again proving what an astute purchase he looks, finishing with the aplomb of a guy who has been hitting the back of the net all his life. So relaxed and composed was his finish, he had time to wheel away and start his celebration. Sometimes, as a striker, you just know. The Jets, by comparison, looked hesitant, and it was only when Jardel came on that they seriously looked a chance of scoring. One of the more interesting aspects of this game was the cat-and-mouse tactical battle, van Egmond, for once, having his colours lowered. While Kosmina's central defence might have been caught out by the pace of the Jets early on, he re-adjusted with Milligan and gave Sydney some control. Van Egmond countered, but there was enough evidence in the second half to suggest he missed his Brazilian (Denni) more than Kosmina missed his (Juninho). Rarely have the Jets looked so hesitant and wasteful on the ball, a credit to Sydney's high pressing game.

CCM 2 v MV 1

With 10 or so minutes to go, it looked liked we'd have our fourth 1-0 away win, and it would have been a just result, but this was the strangest of games. Early on it was all the Mariners, Pondeljak driving out of the midfield and pulling the new-look Victory defence all over the place. Muscat, drafted into the centre of a back three alongside rookie Steven Pace and Vargas, came to the rescue a couple of times, yet it was the send off of Kennan that ironically shifted the momentum back to the Victory. Suddenly the Mariners relaxed, both mentally and physically, and they started to defend individually, letting Melbourne have first access to every ball out of defence. The Mariners played so high up the park they were just inviting trouble against the pace of Thompson and Allsopp, who linked up splendidly with Hernandez. The second half was quite bizarre. Melbourne simply sat back and continually hit CCM on the counter, and when Allsopp put the after-burners on, went past Boogaard, and teed up the Costa Rican, it looked like they had their reward. But there was another twist. After defending so well and so deep, suddenly Melbourne allowed themselves to be stretched and exposed on the counter, Pondeljak utilising the space to set up the equaliser, before grabbing the winner a few minutes later with another neat instep finish. Rough on the Victory, who now face the prospect of as home clash with Sydney minus two more defenders after Vargas's soft late red.

TRBA team of the week (5-3-1-1)

Goalkeeper; Vukovic (CCM)
Defenders; Vasilevski (MV), Moore (QR) , Muscat (MV), Ognenovski (QR), McCloughan (QR)
Midfielders; Pondeljak (CCM), McLaren (QR), Lia (WP)
Attacking midfielder; Hernandez (MV)
Striker; Thompson (MV)

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tony,

You are spot on in your assessment. I was at the game and how CCM won is beyond belief, although, they did hit the woodwork twice in the first 5 minutes. I think the turning point was Thompson being replaced with 15 mins to go. Even though he ran himself into the ground he was still more than a match for the slower CCM's backs everytime he got the ball. When Thompson went off, McKinna was able to play 3 at the back and at some stages had 5 across the forward line.

Tue. Nov. 06, 12:12:00 pm AEDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Im just hoping Reinaldo's goal finally shuts-up Robbie Slater. Talk about flogging a dead horse. How many times does he have to reminder us the Brazilain misses too many chances?

Tue. Nov. 06, 01:44:00 pm AEDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't think Thompson had such a great game. His miss which a striker of his ability should have converted proved costly to MV.


Great to see Bridges open his account with a nicely slotted shot. Many others would drilled a shot in but, no, he did it with class. Maybe things are looking up for Sydney - about time too.

Wed. Nov. 07, 01:33:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger john said...

McLaren is certainly pleased to be back in the run-on for the Roar.

Reinaldo was on fire last night he just wanted t shoot shoot shoot.

Mon. Nov. 12, 10:20:00 am AEDT  

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