Saturday, February 28, 2009

Melbourne Victory vs Adelaide United LIVE – Running analysis of the GF

MATCH WRAP: It was far from a classic game, spolit in part by some of the officiating, but it is hard to argue that Melbourne, after the season they've had, didn't deserve their success. Adelaide were excellent tonight and really took it to MV, winning many of the indivdual battles and proving they are a collection. But again they finished as bridesmaids. This time there was no choke, and while there was little sympathy for them after their antics and implosion two years ago, this time around they will have many friends. Thanks all for contributing to the running analysis of the gf, hope you enjoyed, will pick up the dissection of this game at a later date.

93' FULL TIME. 1-0 MV. The two time premiers are now the two time champions, confirming their standing as the benchmark A-league team.

90' the end of the second half has descended into a bit of scrap-fest, as players go down and the referee blows the whistle, 3 minutes of stoppages.

87' AU running out of time, Merrick bringing on his two holding midfeilders Brebner and Lopez (the second sub forced by Berger's concussion), time to protect lead.

82' Agostino putting himself about, exactly what he does best, and if the service is there, he might just nick one. The cassio cross was sublime and Agostino had every right to get on the end of it, and Berger was lucky it didnt end up in Theoikliotos' goal. Who wouldn't mind a bit of extra time other than those 10s of thousands in navy blue?

80' another TRBA regular AA from Melbourne dropped me a txt from inside the stadium saying it was a little bit quiet. That was before the goal of course. Certianly not so quiet after the goal.

77' Sir Alex is loving this - "left pocket again!!!! allsopp = dirty player. gets his just desserts". For mine Sir Alex there was so much going on inside that box, he could have given a few more cards. I enjoyed the face-off between Muscat and Ognenovski, certainly no love lost there, and plenty of history.

75' Pondeljak's composure and experience proving key around the box.

73' Good decision to bring on Agostino, AU have no choice but to press and get bodies inside the box, it may open them up to the counter, but even if they have to go long to get Agostino into it, definitely worth it. Great game Jamieson, must be the injury he's been nursing the past couple of weeks.

65' Can't wait to find out what Breeze saw in all that, because the cameras were all over the place, but Allsopp's send off evens the numbers up and may give AU a chance to get back into it. Against 11 they had no chance. Against 10, you never know.

62' such a pity for AU, esp after dominating the previous 5mins.

60' 1-0 MV. Not long after Berger is on for Ward, and Merrick goes to two wing-backs to provide some much needed width, Pondeljak cuts in from the left and shapes one around a sea of bodies inside the box. Galekovic, unsighted by Salley and Hernandez, sees it late, and can't get to it. Not surprisingly, defending so deep invites shots from outside, and inevitably AU cop one from outside.

57' Sir Alex spent the half-time break putting this together.

"during the first 3 seasons of the league, one of my pet hates was the poor standard of refereeing. especially when it came to the 'big' calls. nearly all went the wrong way. do these guys have an instinct for the game? if they played the game or still play the game maybe they would be better. i know its harder than it looks, but has the standard improved at all this year? i didnt notice an improvement during the first 3 years?these guys should be getting most of these decisions correct. obviously the blood affected breeze's decision. initially he puts hid hand in his right pocket 9yellow card) then thinks better of it to consult his assistant. meanwhile vargas looks like he's gone one round with mike tyson (circa 1986 not 1990) so the hand goes in the left pocket and cristiano sees red as well. i assume the main football writers still havent dared criticize the standard of refereeing in australia yet? its a small backyard and no=one wants to tread on anybodys toes."

Would love to know the thoughts of others.

54' great goalkeeping theoklitos to deny Jamieson after a wonderful run from Mullen down the right. It resulted from a set piece where AU had men forward and then picked up seconds. Then an oustanding run from Dodd past both Vargas and Muscat, only to shoot straight at Theoklitos. AU proving they pack a punch, despite the 10 men. Rousing stuff.

52' AU doing a decent job of trying to hold up the ball, and Dodd looks likely on the counter. Such a pity he has little company when AU do break.

50' looks like ward has been told to get wider and provide some width down the right.

Second half kicks off

HALF TIME SUMMARY: 0-0 at the break, all the possession with Melbourne after the Cristiano send off, but only a couple of real chances created, thanks in no small part to the wonderful defending of Adelaide. Vidmar sprung a couple of surprises by adopting man-marking tactics on Thompson and Hernandez, and while we won't get the chance to fiully assess the decision thanks to the red card, both Mullen and Salley have done outstanding defensive jobs to date in my opinion.

The Football Tragic notes that Melbourne famed lack of width started to catch up with them and that it may be worth exploring the Berger option. Agree Mike, he's a great option to have on the bench as he will provide plenty of penetration, and maybe a few crosses for Fabiano to attack.

I would also, at some stage, look at a holding midfielder like Brebner for someone like Thwaite, which would then release Celeski to try and influence things around the edge of the box. He certainly has the technique and feet to unlock things. Merrick might be rueing the fact he has two holding midfielders on the bench, as it would be nice to introduce another striker on top of Fabiano.

45' HALF TIME whistle goes, and a few will be saying it's about the only thing Breeze has got right tonight. There's no doubt the decision has spoilt the contest, but Adelaide appear determined to make it one anyway and have done an outstanding job to date.

44' Sir Alex dropped me a note soon after red card - "the reds are gone, deja vu, crap referees as usual wreck games". Such a shame, couldnt agree any more, and I think you'll have a few on your side Sir Alex.

41' AU looking as organised as can be expected given the circumstance. They are dropping deep into the 18 yard box and at this stage getting a toe in when the ball is cut back to the edge of the box. It's a tough ask to sustain it for 80 minutes however, but mentally they are up for it, and will give it an almighty effort.

38' the texts keep flooding in, "shame about the card" says Brad, "it was a great start by Adelaide", "top distribution by Muscat". Agree brad, he can run the show now, step up when he wants to, pick whatever pass he wants. Agree he still has to hit his target, but it's much easier with no pressure.

32' Have received a couple of txts from regular TRBA readers Pinuts Pethia and Adam, both siting 'game-over'. That appears to be the case, but Adelaide will try and and pinch a few chances on the counter and wait for their opportunities at set pieces. Clearly the odds are stacked against them, and if they conceed one, it will be game over. They will have to defend like never before, and will need all the luck in the world. Dodd, Jamieson and Pantelis would appear their best bets on the counter.

27' Galekovic makes the first brilliant save of what is likely to be a very busy night, brilliantly tipping around an Allsopp effort after a great Muscat pass. Muscat will have a field day now stepping into mid and dictating things.

25' the early evidence after the send off of Cristiano is that Adelaide clearly have no choice but to park the bus, sit back on their 18 yard box and kick the ball away. It is likely to ultimately bring about their downfall, but they dont have much of the choice. Breeze has left them with little choice, effectively dictating the flow of the game

20' Mike Salter, of The Football Tragic, has txted me noting the decision was a disgrace, a sentiment that will be echoed around the country. Meanwhile Neil Zimmerman of a Victory in Melbourne, inside the stadium, wants to know if it was worth a red. Of course, no replays inside the stadium.

15' Cristiano has been a marked man for much of the season since gaining a bit of a reputation earlier in the campaign for being a diver, a little unfair in my opinion. Predicting that he would be doing the gf, I asked Breeze at the awards night if he wanted to avoid the headlines, unlike his mate Shield last year. Naturally, he said he'd like a quiet game with the attention firmly on the players. No such luck Matthew.

14' anyone for Strebre Delovski?

10' That type of jumping/leading with the elbow has been going on all season, goes on all around the world. Breeze has seen the blood and issued a card of the same colour. What a disappointment as that really changes the way this game will be played. Clearly he was going to issue a yellow, saw the blood, and bang.

8' Adelaide have started really well, competing all over the pitch.If MV are clever, Thompson and Hernandez might be able to move away and create space fro others.

5' fascinating move by Vidmar deploying Mullen with the man-marking role on Thompson, with Salley appears to be shadowing Hernandez. In a way he sacrifices the shape to nulify a couple of key men, so fascinating to see if it will work.

KICK-OFF, will be interesting to see if Adelaide sit back straight away, or try to press.

7.35pm; Sir Alex, regular TRBA reader, who predicted a blow-out to Melbourne a week ago, has asked for my prediciton. I think Melbourne have too much in attack, too much movement and interchangability (is there such a word?), and will win 2-1. Hoping for a classic, whoever wins, may the round ball be the winner. Your thoughts changed Sir Alex?

7.30pm; not far from kick-off, an amazing atmosphere on the way to Telstra Dome, some amazing scenes, congratulations Melbourne fans, outstanding.

7.25pm; Glad to hear the guys on Fox, Harper, Trimboli and Bosnich, speaking highly of Celeski. While he is playing out of position in the holding midfield, he has done an outstanding job there, keeping Lopez and Brebner out. I had the good fortune of catching up with Celeksi at the recent awards night and asked he specifically what he felt about playing in the holding role. He was diplomatic, saying he had some great attackers in front of him, but you sensed he would love to be influencing things higher up the pitch. In the long run, this stint as a holder will aid his development.

Glad also that they have given some attention to Galekovic, who may well be in for a busy night nad might be pushing for man of the match if he can make a few saves in normal time and also if it goes to pens.

7.10pm; We all know what a wonderful finish to the season Sergio van Dijk had, scoring at almost a goal a game in the second half of the season, but remarkably it was enough win him the Alex Tobin Fox player of the year award. After 14 rounds he was no-where near the leaderboard, with Moore and Miller leading the way, but 7 rounds later he was top, with Moore second and Archie Thompson third. Congratulations van Dijk,whose strength proved a handful for many of the league's best defenders. Interesting that the players' player of the year, Shane Smeltz, wasn't in the mix, proving once again just how even the spread of quality was this season.

7.05pm; Vidmar confirmed to Fox there no rockets this week. He said it had been a nice and relaxed week with the focus very much on "what we need to do today". He emphasised he's been very pleased with that. He also hoped that the experience gained from playing in some big game this season would hopefully hold AU in good stead. Vidmar looked very relaxed.

7.00pm; Ernie Merrick has just been interviewed by Mel McLaughlin, and answered her question about how much pressure the team in under by being the shortest price favourite yet in an a-lg gf by noting that the boys generally respond well to pressure. He emphasised that the leadership group have ensured everyone remains focussed. Meriick gives little away at the best of times, and his interview here looked like any other regular season game.

6.50pm; In particular, I would expect to see Jonas Salley playing deeper that he did last week, thus helping Reid deal with the space in front of their back four, the space that Hernandez in particular likes, but you will often also see Thompson drop off into that space, and Ward and Pondeljak drive into it. Last week Salley played higher up the midfeild in order to disrupt the McKay/Murdocca duo, but this week I'd be surprised if he didn't sit alongside Reid. Barbiero, then, would be charged with disrupting Celeski.

6.40pm - Team news; As expected, no changes to either starting line. Adelaide have gone with the same line that was so organised against the Roar; Galekovic; Mullen, Cornthwaite, Ognenovski, Jamieson; Salley, Reid; Dodd, Barbiero, Pantelis; Cristiano. Ditto for Melbourne, as you were; Theoklitos; Ryall, Muscat, Vargas, Kemp; Pondeljak, Celeski, Hernandez, Ward; Thompson, Allsopp.

No real surprise that both managers have gone with the status quo. Will be interesting though once the game unfolds to see how the managers shape up and especially whether Vidmar does anything outside of the what we saw last week.

6.30pm; Hello and welcome to TRBAs running analysis of the a-league season 4 decider. It’s been a fascinating build-up to the big one, and I, for one, can barely wait. Melbourne are still deserved favourites, especially on TAB Sportsbet, where they were paying $1.65 when I checked this morning. Adelaide, remarkably in a two horse race, was paying $5.25 at the same time, great odds. Clearly the punters thought so, and when I checked again a couple of hours ago, Adelaide had come in to $4.75, while MV had moved to $1.70.

Two weeks ago you would have been mad to even think Adelaide could be in the decider, let alone have the chance in it, but the psychology has shifted somewhat, and after their gritty and well-organised win over the Roar, you sense they arrive at the Telstra Dome with a quiet determination and a sense of belief they can spring an upset.

Aurelio Vidmar has certainly been doing everything in his power to emphasise Melbourne’s favouritism, talking throughout the week about parking all sorts of things in front of Eugene Galekovic’s goal; double-decker buses, taxis, trains, whatever!

Conversely, MV have been anything but reluctant to accept the pressure that comes with favouritism. Archie Thompson was in particularly buoyant mood a couple of days ago, telling all and sundry that his side were pretty much untouchable.

At yesterday’s pre-game conference, Travis Dodd emphasised that MV had been “talking up a big game”, and would be expected to bag a few, and that if they didn’t, the pressure from the home crowd may mount.

Interestingly, he seemed to have some support from the Victory skipper, Kevin Muscat, who said there’d been plenty of talk from his side and that come kick-off it was time to walk-the-walk.

Pim Verbeek has also thrown a little puzzler in with his comments that Thompson and Allsopp were hopeless against Indonesia. As is Pim’s whim, he is no doubt throwing it out there to see how the two react. Should make for great viewing.

The psychology has been fascinating, and it’s certainly wet the appetite, so it’s time to get the show on the road. Throughout it I will try to keep you posted on the moves that really count.

The first moves, as always, will be made on paper, with respective starting line-ups, and the expectation is that both sides will stick with what worked last time out.

However, Newcastle manager Garry van Egmond made a very interesting suggestion for Adelaide in today’s Fairfax press;

"I don't think either side will change much although I would utilise Travis Dodd more centrally and use his pace to run off and move Kevin Muscat around. When Muscat has to concentrate more on defensive work it prevents him stepping into midfield and stops him organising and marshalling the back half, which he does very well and is very important for Melbourne."

That would no doubt mean someone like Barbiero or Reid playing a little wider on the right, in a tighter 4-4-2 which basically would almost mirror MV’s. That doesn’t exactly strike as the most balanced midfield. However, van Egmond makes a great point in that Vidmar needs to find a way to keep Muscat busy.

Another respected analyst asked to contribute to the pre-match discourse was Miron Bleiberg, who spoke about how Vidmar could instil the requisite belief in his men;

"You tell them that every one expects you to lose. But you tell your players that they are much better players than the last time they played Melbourne and lost 4-0 and that this is a different team. You tell them that they must go out and enjoy the match, the occasion, the game, and do their work as professionals. You tell them you trust them to do it. You tell them that every statistic or record is there to be broken and today is your day. You remind them that Melbourne is not invincible, you show them that Melbourne lost seven games during the regular season, two more than you, and that they conceded a lot more goals than you."

I’d imagine Vidmar has been emphasising much of the above throughout the week.

Merrick meanwhile should have been reminding his boys just how many goal-scoring options they pose – Thompson, Allsopp, Hernandez, Pondeljak and Ward for starters – and how they must remain patient if they can’t crack the rearguard early.

That’s the thing about Melbourne, they are blessed with goal-getting options, and if Adelaide do park the submarine, there’s every hope Hernandez will unleash a rocket from outside to break them down, or Archie will create a piece of magic around the box with his quick feet, or that Muscat or Kemp would provide the requisite penetration or drive to add numbers and movement to Melbourne's attack. That may be enough to break the Reds down.

The hosts have been in wonderful touch at home, while Adelaide has only bagged 6 on the road this season, one of them from the spot and two from defenders. If one thing appears clear, it is highly unlikely the Reds would score more than one (they’ve yet to do it on the road this camaign). Melbourne appears to have more up-front punch, and that should swing it in their favour.

Stay posted for regular updates, and touch base if you have a question or wanna get something off the chest; or alternatively leave a comment below.


Anonymous sir alex said...

your prediction/score TT?

Sat Feb 28, 07:31:00 pm AEDT  
Anonymous sir alex said...

first 15-20 mins very important for adelaide. if they concede, then melb 4-0. if not melb 2-0.
really cant see adelaide winning, even though i want melb to lose

Sat Feb 28, 07:39:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger Mike Salter said...

Great stuff Tony! Was at the pub for the game but great to read your thoughts after the event.

Sat Feb 28, 10:16:00 pm AEDT  
Anonymous Neil said...

Great analysis as always Tony. Pretty much spot on. Like last year the game will probably be best remembered for the refereeing rather than the game itself. Disappointing game to say the least - although it is nice to be the champion.

Sat Feb 28, 10:53:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

thanks guys, and congrats neil

Mon Mar 02, 09:55:00 pm AEDT  

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