Saturday, December 08, 2007

Wellies 3 v Perth 0; Syd 1 v Newc 0; Sydney get massive boost

Suspensions but no suspense.

Perth's best players Topor-Stanley and Harnwell were both sent off to give Wellington an easy win. Helping Sydney for its 2nd last home game against Perth next week. In Sydney, a crazy moment from Ruben Zadkovich on the half way line sliding into Adam Griffiths, brought Sydney back to 10 men on 52 minutes. But the most sensational moment of the whole game was Tony Popovic's off-the-ball elbow to Joel Griffith's head - knocking Griffith's out cold, he came back but didn't look right from then on - which will make Newcastle feel robbed and is likely to lead to an FFA investigation and - I would think - 2 or more weeks on the side for Popovic. If Popovic is sent off, he already had a yellow, there would be no injury time goal for Sydney, and their top 4 hopes would be in crisis. As it is, a betting person would back them from here, maybe all the way?

In terms of crowd, Sydney's season has been a disaster. Poor weather, crowd behaviour and media beat-ups scaring off families, and general version 3 blues have kept people away - only just over 10,000 made Sydney Football Stadium look lonely last night. Amazingly, Sydney have only two home games left - after next week against Perth, the next will be the last of the game of the season - what is usually the season's hum-dinger against Melbourne. But after what happened in the other two games the clubs played this season, we can expect more police than families. The week-about rhythm of going to the game just has not been built for the legion of fans the game needs in Australia's biggest city. The FFA really needs to move on new teams to get interest back... maybe the North Melbourne Kangaroos...

For me, last night's results put tremendous pressure on the Roar. They have 3 of their 6 games at home. If they make the finals, the crowds will come and life will be breathed into the A-League. If they miss out, again...

While the Roar publicity has been about how 'the rest of the table will be willing us on against Central Coast' to bring CCM back to the pack, I don't think so. I think the other teams want to cement their top 4 place. Climbing over the Roar would be an easier way to do that rather than worry about CCM's position. Lose or draw against CCM and the Roar could be out of the top 4 by the end of next week.

Perth's debacle against Wellington, means Sydney are very likely to get 6 points (3 last night and 3 at home next week against a Topor-Stanley and Harnwell depleted Perth) from 2 games and firm its bid for the top 4. The Roar, on the other hand, can't afford anything other than a victory against Central Coast or its hopes of making the top 4 for the first time will look a lot bleaker.

Next week the Roar play a resurgent Wellington in NZ, and the following week Perth (with best players Topor-Stanley and Harnwell back and desperate to appease their home fans) in WA. Both home teams will be desperate and have nothing at all to loose. Meanwhile, the Roar has been playing a 'draw is taking 2 points from your opposition' game - which is a 50-50 option when your opponents have the same game plan. Following up the Roar play Victory at Land Park, Sydney at Lang Park and finish up away to Adelaide.

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