Friday, November 30, 2007

Roar 0 - Newcastle 1: ref error denies Roar

In the first round match-up between Newcastle and the Roar very late in the game Stewart McLaren's leg went and he brought down Joel Griffiths in front of a crowed Roar penalty area. Mclaren gets his second yellow - his off and out for some weeks - and Griffiths scores from the outside the box free kick. OK fair cop

So when did the rules change?

Tonight, Adam Griffiths deliberately hacked down Matt Mckay - who had only a stranded keeper to beat. Peter Green points to the spot. But no red or yellow card (which would equal a red for Griffiths who was carded in 15 minute). Surely he was the last and beaten defender?

The early game 'play on' decisions as Robbie Kruse was hacked about were outrageous.

Allowing a roughhouse team to kill off attacks with such foul play is hurting the A-League at the gate-take.

Oh and the A-League's biggest secret, or unmentionable issue, is that Mario Jardel cannot play. He hardly won a ball, he can't run and even Reddy backed himself to win a ball from him by running a good 10 metres out of his penalty area.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sydney 5 v LA Galaxy 3: Beckham delivers

Last night David Beckham achieved the FFA's goals and more. 80,000 in the stadium, millions on free to air channel 10 and millions more across Asia watched the soring highs and lows of a classic match.

Even nightmare scenario one, a Sydney FC player crashing into Beckham's ankle added to, rather than ended, the drama. A few times we saw him wince at poor positioning and passing from his team mates, but his commitment could not be questioned. And of course there was that goal.

LA Galaxy have exciting attack and rubbish defence and goalkeeping - perhaps it was jetlag? Anyway, there was a message in that for the A-League - a five 3 defeat is more glorious for fans than 4 low scoring draws.

As for John Kosmina, for all his bravado last night may have been Sydney FC's match of the season, particularly if they don't make the finals.

The standout for the night was Juninho - he is a big match player and how. He gifted Alex Brosque 2 goals when Galaxy were on top in the first quarter of the game.

Hats off to channel 10. Great presentation, sound commentary (even if we don't have touchlines in football) - they did well and showcased the game.

Surprise of the night - guest commentary by Kevin Muscat - perhaps the best A-League player available given his on-field behaviour. I also enjoyed the half time work by Anthony LaPalia - or Pago as written on his back when reliving his Adelaide City days in goals against Beckham some time before the game.

LA Galaxy's Kevin Harmse was clown of the night - kicking down Juninho and deliberately treading his studs into Sydney FC's right wing Biddle's forearm.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sydney 0 v Roar 0, Newcastle 0 v CCM 0: The last remake of Dario Jardel

The Newcastle fans are amazing. The appear to have infinite patience. But it can't last. Super Mario was given the maximum windup for the central NSW derby - perform or go, even that made him look like the bull in a bull fight. He was cheered for every pass, every chest down, for running off in the 57th, arms raised. But no goals, nothing like one. And as the match wore on he got slower... And now he is apparently under investigation for an eye gouge...

Just how long will Newcastle leave out the very talented 22 year old Mark Bridge? Running with the ball and into spaces he is as good as any. He is reported to be in dispute over his pay for next season with both Sydney and Central Coast with their hands up.

Passar, passar em, passar por.. nao chumbo, tentativa

No, I just can't get around Portuguese Brazilian. Robbie Kruse found himself just waiting in and around the attacking third - while other options like shooting yourself were perferred. Marcinho looks exciting and always pushing the ball forward, but if only he'd pass rather than shoot, let Robbie take it?

According to Frank Farina, Andrew Packer can wear his red with pride. However, Alex Brosque seems to have become a diver. And Michael Bridges was very lucky to stay on the park in the 39th when he kicked out at Sasa Ognenovski - after 'I don't do tricks - Sasa had turned and got away from Bridges.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Victory 1 v Wellington 1: The last days of Kevin 02?

Kevin Muscat is the Victory's key play maker. For three years he has held the middle of the park. He has organised the defence and primed Thompson and Allsopp for goals. Muscat keeps opposing strikers in check, with the odd click of the leg and elbow thrown in.

This year Muscat has been one of the walking wounded, bandages to the head, arms and legs (not all at once). When he isn't there, through injury or suspension, Melbourne struggle to get the ball into attacking positions. Against the Roar in Round 13, Thompson had to repeatedly return to deep in his own half to run the ball forward.

However, when he is on the pitch he is now well known to refs. And with his biomechanics slowing, his tricky moves often catch an unwanted eye, making him, like Tony Popovic, susceptible to divers and refs error... or even being caught out.

Friday, November 23, 2007

A-League: Adelaide 1 v Perth 1

Adelaide are clearly suffering from injuries and Olyroo duty. It was a scrappy match that Adelaide couldn't hold onto after Richie Alagich's solo effort just before half time. High points were:

- Jamie Harnwell's 200th game and a headed (or head butted as my team calls it) goal from a free kick. He made it clear he wants another year in his post match interview.
- Be interesting to see just what the tie-up with Manchester City means for Perth.
- Perth's James Downey was the standout on the pitch making many runs down the right with the ball at his feet. But he needs to learn either a step to get around defenders or an improved passing game.
- Ref Peter O'Leary had a better game than Adelaide fans give him credit for

Low points:
- a disappointing crowd - under 11,000
- the number of Adelaide's names that didn't play including Bobby Petta and Cassio
- lack of spark to the game

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A-League: A week of thoughts

Evolution of the brand

I watched the Socceroos in the English rain and cold against Nigeria. But I missed the Olyroos play Iraq in Gosford. I really did want to see that match. And I found out too late that the Olyroos match against North Korea was telecast on Fox Sport 2 this afternoon.

Perhaps in a strange way, the interest for me in the Nigeria game was Carney and Beauchamp. Both having made the transition for the A-League’s to the major games in Europe.

But I have little interest in these major games, unless a former A-League player is on the pitch. Schwartzer and Kewell playing out a friendly game doesn’t carry that much interest. I find myself agreeing with Kosmina when he said that playing against the LA Galaxy was a useful training match set between two critical A-League games. I can see the interest for those for whom this may be their once-in-a-lifetime chance to see Beckham, but I don’t expect to see anything amazing for the Sydney v Galaxy match.

On the hand, I seen most of the Olyroos from my A-League seat and met a few of them. They have their best games ahead of them and their opponents are playing as if their lives depended on it. Also, they have played in the 50 degrees, zero degrees and on the hostile pitches that we must now master to make the world cup. For the moment their games may be a touch scrappy and inconsistent, but they are full of potential and possibility. I will have my eyes glued to the Olympics in Beijing, the FA Cup I can leave.

Perhaps the A-League is bringing more brand recognition to a different level of talent and experience…

A testing week
Perth’s coach former Socceroo Mitchell was forced to move to the stands for his second match in charge. His passion spilt over when a crunching foul went un-carded. I know how that feels. Fair due to him, with 7 of his best on Australian or New Zealand duty.

Funny how winning feels
The Roar on a winning streak puts the last two and half seasons into perspective. And I know things could change but they look good now and have so much depth. I can say that when you out play a team and loose – as a fan, you experience more, not a good more just more of your emotional spectrum.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Roar 1 - Victory 0: The Secret

Robbie Kruze is the A-League's most talent striker. But don't tell the FFA we don't want him on national duty.

However, the man-of-the-match was Stuart McLaren who took over as captain with Moore's injury and made the plays and tackles for the Roar.

Strangely, it seemed to be Thompson who had to take over from Muscat in the Victory's mid-field and play upfront for them. Allsopp missed some sitters, as did Thompson when a poorly chosen back pass by Murdocca found him in behind the Roar defence early in the game and yet, somehow, still unable to score.

However, the strangest event was Victory's ability, for the 2nd week in a row to have a suspension reduced, this time Vargas's ban. How could this happen?

The Roar's 4 yellow cards to Victory's one did not reflect the fouling or intensity of the fouls. The FFA must stop the open season on the kicking out of the legs, particularly from behind of Australia's best young players. Finally, Victory must learn to stop studs-up challenges and Refs must use red cards to stop them.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Roar 3 - Wellington 0

At last a home shut out.

While the first half was quite, Reinaldo showed us that he wanted to shoot. The main event was the send off of Wellington's Ahmad Elrich in only the 34th. If you are going to put your elbow into someone's nose (Seo), FFA has made it clear - you are going to get a red. This was going to be a big game for Elrich and he wasn't ready to go. Wellington needed to win to start to threaten a top 4 finish by the end of the season.

As Frank said after the game, it isn't always easy against 10. And it is a bit of a fashion to just play out the first half with no mistakes, holding the ball, building from the back and hoping to wear out your opponents. Then you throw everything at the 2nd half.

Wellington's approach was to foul Robbie Kruse every time he got the ball, and I think his ankles earned most of the Wellies yellow cards.

Nothing really happened until the 58th when Stuart McLaren succumbed to a rib injury and on came Marcinho. He was electric. Every time he got the ball something was happening, running at defenders, great passes...

... then in the 64th a Pele style bicycle kick in the penalty box, stopped by the hands of Karl Dodd. Reinaldo had to kick it in twice, but he too was on fire. And the summersult, backflip and tuck was back. And tomorrow he is going to be a Dad.

For a while the Roar lost rhythm. Wellington looked like they could break back. But they couldn't get through.

In the 79th, Reinaldo go a ball right in front, back heel and in off a defender - so much for Frank saying he would break his drought with a goal off his back.

There were a few welcome backs as McLaren got a good run. Murdocca saw out the game. And Milicic had a cameo (Lynch got a kick yesterday).

Things have changed. The Roar are earning their share of fair penalties, and other teams are getting sendoffs, while the Roar stay at 11. And now we are clear 2nd.

In the 82nd, Zullo is released on the left. He has been waiting all night. We all think he will shoot, like so many others have done tonight. But no he finds Marcinho in space on the right, loads of time and he uses it. Bam Boom. 3 nil.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

A week of thoughts from the A-League stream

This blog was going to be for the week of 8 Nov, but I over cooked it, trying to use wireless with a laptop and my thumb hit the nuke button.

The photo is Andy Harper. Former Sydney FC exec, Foxtel commentator, ABC radio host... one of the game's major avocates in Australia...

This week's red mist...
Dick Advocaate eh? My heart says sue, my head says is it worth it? But the opportunity cost of turning off other options months ago has been the millions of dollars it will cost to lure someone else now. Apparently, we had a firm, signed contact, just it couldn't be announced until he finished his stint with a Russia club. In retrospect, interesting. Were we just a stalking horse? It is not the first time players or agents or coaches have extracted more money from their club this way. A second cold war symptom?

Everyone loves winners. Major sponsor for the Roar?
Roar haven't been able to convince a big corporation to join them. According to Foxtel, a deal with a new partner will be announced in the next month.

Police presence
Melbourne fans were almost matched one-for-one by police at Lang Park last night. I wonder who pays for the baby sitting?

Perth allstars
How much bad luck is that? Last in the league and both the Australia and New Zealand teams demand your best players in the match after you win your first game of the season. What luck for Central Coast.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Super challenge 2: Mario Jardel 0 v (Juninho) Bridges 1

Sydney FC are back. And it is on the back of Micheal Bridges. In a way it shows how unlucky Culina was. If they'd got Bridges a week earlier and Juninho was fit...

It wasn't all one way traffic. Juninho has re-injured his shoulder, but with Bridges in - it isn't a knockout for Sydney. Super Mario nearly got his goal and has started to look a handful for defenders. His header and then off the ground kick would have been spectacular if not for Middleby being on the line. But he does seem to go to ground very easily for such a big person.

Bridges' goal was a left instep thunderbolt - Newcastle left him unmarked around the top of the box. But it wasn't as powerful or sweet as Reinaldo's goal of the week for the Roar (complete miss, then into the keepers outstretched hands and 3rd time - boom).

Saturday, November 03, 2007

A-League: Adelaide 0 v Roar 1, Perth 0 v Wellington 1

The Roar are a team that learns. They have learnt to use Reinaldo to free-up Kruse, and Kruse to feed Reinaldo. Zullo is able to soak-up a defender and occasionally devastate a team will a solo run or amazing cross. They have also learnt to defend and close out a game.

While Adelaide missed Angelo Costanzo, McLaren and Murdocca stepped into the Roar midfield that missed Marcinho and Tiatto. McLaren has only played 3 times this season and 3 positions - defence, striker and now mid field. Wow. Frank Farina's selection headache has reversed - who to leave out?

While it was the Kruse-Reinaldo show, man-of-the-match was Moore. Organising the team and particularly defence, Moore also saved some power shots with his head and feet. Matt McKay also had a great game and had more to do without Marcinho or Tiatto to take all the set pieces.

At Perth the Board will determine Ron Smith's future. It is getting very hard for them to keep him, even if he is a good coach, their poor funding and injuries have given Smith few options. I'm not really sure where they take it to from here. Perhaps they will appoint assistant coach David Mitchell?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Round 11: Half way status

Adelaide: Very strong reconstruction of squad over version 2. Hallmark of physical strength remains. Like most teams, young guns have provided the attacking brilliance. Cassio was a sound Braziallian to buy. Things are going well for coach Vidmar. Injury now testing the depth.

CCM: Aloisi buy reflects clubs financial strength and John Singleton's deal making ability. Amazing that he was looked at by Roar, Wellington and Sydney. Perhaps a case of 'if only' for the Roar with their early season lack of ability to punch into the net. CCM has always been a great defensive side. Looks like they now have the fire-power to stay top 4 - despite injury and Damien Mori not quite making back (Roar also looked at Mori).

Newcastle: Surprisingly strong this season after losing stars from version 2. Relying on defensive strength game. And Griffiths brothers play a tough game. Super Mario just hasn't delivered for them but they seem prepared to make the hard decisions. However, this hasn't beeen optimal for crowd size. Question mark on whether they will remain top 4.

Melbourne: Not the team they were last year. Team cohesion is in question as is the health and form of Kevin Muscat. Top 4 spot is under-threat. Will be interesting to see how they react. Do they have a guest player surprise for us to please the fans? Perhaps Fred back post USA season? - My view is that between marquee and juggling the cap - they could have paid up for Fred. All teams can make room one way or another. They seem to have gone for average depth.


Roar: Outside the top 4. Need to be be there and win at home to get crowd to 52,000 seat lang park. Have started to play less attacking and have produced wins and draws. Foxtel story of the week was about a Brazilian they didn't sign in pre-season who went onto score 27 goals for a major club. Injury question marks now coming out. But players like Murdocca and McLaren can win games if they hit form. At first I thought Zullo was the find, now I think Kruse. His assist for Marcinho - despite being marked out for most of the game by Topor-Standley - showed you only need to give him one chance to make things happen. Just what the Roar need in front of goal.

Sydney: Look fearsome with Kosmina and Bridges. Although why Hull don't want Bridges is a mystery. More than half the home matches are gone and the crowd hasn't turned up. Limited time for Culina reflects need to spark crowd interest - some how. Potentially Top 4 or even Top squad. Can they do it or will they run out of petrol?

Wellington: 10,000 plus crowds at home is a good start. Hope the faith is maintained. NZ football needs Wellington to do well financially. Their squad is quality and attacking. Best Brazilian hires of the A-League plus Elrich can win games. Have we seen the best of Felipe and his combination with Daniel. Or has the A-League learnt to handle them?

Perth: Give me a squadran of Topor-Stanleys. Clearly Sydney miss him and he outplayed the Roar in Rd 10. One of the best defenders in the A-League. Perth have been unlucky in some of their draws but captain Colosimo seems to be losing patience. They deserve a win.