Sunday, January 28, 2007

Adelaide: Shaking the tree... 0-0 at Hindmarsh

Adelaide could not, as Layton Hewitt would say, find a way to win. Man of the match Angelo Costanzo took Thompson and Allsopp out of the match. And Adelaide dominated, particularly in the second half. But rarely looked close to scoring. Good passing game. Won the mid-field. Diego looked good without dominating. Fred was right out of the picture. I even saw Thompson doing a bit of defending.

Five yellow cards were the main feature. All seemed pretty right. You don't carry cards from the home and away season. But two yellow cards and you miss the next finals game. And some key players picked up their first in what could be three more games that could lead a player to miss the grand final. Adelaide: Spagnuolo, Costanzo and Djite (for kicking Melbourne goalie Michael Theoklitos in the head). And Melbourne: Vargas
and Thompson.

This puts the advantage to Melbourne for the next leg. Home crowd advantage. 30,000 plus? 40,000 plus? And yet the Adelaide home crowd is an interesting bunch. We watched them hit Liam Reddy in the head with a coke bottle after he trod on Fernando a few weeks back. Today, together with about with 1,000 plus from Melbourne, they packed and shook Hindmarsh. About 15,575 in total. As good as it gets in this stadium. They booed Muscat. They called for penalties and fouls. They made a noise for Melbourne goal kicks. Still 0-0. Reminded me of the Roar fans frustration at Lang Park when Adelaide hung on for 0-0 - and then for Adelaide to win an easier battle on another day.

It's finals time and Australia's 3 top refs are in Asian at a conference. It reminds me of stories of the old national soccer league when Australia's top soccer journalist took his holidays on finals day. Anyhow, the ref didn't have much influence on the Adelaide v Melbourne outcome.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The tightness of the race for a final seat made the A-League V2 a big success...

Version 2: Gate-take grows 18% over version 1

Melbourne Victory showed that winning attracts crowds. Even if their away performance was slightly better than their home results, fans stuck with last year’s 7th placed team. Melbourne’s 115% crowd growth almost covered the overall net A-League growth of 18%.

After taking out second place in last year’s finals, Central Coast were able to grow their crowd by an impressive 37%. Damian Mori’s short term contract can be cited as a critical factor in buoying CCM’s home crowd mid-season. And if they’d had him as a permanent signing, given the missed opportunities once he’d had to move on, CCM probably would have made the finals. I’d say at the expense of Sydney.

And Sydney FC was the crowd disappointment this year. I’ve heard the Dwight Yorke marque argument. But it seems unfair to fans across Australia if one team is going to be singled out for $450,000 in extra money from Hyundia each year - as the press reported they were in version one. And even then they apparently went over the salary cap with David Zdrilic. It is a problem if Sydney-siders are only going to come and watch if Sydney win. But I think the problem is more fundamental. I don’t think it is about all the other sport on - look at Melbourne’s performance. I think it is about the level of entertainment and poorly chosen promotion. On the entertainment issue former socceroo and scorer of over 100 National Soccer League goals, Francis Awaritefe, agrees. Awaritefe writes in ‘Are we selling sport or entertainment? A-League teams have an obligation to play attractive football’ in Soccer International Volume 15 No 1 January 2007 on page 18:

‘For the A-League to remain viable and sustainable into the future, playing for results alone, where results is paramount, brings with it negative tactics, with the inevitable consequence that fans will vote with their feet and spend their hard-earned readies elsewhere… ‘

and he goes on..

‘I believe that football is in the entertainment business, where the consumer pays to see skilful, creative and exciting football….

And specifically on Sydney FC, Awaritefe writes:

‘.. Sydney FC has undergone a revival in terms of its results, however finds that its home crowd is falling.’

Awaritefe cites Mark Rudan’s comments about getting results being a priority over entertainment, he denies that the lack of a marque is the issue, and points to the crowd growth for the exciting teams.

The Version 2 season gate-take supports Awaritefe’s views and my own (as expressed in earlier blogs). Take last night. Sydney are in the finals and playing to defend their title. And yet they can only attract a crowd of 21,000. Imagine if that game was at Lang Park and the Roar was in the finals. Last week the Roar got 32,000.

And that brings us to the Roar. The unfortunate timing of home games meant their 2nd last home game was played in early December and the last on 20 January. Fortunately, the Roar’s great away game performances, beating the two top teams Melbourne and Adelaide, set-up a cracker for the final game. And the crowd for the last game meant the Roar grew their home crowd by 1%. Unfortunately, I am guessing it cost something like $500,000 net to keep Land Park as the home ground. On the current deal they probably need a season crowd of around 200,000 and only managed 165,000. Still, this is second to Melbourne’s 305,000. And much better than Sydney FC’s 18% fall in crowd to 150,000.

Newcastle showed what winning will do for gate-take. In the first half of the season where they played exciting football but failed to win they attracted 36,000 to 5 home games, for the second half of the season they attracted 78,000 fans.

Overall, the A-League struggled to match season one in the first half. The opening match numbers were down 21%. Then, leaving out Melbourne and its growth, overall crowds fell until the last three home games. I think a big factor in this was the small number of teams in the A-League (8) - infrequent fans have seen it all before - and then that almost any team could make the finals by the last three home games (a very good thing and new fans were won over to see if the home team could make it). Pity teams still don't have great home win records, this would keep the fans happier.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Sydney v Newcastle - living without

Grrrrrr We've had a power cut and the power keeps going off and on, and Foxtel says they are out for my area till 10pm. So I'll miss the game and it won't be recorded.

But what I can see is that Sydney seem to have dominated the first half and Alex Brosque scored in the 15th minute. Why did Butcher leave him on the bench for so many games? Last year Alex built up to the potential to be the A-League's best striker. Now given some full games he is showing it. Milligan scored in the 30th. 2-0 Sydney.

BUT why oh why did Newcastle start with Vaughan Coveny in the run on squad and Milton Rodriguez - perhaps the A-League's 2nd best foreign player after Fred - on the bench. Milton came on in the 57th and seems to have changed the game - scored in the 71st. My next line was going to be about how all 3 goal scorers had got yellow cards, but the A-League site has changed Milton's yellow to Joel Griffith. So no story there, except I am missing the pictures.

If only I could see this.....

Lament 2 .... a neat line in character assassination ...

This article 'Roar axe sharpened for under-achievers' on page 98 of the Courier-Mail on 24 January 2007 got me. Crikey.

'Let he who is without sin throw the first stone.' OK OK that would mean next to no journalism in Australia and probably a corrupt state - I know I know. But crikey. This is my team. It is our Queensland team. 32,000 of us watched them play what was one of the best games I have seen live. Certainly the best A-League game this year and I have watched all of them (most via Foxtel). Despite being a draw.

I was also staggered to read the comments from readers on the Courier-Mail online site. Didn't they see this team beat Melbourne (clearly the best team in the A-League) who were lucky enough to have Archie Thompson play for far less than he is worth (a factor of 10) and were lucky enough to sign Fred (who should be in Europe earning mega dollars) and who hoovered up all those Victorian based national soccer league champions plus Muscat (the only returning Australian from English Premier League to fire-up).

Did anyone notice this team's performance in the last 3 games? In the Sydney game that lead us to miss the finals, didn't they see that who ever booked Robbie Williams wrecked the pitch and caused Sydney's goal, that the Roar's goal was a sublime, planned combination from Sasa, Reinaldo and Damian, and that Australia's best referee missed a clear Sydney hand ball penalty?

Under-achievers? Get real.

Look at football results from around the world. For between one and three clubs in each competition it is about winning. For the rest it is about accumulating points. Sydney qualified and the Roar didn't because Sydney contrived and bored their own fans to draw 8 games and lost only 5. The Roar lost 8 and drew 5. Adelaide, who came second, lost 8 but won 10 as opposed to the Roar's 8. Adelaide coach Kossie said 'we were tanked' by the Roar in round one, but the score was 0-0 (Adelaide v Roar has been draw, Adelaide win, Roar win - even with 2nd place).

The under-achieving match-up the Roar lost was with NZ (5-0, 0-1 and 1-3) and NZ seem to have been able to breach (what is transparent of) FFA rules on squad numbers - fielding a very different team by the end of the season. Anyway, why is a close A-League competition that any team can win bad?

Players are people. Melbourne stuck with most of their 'under-achieving' players last season and built the foundation for a powerhouse that could attract 20,000 to 40,000 fans for home games. The Roar made big changes to their squad last season to find how difficult it is to match players to the style of the A-League.

Under-achievers? This is the sort of stuff written in this article:

'nor his waistline helped Dilevski's campaign'

- he looked fit to me, and scored the best set-piece goal of the season against Sydney in round one (later the paper reported that no set-piece goals had been scored under Miron).

'But a mid-season haircut appeared to have a Samson-like effect on Ognenovski, who battled a form slump before getting it together in the final few rounds.'

- the guy was out with injury and then wasn't played for what turned out to be the critical New Zealand game. Didn't this journalist see Sasa's 'getting it together' in the last game? 7/10 for Sasa and give 8.5 for Ben Griffin? Ben is good but next season he'll be better. Ben the same score as Matt McKay? Get real.

Marcus Wedau
. Get real. Frank didn't give him any game time. For some reason he played Chad. Will we ever know if Marcus was any good?

'Vidosic had lifted himself from the bottom of the club's priority list to become the most important player in the squad'

- I think the club have known about this guy for some time but he had a car accident before the pre-season and had to be temporarily replaced.

'Scottish striker all but disappeared from view. With the new restriction on overseas players set down by the FFA (four per club), Lynch could be an off-season casualty'

- Well he got injured. Then lost a bit of form. His relatives live on the Gold Coast, so if he became an Aussie (how long does that take?)? Simon Lynch's real problem is that Mori plays the role he played (up-front goal poacher) and the two of them together on the park looked awkward.

'.. only three goals ... but the years looked to have caught up with the likeable striker'

- Facts please, 4 goals.
Ante started from the bench to make way for Mori. He scored four cracker goals (round 1 against NZ set up by Zhang (80 min), against Melbourne in round one (16 min), round 2 Perth v Roar (14 min) when Roar were 0-1 after 90 seconds, and round three against NZ 80m). Plus he has set up some chances and goals particularly for Dario in 90+2 against Melbourne. But his big role is in mentoring - he has been a sensation particularly with Dario - I have watched them train side by side. He has had his head up all season. He only started 9 games, ran on for 19 and played for only 951 minutes - so 4 goals is not bad - look to the coaches.

Sorry Damian Mori took too long to score for the Roar to get 8.5. The Roar had to change the way the whole team played to suit him. He suits Central Coasts style. And that is probably the real story, don't be surprised if he starts for CCM next year.

But the one that makes me most.. well crikey...

'The Brazilian striker is a club favourite though it is hard to understand why on the back of yet another under-whelming performance. His season was a case of too many opportunities missed and he never really lived up to his so-called reputation as a header-specialist. Four goals was not good enough.'

- grrrrrrrr
Have you watched all his games? Frank sat Reinaldo in the stands a couple of times. And on the bench for others when they needed him. The problem with Reinaldo is that he plays brilliantly most of the time but not all the time.

Under-achievers? When in doubt blame the players.

How about the results reflecting the high quality of the A-League? Or the way football IS for almost all teams? Only Adelaide and Melbourne won more games than the Roar. Australian's expecting their team to win every game is a big frustration for the FFA. They talk of it in the press. Perhaps we are too used to cricket where our national team obliterates weak competition almost every year. Well good football isn't about that. And good journalism should be part of the explanation of good football and not encouraging the jingoism.

Round 19 and the A-League was still open and fans over Australia had a reason to go see their team. Maybe close is good.

The Roar spent less on acquiring players than the winning clubs in A-League version one and didn't spend the most in version two, the club made these calls. The fans got exciting football. But too few wins at home. But we also did not get our fair share of penalties. And in a sport where goals are rare, winning is rarer, and penalties are almost certain goals - this needs to be looked at. Why don't refs give the Roar more penalties - 1 in 42 games. Compare this to Melbourne - who got two against the Roar and 5 in the first 6 matches and then had to be warned by the FFA about diving in the box... hang on, something not right there... isn't that a criticism of the FFA against its own refs?

This is the world game. Australia's football performance is noticed outside Australia. Lift the journalism game. What about the quality of the journalism this year? 1/10 and that is for getting a story in. Facts wrong, stories missed.,23739,21107895-5003412,00.html

Journalism lament 1

It is interesting that the Queensland Courier-Mail insists on referring to football as soccer. It is less interesting that I have to hunt for their 'soccer' news everyday around 10 pages in from the back page. Of course I am grateful that they try to write something for me everyday.

I like cricket. But I like a contest. I want to be on the edge of seat wondering, assessing, working out possibilities and options. I like watching captains seeking a way to win. But do Queenslanders really read 10 plus pages on one one-sided cricket series? And yet, there is next to no reporting on the tests that involve other countries even though the results of these games are exciting, unpredictable and sometimes sensational.

At the start of the summer it was pretty obvious that Australia has a far, far better cricket team than England - before a test ball was bowled. And yet 10 pages every day. Flintoff this and that, England not giving up, Fletcher under threat. zzzzzzzzz WAKE-UP The Australia v England Ashes Series was one sided and boring, every 10 years or so they may doctor some pitches and win some matches at home but Australia has this lark down pat. They have too much depth to lose here to England.

Yes, yes there were big crowds at the gabba, MCG and SCG and the other grounds sold out days 1 and maybe two. But how many years will that happen for such one-sided games? Or am I missing the point. Are people turning up to see the win irrespective of the quality of the opposition? OK there is a bit of that in every sport.

But 10 pages every day? You have to know your readers well, I guess, to keep them entertained on a no-brainer result for that many pages in a summer.

Monday, January 22, 2007

We was robbed... My own David Bailey incident

Jeecy of the Roar suggested that it was Sasa and not Remo who slipped down onto his all fours just ahead of Alex Brosque's top 4 place winning shot. Shot so I had another look at the replay. And I found something amazing.

Later in the game, at the 60th minute, Mori hit his fantastic sizzer kick which was brilliantly saved by Bolton. Then the corner was quickly taken from the left. Mori soon got the ball again and ran with it on the right of the penalty box. He put the box back into the middle and Dario cannoned the ball into ..... a prostrate Ufuk Talay who stopped the ball with his - hand or FOREARM. Where was Australia's greatest referee? Bolton was out of position. Reinaldo was standing next to Talay and raised his hand - but the game went on. And Roar bow out - 42 A-League games and only one penalty (and there's Jade North giving away 3 hand ball penalties for Newcastle on his own).

By the way, the replay confirmed that it was Remo and not as the Roar reported on their site:
'when Sasa Ognenovski slipped on the loose surface Brosque was on hand to slam a right-footed shot past Liam Reddy.'

Sasa did slip twice, once running to cover the original pass and secondly after the pass was made ahead of Brosque. But it was Remo who ended on all fours in front of Brosque. If his footing holds he stops the pass and no goal. And Liam did get two hands on the ball but pushed it into the net... oh dear (why don't keepers catch the ball anymore?)

That end's final third looked like it was wet before the match. That section has been relayed as a result of the Robbie Williams concert and had to be given time to grow before the rugby league and union seasons. Imagine football fan Robbie Williams suffing up Qld Roar, oh well he did wear a Lions shirt or something.

Really Lang Park was badly prepared for such a key game and unfortunately it seemed to have dried out by the second half.
Also, Frank Farina was reported to be none to happy about a bunch of fans taking to the pitch in their football boots before the game. Wrong call event organisers - too big a game to risk the pitch like that.

Shame we won the toss and chose the wrong end to defend - there was me thinking the toss didn't matter in Football.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Qld Roar v Sydney: the search for Shangri La

One all draw and Queensland are out. But it was so much more than that. A win - and perhaps even the great performance that we saw from the Roar - and football is made in Queensland. A poor performance and, well, it could be back to Ballymore and teams almost as big as crowds.

The FFA would have understood the problem. Sydney have been the big disappointment this year from an entertainment perspective. So the focus has been criticism. Of their defensive play. Of the agro coach. Of fights between players. Of Sasho and Alex, perhaps two of the A-League's best players, sitting on the bench. Of injuries. But most of all of big away games, particularly against Melbourne, and very small home crowds. And of course of the most draws in the A-League (8). Dare I say it - Bore FC. There is some merit to this. Coach Terry Butcher played from Ipswich in Suffork and Suffork's motto is a bore.

From version one I am still washing away the bitter taste of the A-League's main sponsor Hyundia being persuaded to bias the league towards Sydney by paying for half of Dwight Yorke (a reported $900,000 in total). I concede he was good for publicity and Sydney crowds. But I think this season reality hit home. It was realised that, for the game to grow, it could not be all about Sydney. Yet Sydney have gone down the opposite path this year and have cruelled the game at their home ground. By measures of gate-take to ground size and gate-take to catchment population, Sydney have gone backwards in version 2. Of course it would be very disappointing if a team has to win every year to get the crowds in. The Melbourne and Newcastle cases may how important winning - particularly at home - is to attendance.

Yet Queensland is the growth market for football in Australia.

Maximum, Adelaide, Perth, Newcastle and Central Coast, because of ground sizes and local catchment sizes may be able to draw say 5,000 more each per match. But it is hard to see a scenario in which they all did it in every game for a whole season. Queensland could get 10,000 to 15,000 plus more per game all season if it sustained a team considered capable of regularly winning the A-League. If it retains access to Lang Park. At Lang Park 1,000,000 (Brisbane) and up-to 2,500,000 (south-east Queensland, have good access and transport included ticketing.

Melbourne have showed dramatic and sustained crowd growth can happen. And the football bug has a cultural place in one-team Victoria. In Brisbane, the Broncos get these crowds at Lang Park to rugby league, even in their none winning years. Finals football would have brought this bug to football in Queensland. And perhaps two more A-League teams - Gold Coast and from the far north - would have been likely.

Despite the start, and Remo Buess slipping over and allowing Alex Brosque to score in 13 minutes and 32,000 people thinking they would go home unhappy, last night may have been enough. From 20 minutes, despite what looked like Reinaldo being fouled out of the game by Rudan, the game was all Queensland. And Sydney looked dull.

At least enough for regret about how fantastically this team has played sometimes this season and last and yet has only managed to win 4 home games in two seasons from 21 opportunities.

Monday, January 15, 2007

A-League: Helter Skelter - the battle for the top 4

One round to go and three teams are still vying for one spot. The focus is on Newcastle v Melbourne. Melbourne wins and its Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney and Queensland Roar with only the order to be decided. The order will determine who plays off for the home ground final.

Perth 3 - Newcastle 3

Newcastle scored in some wide-open spaces very early. And it looked like Newcastle were going to walk this one in. Perth coach and sometimes Socceroo assistant Ron Smith reconed he could have scored it. Then Jade North conceded his third hand-ball penalty this season and the teams went to the brake at 1-1.

Newcastle tired badly in the second half and played a defensive game. Not something we are used to seeing from a team that has at least matched results with Melbourne in the 2nd half of the season. Eventually, Perth put on two goals in quick succession and almost had a third. Then in the last two minutes of a four minute injury time, Newcastle - who had been looking badly beaten - sprung to life and it was Perth who looked done. Joel Griffiths scored twice in two minutes.

This draw means that if Newcastle beats Melbourne, the loser of Queensland v Sydney comes 5th. If Newcastle draws, by Friday three teams will have 28 points with Newcastle and Queensland on equal goal difference. Queensland must then draw with Sydney to gain a point and knock Newcastle out. If Roar lose their goal difference goes behind Newcastle and their out.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

A-League: And it burns burns burns - the ring of fire... Adelaide 1 - Sydney 0

Defence didn't do the trick for Sydney tonight. Plus their two most feisty players, Milligan and McFlynn both copper their 4th yellows. Plus Alvin Ceccoli's 33rd minute injury puts a question mark over his next game.

Adelaide 1 Sydney 0
Fernando 89th
Crowd 14,704
Ref Matthew Breeze
Man of the match Daniel Beltrame (again a goal keeper)

So its Melb 45, Adelaide 30 - both in the finals. Sydney 28, Roar 28 and Newcastle 26 (with a game in hand). So unless Newcastle snags worse than two draws (which is possible given their last game is against Melbourne and which case we will know by Friday night), Queensland must beat Sydney to finish in the top 4.

The Sydney-side interest in the Adelaide v Sydney game was the absence of Sasho Petrovski (to the Japanese 2nd division) and the wait to the 77th minute for David Zdrilic. Zdrillic got a match saving save from Daniel Beltrame. Again Sydney played Terry's defensive game, and again we saw the problem. If the other team snags a goal - then that is it.

And for Adelaide we got an early look at their new Brazilian, Diego Walsh (68th Minute entry). Playing on mainly the left as an attacking mid-fielder, Diego won the goal by heading back towards goal and Fernando's legs, a ball that was heading out within feet of the left goal post. Fernando didn't know much, but Bolton knew less. And game to Adelaide.

However, the interesting point here is that the squad space for Diego seems to have been made by the cutting of Qu. Qu is said to have sustained a season ending injury. I remember Kossie commenting when Qu was sent off for head butting Chad Gibson what an expensive player Qu was and how much more was expected of him. Qu pleaded racism against Chad Gibson as extenuating circumstances - to which Chad rightly fired-up given his cultural background and family experiences of racism. We saw Qu once or twice more then he was gone. It highlights how much more ruthless Adelaide is as a club than the Roar. Qu recommended Zhang (pronounced Jang) to the Roar. But what the Roar didn't know at the time was that Zhang had a court case over his head for a maliciously car crash involving the team mate who replaced him. Actually I saw nothing that showed this possible side. The Roar also found Zhang to unsuitably fit. Frank Farina (at the time not the Roar's coach) wrote about this and pointed out the need to ask why a player wants to play. Zhang got a bit of airplay at the start of Frank's tenure but now sits in the stands. As it turns out it may be a pity the Roar was not able to find a replacement like Adelaide's Diego.

Anyway, barring a mishap for Newcastle at Perth. The top four will be determined by Queensland Roar v Sydney at Lang Park. Queensland will be without 2 of their best players, and Sydney without between 2 and 4 of their best (depending on how you rate Petrovski and I rate him highly and the progress of Alvin's injury). Foxtel and the Courier-Mail are predicting a huge crowd, maybe 30,000. Well that would be a turn-up given the Roar's home record and lack of matches up here - the last was a 0-3 lost to Newcastle on a tired old Thursday night.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

A-League Mid Round 20: and four teams fight for three spots

Melbourne are in and are playing for their finals confidence and motivation. New Zealand and Perth now cannot make the finals.

And central Coast can only make it if... Adelaide lose to Sydney, and then CCM beat Adelaide by say 2.

So that makes the A-League top 4 just about as close as you can get. And this is despite the wide variety in the win - draw - loss and goal difference machinations to get there. 78 games and the next 6 all still make a difference. A quirk of fate means that every game counts even for Melbourne, Perth and New Zealand.

This is the fixture list:
Adelaide United FC vs Sydney FC
Perth Glory FC vs Newcastle Jets FC

Newcastle Jets FC vs Melbourne Victory FC
Queensland Roar FC vs Sydney FC
New Zealand Knights FC vs Perth Glory FC
Central Coast Mariners FC vs Adelaide United FC

Even 2nd placed Sydney with a goal difference of 11 must win one of its two games to make the finals. And the worst case lead up for Queensland would see Adelaide taking win or draw points off Sydney and with Newcastle drawing or beating Perth, this would leave Queensland in 5th and having to beat a desperate Sydney.

And the best case for the Roar would be a Sydney win against Adelaide and a Newcastle loss to Perth. Then a draw against Sydney maybe OK if Newcastle cannot improve its goal difference in its last match against Melbourne. And Melbourne have not lost away this year and they won't want to lose two in a row.

Really this is top draw stuff. Except in the the Top draw Manchester United or Chelsea will win and no-one else will get a look in. Chelsea have won the last two by ploughing in mega dollars and Manchester has the world's biggest sporting franchise. That's why the EPL need so many different cups - to give the other teams something for their fans to dream about.

Then again, Ernie Merrick said today that Melbourne could be the best club side ever to play in Australia. If that goes for next year and the year after.... well that's what new coaches and marque players are for (eh Sydney ;) ).

Friday, January 12, 2007

Roar beat Melbourne 1-2

Confidence plus motivation have re-engaged the Roar's talent. Sometimes confidence and motivation can be enough. Almost always lack of confidence and, or lack motivation will sink a team. The A-league seats have witnessed this from the up and down form of both Queensland and New Zealand, as well as the Central Coast front of goal efforts.

Melbourne 1 Queensland 2
Crowd 28,900

The early news was Spase's pinpoint pass to Dario who flicked for - Mori's fantastic turn and step into space for a bulging net and his first Roar goal (18th Minute). Mori then copped an elbow to the head from Steve Pantelidis and played the rest of his game (77 minutes) bandaged to look like he had tonsillitis. A little later Pantelidis got what I thought looked like a wack from the ball - but the ref called a foul by Mori. Anyway by the second half Pantelidis and Mori were fighting for every ball and wearing matching bandages. Great match up.

In the first half the Roar's midfield dominated. Their best performance of the season.

Into the second half, the Roar sat back behind the ball. Sinking lower and lower into their final third. They missed a chance to beat Sydney playing this game in round one (1-1). By the 70th minute their energy seemed drained. And Melbourne got closer and closer until Archie Thompson picked up a ball rebounding from Ben Griffin's knee and toed in from around the middle of the penalty box (80th minute). This awoke the Roar's attacking game. And after a few missed opportunities from both sides, Dario Vidosic ran onto a left side cross in 90 minutes plus three. And the Roar had won.

The man of the match was Perth training squad and Australian under 20 goalkeeper Tando Velaphi. Tando pulled off at least one world class, right sided punching, save and several brave stops. Frank said this was his opportunity, and expect to see him in the Perth line-up next year - unless the Roar can snaffle him. Seo also had a great game taking Muscat out of the game. Spase had moments of great passing and setting up opportunities as did Reinaldo. Of course Sasa was back and he made a difference.

There was some downside for the Roar. Josh McCloughan and Matty McKay both seem to have scored their 4th yellow cards for the season and will miss the final and critical game against Sydney at home next week. Ref Mark Shield seemed to lose control around the middle of the game handing out 7 yellow cards in total. Several for minor offences. Matty's for apparently wasting time at the end of the first half (thanks Jeccy - talking to Frankie). Matty may be off contract at the end of the season - so we keep our fingers crossed he will be retained (thanks Jeccy - commentators suggest he has signed for two more years).

This will mean Massimo, who played around 26 minutes at his speedy best, will be key. He narrowly missed a goal opportunity just after coming on.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Liam Reddy - incidents and accidents, hints and allegations

The FFA have reviewed the recording of the Adelaide v Roar game and suspended Roar goalkeeper Liam Reddy for one game.

The FFA needs to take great care in applying this type of intervention.

The ref and his assistants, were at the time of the game, happy with Reddy's performance. A number of teams will benefit if the Roar lose to Melbourne. And playing an inexperienced goalkeeper is one way to increase the risk of a loss.

I am keen to know why the FFA determined to review this incident. On this season's other major FFA review and suspension occasion, a player was badly injured and Sydney were vocal about the need for a sanction against Melbourne. In this case the appellant is less clear.

The stills published in the press put a very different light on the incident to how it looked live, or even replayed or slowed down. On video the incident did not look that bad. It looked like Reddy needed to get across his box and mis-timed his jump over the fallen Brazilian Fernando.

Only one person knows what he intended and Reddy has stated it was an accident. So the FFA are implying Reddy is not telling the truth. Interesting. But then there was a similar incident when Reddy was playing for Newcastle last year, that time he was found not guilty.

So now the FFA appear to have set a precedent that must be followed after each match. But is the precedent just stomping or is it all injurious fouls that need to be reviewed in stills and slow motion? And who benefits? Not the team fouled but usually their competitors. So why not use the video in the game for all prospective penalties?

Roar do not fans need reminding that while they have conceded (some unfairly) many penalties, in 40 games they have received only one in their favour.

On balance perhaps it would have looked a fairer thing if the FFA had stayed out of this incident. or go the whole hog and use the video during the game.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Alas sir Terry… but that’s the trouble with the long ball game

... You don't need a star-studded team to play it.

Sydney 0 - New Zealand 1
(Che Bunce 16 minutes - flat foot in from a corner)
Crowd for Sydney's last home game - a disappointing 16,040.

New Zealand out-long balled Sydney win a corner and then score. But that is the problem with the long ball game. You may not need to run on with Sasho Petrovski and David Zdrilic but neither do the opposition. After scoring, the job for NZ was getting behind the ball - which they did very effectively. Still, some great long balls to release Canadian national team member Alen Marcina, Lelei Gao, and increasingly, toward the end of the match and soaking up time, Neil Emblen. Emblen is demonstrating that he is a very versatile player. If you need your striker (NZ played 4-4-1-1) to hold up the long ball, who better than a rugged defender.

All this and Sasho confirming he will join his former coach, Pierre Littbarski, at Avispa Fukuoka in Japan's 2nd Division. Maybe's to go include Clint Bolton and Alvin Ceccoli. Interesting to see home Sydney's Asia cup team emerges.

Quote of the day from Terry Butcher:

‘Get out of my face will ya.’ (to the Foxtel camera)

Again an earlier gem from Perth coach Ron Smith:

'I've always liked my teams to be well organised in defence but to play attacking football. Nobody wants to see a defensive team that pinches an occasional goal on a counter attack.'

Saturday, January 06, 2007

A-League returns to the sand pit for one of the seasons best

Newcastle 1 - Central Coast 0

Newcastle returned to their sand pit just 4 days after the shambles against Sydney. This time water was liberally sprayed onto the pitch before the game and at half time. It did the trick. A great attacking game of football was produced and enjoyed by the crowd of nearly 15,000 Jet-sters and Marinaters.

On display were two of the three top coaches in the A-League. Gary Van Egmond and Lawrie McKinna were able to turn on a high quality fast moving match on a suspect pitch - without resort to a long ball game. This was a foil to Terry Butcher's winning performance there just days earlier.

Also on display were the A-League's two top goal keepers, Ante Covic (Jets) and Danny Vukovic (Mariners). In contrast to earlier games, Vukovic had little to do. This was particularly the case in the second half. Meanwhile, Covic demonstrated why he is in the Socceroos squad. Covic saved Newcastle. The first half was fast and close and highlighted by Milton Rodriguez's winning goal for Newcastle. The second half was dominated by Central Coast attacking runs - and unfortunately for them - Covic's acrobatics.

And after the turmoil of Newcastle's early season, opening the squad with only one goal keeper, 19 year old Ben Kennedy, and then Kennedy's season ending injury, Covic's return from Europe makes Newcastle a title contender.

While Newcastle made the finals last season, by year they looked spent. This year they started poorly but have built both squad and confidence. And while the dismissal of Nic Theodorakopoulos was the results turning point, a winning attacking team that could challenge Melbourne and Sydney's dominance was in place. Perhaps Nic represented too many issues in the club, who would really know that detail. Perhaps the real credit should go to chair Con Constantine - for holding face when crowds dipped under 5,000 and for stumping up for Milton and Ante Covic.

Last night both teams played attacking football. More the remarkable was that this was quite a different Central Coast team. Injury has hit them hard. And the coaching team of former National Soccer League stars, Lawrie McKinna, Ian Ferguson and Alex Tobin, have proved their worth in developing young local talent - able to step up and be competitive in one of the toughest games of the season.

However, Central Coast miss Damian Mori. His 6 goals in 8 games put Central Coast in contention. He wanted to stay and they wanted to keep him. Alias, under the 4 week striker for striker (defender for defender) injury rule he could not. And unfortunately Nik Mrdja only lasted 256 minutes before succumbing to injury again (if Roar hadn't pounced Mori could have been back). And despite Frank Farina's implications, it has nothing to do with long balls. Central Coast created up to 15 real chances last night, crosses, heads into space into space in the 6 yard box... What was missing was a player locked into the 6th sense of the team to be in the right place at the right time to bang it in. Only Mori has shown this for Central Coast. And as much as he looked like that person, bolted on at the front for Central Coast, he has not looked like it for the Roar. It is little wonder that he is now talking about retirement - perhaps central Coast will pick him up next year?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Bring back the Brazilian

All week we heard about how the Roar were tied of their players and how Frankie was being sent to Brazil to buy new players next year - and no-one was safe.

And what happens?

Simon Lynch gets sick, Ante gets sick, Sasha gets sick and...

... at last Reinaldo gets a full game under Frank.

And surprise surprise he is the star. He set up Dario for a missed opportunity, came close to scoring from a turn off the turf, and then in the second half gets in front of his marker and heads in to finish a Damian Mori cross bar shot.

So despite all that time watching from the stands, or starting late in the game from the bench, Roar's leading goal scorers are Ante 4, Dario 4 (including 2 in one game) and Reinaldo 4 winners.

The Roar already have the Brazilian we need - start him every week - oh there are only 2 games left.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Hey Sydney FC, you wanna come play in the sand...

What happened to the Newcastle ground staff?

I couldn't believe the condition of the pitch yesterday. After the match, an emotional Nick Carle said 'The less said about the pitch the better... but Sydney played in the same conditions and well done to them.' Yes but. I recall Nic Theodorakopoulos complaining about the poor state of New Zealand's home ground and recounting that one of the principles of the A-League was to be quality stadiums and pitches. He'd be rolling on the turf now...

This was the game of the season. And the Newcastle crowd knew it with almost 21,000 turning up for a local record. It was the A-League's best attacking play verses its best defensive game. Clearly the sand helped Sydney's defensive, long ball, approach. Meanwhile, Newcastle's usually deft passes were - stuck in the sand.

Terry Butcher still looks a little isolated despite his winning run. His goals came from the two players he has stuck mainly on the bench. For me, Alex Brosque was one of the A-League's great prospects in 2005-2006. Yet he has been starved of game time. Now he has had two starts in two matches and two goals. And Sasho Petrovski, apparently still vocalising his hurt from lack of game time, showed that he is the master of Butcher's long ball game, heading down a Sydney defensive clearance and left-footing in from almost 30 metres. Two kicks for almost the length of the pitch.

The threat of a loss of three points unified the Sydney players, but did it draw them to their coach and his tactics? Perhaps.

Well as Wayne said the loss means that the round virtually did not happen. Lawrie McKinna certainly looked happy in the stands.