26 January 2007

Round Twenty One Report

Best of Round Twenty One:

Player: Ufuk Talay, Sydney - sent off late in the match, but instrumental in controlling the middle of the park to just get Sydney over the line against Queensland

U-20 Player: Nathan Burns, Adelaide - claiming a neat hat-trick after great build-up work from the likes of Bruce Djite and Bobby Petta; Ruben Zadkovich also had a strong game, again as a right-sided wing back

Coach: Gary Van Egmond, Newcastle - following a 4-0 demolition of the runaway competition leaders, who isn't scared of the Jets heading into the finals? GVE has turned it all around

Match: Queensland Roar vs Sydney FC

4-4-2 Team of the Week:

Malik Buari - Mark Bridge
Bobby Petta - Ufuk Talay - Jonas Salley - Noah Hickey
Matt Thompson - Paul Okon - Iain Fyfe - Andrew Packer
Clint Bolton

Subs: Ante Covic, Dean Gordon, Ross Aloisi, Reinaldo

Shown the Door

The following off-contract players who have been told their services are no longer required. All will be looking for new clubs during the off season.

Central Coast Mariners:

Wayne O'Sullivan
Noel Spencer
Vuko Tomasevic

Perth Glory:

Luka Glavas
Mark Robertson
Mimi Saric
Adrian Webster
Stuart Young

Queensland Roar:

Remo Buess
Chad Gibson

20 January 2007

Round Twenty Report

Sorry this is so late - having started a new job things are little busy! I write this knowing that Newcastle have secured a spot in the finals, and that Queensland and Sydney will duke it out for the final position, joining Melbourne and Adelaide.

The biggest loss of Round Twenty wasn't a match, but rather a player. Bobby Despotovski finally called it quits on a remarkable national league career. It was a pity the A-League never really saw him at the top of his game, even if he still managed to win the inaugural Johnny Warren medal for best player last season as voted by his peers. It's hard to imagine another veteran, Kevin Muscat, not winning the same award this time around. (Edit: Except, of course, he has been given a red card, and so is inelligible for the award. In which case, maybe the likes of Simon Colosimo, Daniel Allsopp and Matt McKay will stand the best chance.)

Best of Round Twenty:

Player: Joel Griffiths, Newcastle - two very late goals to pull the Jets back into finals contention

U-20 Player: Tando Velaphi, Queensland - the round's other match-winning, season-saving performance

Coach: John Kosmina, Adelaide - continues to play the psychological game - especially with Sydney - with some degree of success, seems to have pulled Ross Aloisi back into some semblance of form, and made excellent work of his bench this week

Match: Perth Glory vs Newcastle United Jets

4-4-2 Team of the Week:

Damian Mori - Joel Griffiths
Matt McKay - Nick Carle - Simon Colosimo - Leo Bertos
Matt Thompson - Michael Valkanis - Che Bunce - Steve Eagleton
Tando Velaphi

Subs: Daniel Beltrame, Richie Alagich, Richard Johnson, Reinaldo

8 January 2007

Round Nineteen Report

Best of Round Nineteen:

Player: Ante Covic, Newcastle - rose to the occasion in a crucial derby contest, made even more interesting with Danny Vukovic - probably Covic's major future contender for the number one home-based national team jersey - patrolling the opposite nets

U-20 Player: Kristian Sarkies, Melbourne - finally proves he can score from dead ball situations; surely bound for a spark-plug role off the bench during the finals

Coach: Ricky Herbert, New Zealand - two wins on the trot, this one away to Sydney, with the team looking more like a cohesive football than ever before

Match: Newcastle United Jets vs Central Coast Mariners

Goal: Kristian Sarkies, Melbourne

4-4-2 Team of the Week:

Lelei Gao - Damian Mori
Jason Spagnuolo - Kristian Sarkies - Jonas Salley - Reinaldo
Andrew Packer - Josh McCloughan - Che Bunce - Matt Thompson
Ante Covic

Subs: Clint Bolton, Andrew Durante, Mile Jedinak, Damian Mori Alen Marcina

2 January 2007

Round Eighteen Report

Great to see Central Coast and Newcastle pull enormous crowds over the New Year's break. Just a shame both teams lost. Injuries hurt the Mariners, who only managed to field 3 fit players on the bench, while the Jets seemed undone by the woeful state of their pitch.

Sydney's three points means that the FFA's 3-points suspension for salary cap breahces is now practically irrelevant, at least in terms of making the final four. With an appeal deadline imminent, will SFC try to clear its name or simply accept the FFA's decision and move on?

Ernie Merrick promised player rotation going into the last few rounds, starting in goals. Eugene Galekovic was handed the gloves and played well in the Victory's win over the Mariners. Michael Ferrante and Vince Lia were also offered rare appearances, neither greatly impressing which isn't surprising given the lack of match practice. Faring better was midfielder Brad Porter, given the difficult task of filling in at stopper alongside Alex Wilkinson. Both dealed about as well as can be expected with Archie Thompson and Daniel Allsopp - now one of the deadliest striker partnerships in Australian domestic football history.

Nothing prepared us for the rout in Auckland, where the Knights stunned the Roar with a marvellous three goal barrage. It was the first time New Zealand had scored more than twice, and the win puts the cellar dwellers within reach of 7th placed Perth. Enormous kudos to Ricky Herbert, Neil Emblen (awesome performance up front), Darren Bazeley (back to an acceptable standard), John Tambouras (his return a bit of a talisman for the Knights), Che Bunce, Richard Johnson, Jonas Salley, Lelei Gao, Alen Marcina and the rest of the tightrope-treading organisation for getting out there and playing some football.

Things might have been worse for Glory had Adelaide managed to snatch a win from the round's earliest match. The Reds continue their erratic season - we know they're good enough to beat Melbourne and Sydney, but they continue to play in patches (some breathtaking, others unbelievably inept) and make hard work of every game they play. Adrian Webster and Jamie Harnwell weren't paying much attention, however, preferring to exchange pleasantries with each other after the 0-0 draw was brought to a conclusion. The Perth captain left the sticks and stones on the ground, but seemed to aim a few choice words at the fiery Webster, who in appreciation for the wit planted a hand on Jamie's face. Fortunately neither of the subsequent flying fists made contact.

And now we head into 2007, the year of Australia's first major step into Asia with stints in the Asian Champions League and Asian Cup awaiting.

Best of Round Eighteen:

Player: Neil Emblen, New Zealand - hard to look past someone from the Knights, the hardest of whom to ignore was Emblen - the big man promoted to the front line, where he displayed excellent control, distribution and leadership

U-20 Player: Ruben Zadkovich, Sydney - briefly shifted to right-back

Coach: Terry Butcher, Sydney - forced to re-shuffle the backline, with Zadkovich effective at right fullback and Fyfe tucked inside. Thanks especially to Milligan, Talay, McFlynn and Corica neutralised Nick Carle and the massively in form Mark Bridge.

Match: Melbourne Victory vs Central Coast Mariners

Goal: Sasho Petrovski, Sydney

4-4-2 Team of the Week:

Archie Thompson - Neil Emblen
Dario Vidosic - Steve Corica - Terry McFlynn - David Carney
Damien Brown - Che Bunce - Alex Wilkinson - Ruben Zadkovich
Tommi Tomich

Subs: Ante Covic, David Tarka, Richard Johnson, Adam Kwasnik