Saturday, January 19, 2008

Two up, Two Down: Central Coast 2 v Wellington 0

On paper Wellington have had a strong team. In practice, its defence goes missing at critical times. Like tonight when they had held out for most of the game but left John Aloisi unmarked for a headed goal. Or in extra time when Lia's studs up challenge, fortunately for him, only drew a yellow card, and Christen Rees, fortunately for Sydney FC, got away with pulling the shirt and holding Petrovski in the penalty box.

They had had the strike power, Ahmad Elrich, Felipe, Daniel, Shane Smeltz and most recently local 17 year old Costa Barbarouses. And scored enough goals, but let too many in.

Wellington may play in the Oceania Champions league this year (so I assume they will not be eligible if they ever qualify for the Asian Champions league - can't have it both ways) and so should have something to offer and keep their top players with.

Elrich has been linked to his brother's Newcastle, but I don't see this move as likely as owner Con Constantine seems more likely to go for Ryan Griffiths to make it 3 brothers or a bigger name that will attract crowds. As a marquee, Elrich hasn't delivered despite his early cracker of a goal. And the sight of Elrich and Felipe on the bench until the 83 minute tonight showed the struggle Ricky Herbert has had to field a strong team. Wellington agents are reported to be on their way to Europe to look for two more foreign players - my guess to hold up the defence - to try to make the four next year.

Ex-Brisbane Strikers Karl Dodd was probably the best of the Wellington defence, tonight and for the season. I don't think he has done enough to get a call-up to the return to the Roar (he left early in season one) or other clubs.

The win for Central Coast means that Sydney will have to beat Melbourne by 2 to jump to the lead tomorrow afternoon - I think that is the case - because if two teams are equal on points and goal difference (CCM and Sydney would be if Sydney one by 1) I assume that the team with the most 'wins' (CCM 10 v what would be Sydney's 9th) moves ahead (feel free to correct me - we don't have time to email FFA on this one).

The first 2 games of this round means that budget team Perth will not finish last. And that Wellington will.

Perth did well as a super team in the NSL when there was no salary cap so they just bought up all the good players and won year after year. But now there are 8 super teams and a cap - at a much higher rate than required to win the NSL - Perth face an uphill battle. Already they have had 3 owners (including the FFA last year) and 3 coaches (or was it 4?). And surely their stars must be attracting the attention of other clubs.

The Central Coast win also makes it harder for Newcastle to grab 2nd spot, as wins for either Sydney or the Roar will nudge them into the 3 v 4 must win semi.

Central Coast's defence worked tonight. Just at the right time.

By the way, I wonder how the FFA's negotiations are going with Hyundia? At last report they were quiet a way apart. But season 3 has come home like a train and the leverage of new clubs and towns should be too great for Hyundia.

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