Sunday, September 30, 2007

Juninho 1 v Jardel 0

Juninho showed last night what you need from a marquee player. His perfect, look the other way, pass to release Brosque won the game for Sydney.

The first step for a marquee is that they must be the best player on your team. Then they need to, at least, offset the best player on the other team. Unfortunately, too many teams have been suckered into buying players who they think will bring in a crowd. At least Jardel is doing that for Newcastle.

However, the problem for Sydney is that even with Juninho they could only attract 13,755 fans.

This factor, together with Sydney playing Melbourne, the spirited CCM v Newcastle derby and most importantly absolutely must win games for the Roar and Perth, make next round, the last of the first of the 3 sets, the round of the season.

In this round we will know if the success factors for version 3, and perhaps the A-League in general, are hit:

- Sydney must regain its crowd anything less than 20,000 will be unacceptable and Melbourne is the team to bring it out (expect this to happen)
- the Roar must win at home and it must set itself up with a credible chance of making the top 4 (yes I expect this to happen)
- Perth must win at home (yep I think Perth can win)

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Melbourne Victory 2 - Roar 0

There is a slogan, 'one nuclear accident could ruin your whole day.' It feels a bit like that today.

The Roar scored Ben Williams as ref for the 3rd time in 6 games. Muscat, who surely must be on the FAA's 'Tiatto Player Rule' watch list, got away with shoving his wrist caste into Reinaldo's face. But must infuriating of all Leandro Love was rewarded for a dive in the penalty area just after Vargas cleared off the line a Craig Moore strike. Later, the Roar's run of 48 A-League games with only one penalty was continued by Williams despite Reinaldo being dragged down inside the box. By mid game, the Victory were making a game of trying to goad Tiatto into a second yellow card.

In the first half, Victory defence were everywhere closing down the Roar strikers. With only 8 teams, the A-League has learned to sacrifice entertainment for against run of play goals. Funnily enough, some former Roar fans made this point about their expectations for Frank Farina. He has boldly proved them wrong.

There were flashes of brilliance from the Melbourne defence, and both goal opportunities were constructed by Archie Thompson. Apart from Reinaldo's feistiness, the highlight for the Roar was Michael Zullo's 71 minute substitution for Simon Lynch. Zullo nearly pulled one back for the Roar with a magnificent header into the inside base of the post. Expect Mitch Nichols to be given the nod next week against Wellington, probably at the expense of Ante Milicic. The Roar defence is still a problem and they are missing Andrew Packer.

Now the pressure is on the Roar is like a pea stuck in a straw caught under a waterfall.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Tempted by the light of another: Perth could beat CCM

Well I watch Roar dismantle Perth last week, and saw the goals that Perth missed after opening the scoring and their account. Then heard Total Football tell us how bad Perth's player acquisition strategy was (well we all know how had it is to buy players and how tempting it is to buy names to get the crowd in).

And have have seen the injury and sideline list, including Foxe and Lazaridis.

Then I read The Australia's wrap of the Sports Bet tipping. Humm $6 on Perth eh. I'll have some of that, well $5. Maybe I'll wish it were $50 or that I'd invested another $5 on the $3.60 for a draw. CCM have Mrdja out and Petrovski in doubt. But then Mori's back.

Don't know, not a punter. But this is a close league. Away teams do just as well as home teams. And I'd rather see Perth do well than Wellington any day. So I had to back Perth.

The Positives

The Roar will probably have attracted the biggest crowd this round - over 16,000. That's thanks to Melbourne being away, but can you image any other team with the Roar's home record doing that? (four wins in 23 games at Lang Park but who would count?)

Marcinho was on fire last night and set up some fabulous opportunities, including a cross for Reinaldo to stretch Bolton to the maximum. He was cheezed off about something, I not sure what. Simon Lynch showed flashes of capability. And Massimo changed the game when he came on. He (on the right) and Zullo (on the left) are remarkable to watch tearing up the Sydney flanks.

I was disappointed to watch Mitch Nichols make his way out from the non-playing players bench at half time. Maybe next week.

This week the shots weren't wild swings, at least were on target and 3 or 4 against any other keeper would have been in.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Fan crusher: Roar 0 Sydney 1

Sydney is a boring team to watch. This is the reason that their gatetake in such a large city is so small. There is no getting getting away from it. I think playing a boring game is worse than playing a losing game. Just as well being a Roar fan.

The Roar's inability to score. Sydney's slow stop play. Bolton taunted Roar fans before the game - 'they'll probably shoot and miss all night' and then he pulled off around 8 world class saves....

Sasa Ognenovski came on as centre forward and it nearly worked.

Alex Brosque muffed what chances Sydney had before they scored against the run of play.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sweet Sweet: At last Roar make music: Perth 1 Roar 2

The A-league is small. The A-league is beautiful. The A-league is fragile.

Frank Farina explained the game to fans and the press this week. He sounded good and strong. The Roar must stick with him. There is no one else.

But as the Roar went a goal down in the 14th after the Roar had already had a barrage of chances - well you could see it was going to get harder to explain. And a big crowd must be attracted for the Sydney game next week.

With a win, at least now the team has given the marketing team something solid to work with.

I was impressed with Moore's performance this week. Still the Roar rely heavily on Matty and Danny. Marcinho has been unable to live up to his promise, he talks a lot, misses a lot of set pieces. Reinaldo, is the fittest player in the A-League, and can be seen in every position on the park and played a lot of time in defence today. 18 year olds Mitch Nichols and Michael Zullo rewarded Frank's risk with great cameos.

There were 21 official shots. Great goals from a McKay corner - at last someone was there to take the goalkeepers deflection (Josh McCloughan) and from Milicic's bustling forcing run into the box to set the ball free for McKay to do his 'best practice' volley. Tiatto looks like he is going to score some goals - 2 or 3 for keeper saves and 1 into the post.

Perth could have equalised (hit the post in extra time) or run away with it. But at last things went the Roar's way and they got over the Ben Williams refing ho-do without a send off.

The Roar are by far the most exciting A-league team. And we knew they could win away. But now they must win at home. And against Sydney who just must win or risk writing of the season (and their home crowd).

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Against the run of play: Sydney 1 Wellington 2, Newcastle 1 Adelaide 0

Matthew Breeze did not have his best game last night. First being fooled by a Brazilian dive to give Wellington the lead. Then waving on a dangerously high foot in the Wellington box. Alex Brosque was chopped down in full flight several times. Also it will be interesting to see whether the FFA invokes its new 'Tiatto' playing rule and gives Karl Dodd a citing and ban for his crowd killing and aggressive fouls.

Felipe's goal was a cracker. Could Wellington have scored the best Brazilian?

Sydney's Patrick doesn't do nearly enough.

If only Newcastle and Adelaide had played their respective games against the Roar at such a low ebb. Maybe the Roar's game made them lift or look good? In any case, not much action apart from Bridge's goal.

Overselling Juninho's return failed to fool the mums and dads and resulted in a disappointing crowd of 11,491. Less than Newcastle's 13,000 plus.

The Roar, Perth and Sydney will now be feeling that must win pressure. I had a smile at Culina trying to deflect the press by pointing to the Roar's failure to win, as the Roar is copping it pretty hard up hear with the Courier-Mail continuing to run Farina denies crisis flavoured stories. Anyway, next Saturday's Roar v Sydney at Lang Park is usually the Roar's big gate take game. But it is coming early and against the run of play for both teams. Both teams will need to win to silence the wolves at their doors. Former FFA operations manager Matt Carroll's nightmare lives - no-one can afford to loose any game and a draw is considered dull.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Tactful Damian

We keep going out and signing marquee players, but we're signing marquee players in the wrong positions. Defenders shouldn't be marquee players. If it's a marquee player, you need to spend the money in an attacking sense, because that's what people pay to come and watch, and that's not being disrespectful to defenders.
Damian Mori quoted in Burning Q The Courier-Mail 13 September 2007 page 103.

So let's count the marquee defenders. I got to one. Craig Moore. Are their any others?

So I wonder who Damian thinks the Roar should have bought? Not many were available. And Petrovoski, or his wife, had already said no to Queensland.

Monday, September 10, 2007

My Lamborghini Tiatto

It is an older, affordable model, but it is a Tiatto.

All parts are in working order, although some appear prone to falling out (arm from shoulder socket). Having said that, unlike the Brazilian Juninho and earlier Italian Carbone models, this model self-repairs and can be back up to top performance in minutes.

In fact, so far, despite not being in a leading team, Tiatto is the A-League's leading marquee or marque.

The height he can reach for headers (called by my son's team - head-butts) is amazing. He 0-60 short running game beats younger strikers and team-mate defenders alike. He does tyre (sic) if you ask him to do this too often. And he has been known to swear at under-performing team-mates and to highlight their goal-scoring deficiencies.

Tiatto is a class player, so far the best in the A-League. I had my camera on Thursday night but when is arm popped out I was so absorbed watching him in the torturous manoeuvre to put it back I forgot to photograph him.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Roar 0 - Central Coast 1

Nearly 9,000 people went out on a wet Thursday night to watch the Roar hold around 70% of possession and take 24 shots to Central Coast's 8.

The Roar management are working hard behind the scenes. Brining in professional refs to explain rule implementation subtleties and differences to Tiatto, Moore and others.

There is no mistake the Roar dominated this game. And with more concentration upfront and lesser opposition (say a full strength Roar against last week's Newcastle) and big wins will come.

So off we go to Perth. Another big test. But one the Roar can and should win. And then a a most win game at home against Sydney.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Agree it isn't a conspiracy... however, coaches are saying similar, if toned down, things...

I agree it isn't a conspiracy. However, there are unintented consequences of the FFA's actions that they should have thought about.

For me, if Tiatto's tackle deserves suspension then every tackle in that category must lead to suspension. It cost the Roar the game against Newcastle. McLaren had to make all the tackles and got two yellows for his trouble, and it led to Packer playing too much and re-injuring his leg - out again.

Frank Farina's article in the Courier Mail last Friday points to the need for the FFA to be consistent. I take it further and say they need to be transparent. People need to know the rules before they run on the pitch, in this competition one set of stolen points and you miss the finals.

Sydney FC's coach has also indicated that he thinks the FFA are not focusing enough on the A-League with his comments in today's Australian. However, his comments are that this week should be a bye because of international duty. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the Roar doesn't have any current national squad members.

Plus I say whoever injured Juninho should be out for 3 weeks (Juninho is out for at least 6 weeks).

Sunday, September 02, 2007

FFA 'fouls' Queensland Roar to set tone

Central Coast 3 - Wellington 0
Sydney 2 - Adelaide 2
Melbourne 0- Perth 0
Newcastle 1 - Roar 1

The FFA's approach to matches is no longer transparent.

The FFA has lost some core talent, Matt Carroll and John O'Neil are the obvious ones with sports management experience.

Last year when there was a problem, the FFA's A-Team waited a few weeks and then made a discrete call to Melbourne Victory and asked them to stop diving in the box to win games. Victory complied and Archie joked about it.

This year's FFA team are keen to respond to the public humiliation in the Asian cup and, as a result, are trying to tone down the game. The No. 1 priority of the FFA appears to be, and perhaps should be, the national squad. They have to create a team used to dealing with the referring standards of Asia. This means softer play.

However, the A-League teams have recruited to cover their perceived weaknesses from version 1 and 2. However, the refereeing talent just can't be improved on such short turnaround. And buying in marquee refs (as suggested here before and directly to FFA) isn't going to be tried.

Clearly, for the first two seasons the Roar played great attacking football without enough success. It was probably football that would have been praised in Asia. However, in the real world of the A-League, hard head team's like Adelaide just pushed them off the ball and in the words of John Kosmina, 'ground them out.'

In response, Frank Farina has brought in Tiatto and Moore. These guys shouldn't get pushed off the ball. But both were lost after the first game. Tiatto's case in particular is a big problem, including ultimately, for the FFA. The Roar is battling to survive. It has the best stadium in the league and pulls bigger crowds than from the 5 million population of Sydney. Plus it is, now that Melbourne has filled its potential, the A-League growth market.

The FFA appears not to understand what it will take to tap this potential. I don't think changing the rules of international football and over-riding a ref is going to help. In fact it is going to hurt.

The first round Roar v Adelaide was poorly refereed. Clearly, the FFA agrees that its ref team did not see key parts of the game. So it intervened where it could to send a message - we are watching. Unfortunately, even the FFA can't push the FIFA defined envelope as far as righting the decision on the Roar's disallowed goal. But that is what the fans will remember.

In fact, the fans won't understand why Tiatto was cited (and another topic is 'why bother to call the player to put a defence case if there is no independent judge?' - I interpret some of John O'Neill's reported comments as an allusion to this problem).

The FFAs actions will discourage the fans. In particular, it will turn off the fans that take a crowd from 15,000 to 50,000. They will see the game as either unfair or full of dirty players. Let's remember that the FFA used both Tiatto and Moore to promote the launch of the season.

The other problem for the FFA was its treatment of two other fouls in round 1. Heffernan's deliberate elbow to Milligan's head and a Milligan tackle. Both Milligan and Heffernan were needed for Socceroo duty. So Heffernan's outrage is left as the ref had it - ignored, and Milligan's sentence is entirely suspended. And why wasn't Adelaide's Valkanis cited for his late two footer?

The struggling Newcastle, whom the FFA assisted in version 1, were saved by the sending off of the Roar's Maclaren. How will Roar fans react to that? It is unlikely that they will rush to fill Lang Park on Thursday mid week after that.

FFA need to show they were not scapegoating the Roar. It now needs to suspend Harnwell for a close of play wrestle with Muscat. And to suspend who-ever it was from Adelaide that put the crushing to threaten Juninho's season. I would like to see that.

It will be interested to watch the FFA now. Will they look increasingly like the old ASA?