Sunday, September 30, 2007

Adelaide vs. Central Coast

This was the best A-League match that I've watched in a long time. Adelaide were playing beautifully, such that I ditched Central Coast and started wanting Adelaide to win. I'm clearly not very good at committing.

However, Breeze f@%ked it up. Where to start? I'm sure there were more, but from what angered me the most and in no particular order:
  • The lack of advantage when Burns was chopped down outside of the box, where Djite scored and would have put Adelaide up 2-1.
  • The first yellow card against Vidmar. Especially given that he earnt himself a second yellow later and ended up being sent off. Shouldn't have been sent off given the nature of the 'first' yellow.
  • I'm sure Breeze was trying to make up for the lack-of-advantage-disallowed-goal and started awarding fouls against the Mariners every opportunity he could so that Adelaide could have a chance to score a goal.
  • Boogard's yellow. Boogard's tackle was great - clean and from the front. Just a case of Breeze trying to rectify the situation.
  • Not awarding Gumprecht a yellow. Similar position to Boogard, except that a clean tackle earns you a yellow and holding the opposition with an arm grapple doesn't get you into the referee's book.

I was delighted to have Beltrame back in goals and Costanzo in the middle of the defence - it's truly where he (and Adelaide) can best use his extraordinary ability to read the game. Djite was also on fire, scoring three goals (I'm counting the disallowed one as it was thoroughly deserved). It's a shame that Breeze got it all so wrong, as this was a great match with some lovely work from Adelaide, particularly that of Burns. Who needs imports?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Another letter to Newcastle United Jets FC.

Dear Newcastle,

Me again.

Sort out your distribution from the back!

It's the most frustrating thing to watch you do. You win the ball in defence and then blindly kick it to your midfield. Except that there was no midfield as Mr Perpetual (Joel Griffiths) hurt himself in the warm-up! So every single ball was intercepted by Sydney.

No, that's giving Sydney far too much credit. They didn't intercept it, you wrapped it up in pretty paper with a big bow and gave the ball to them - sealed with a kiss. So Sydney have the ball and then apply more pressure on your defence. Awful! Think about where the ball is going!

Also, you were chopping Juninho down far too much. Bloody play the ball instead of being hackers. That is all.

Best of luck next weekend.*

Your biggest Melbourne-supporting, Central Coast-following, ex-Queensland-following Newcastle fan.

*The way Central Coast are going, you'll need it.

P.S. It's just come to my attention that the last letter I wrote was also after a match against Sydney. Coincidence, or something far scarier?

Finally... the drought breaks!

Six rounds into the A-League and we finally got our first win of the season! And at home too. Bloody brilliant! I moved to the South End for the second half. Quite enjoyable but I won't be there permanently. Quite enjoy my seat, although the celebration could never compare.

Anyway, a few notes about the game - if there was one. The A-League seems to be in this scrappy style rut, it's not pretty football at all (especially when you compare it to the fluency of the games in the Women's World Cup!). In Melbourne's case, it got the job done. Although are better goal chances occurred when we finally decided that perhaps the long ball wasn't going to work (credit to Craig Moore for getting to every single one - well, that's what it felt like).

I didn't see any problem with the penalty in terms of diving, but then at that point I was still ruing the crossbar! (Emotionally, I was all over the place then - woah we've made space down the right... excitement levels building... we're going to score... VERY excited... we've hit the crossbar... oh no... MASSIVE letdown... Love gets chopped... no reaction, I was still on that slippery slope of football depression... Williams points to the spot... complete disbelief, we have a chance to score and at home!!! Oh, I hope Kev's knee's alright!... Naturally Muscat takes it, calmly puts it onto the left, and we all go nuts.

I then turned very anxious - so much so that someone asked why I looked so worried. I just can't celebrate a match until the final whistle's blown. Or until I can tell that the other team has no chance (eg. last year's Grand Final at about 3-0. That match really did get ridiculous!). Perhaps standing behind the goal with the whole field in front of me brought back my old habits of concentration and focus.

I think I had good reason to be anxious. Moore's header that was saved by Vargas was still fresh in my mind. Only a few minutes after we went ahead fresh-legged Zullo hit the upright. I was probably biting my nails.

Another Melbourne attack down the right (Queensland are obviously missing Packer... he does play on the left, right?) and the anxiety subsides as we all go nuts again.

I have a bit of referee whinging to do, but I'm in a good mood, so why spoil it? Williams is the ref that displeases me the most, so naturally he was significantly annoying until the match was at 2-0 and I calmed down.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Wrap up of the junior season

The first season of my coaching career came to a close a few weeks ago. The girls' final match clashed with Richmond's relegation battle in the Victorian Premier League. While I was concerned with Richmond's plight (they ended up beating Sunshine 8-0, ensuring their presence in the VPL next year), I was suprised that I never once thought about Richmond while the girls were playing.

Our final match was a good reflection of the whole season. A competitive match of the whole season. A competitive match, we weren't the pushovers that the final scoreline of 3-0 suggested. Just the usual lapses in concentration and an inability to take hold of our opportunities. I know the girls can play as a team, although individually they lacked many of the skills that individuals in opposition teams have.

As the girls could only commit to one training session a week, I don't think I had the time to work with each of them on ball control, passing, dribbling and shooting. Technically there was a lot of work to do, so I took the approach of teaching them how to play the pall to the best of their abilities. From that perspective, I thought that they had a few great moments through the season, particularly towards the end, and they noticed it themselves too.

And if they can notice it themselves, it tells me that they started to understand football a little bit better. As for next year, I don't think I'll be keeping the same team. The U15 coach's daughter will move to the U16 team next year, so I expect that he will take on that team. The girls who will be too old from the U16 next year will probably move onto the U18 team. The team also has a father of one of the players coaching. So I'll just have to wait and see what happens.

From a personal perspective, I think I'm a lot more patient now. I'm very competitive and this clashed somewhat with the girls' lack of competitiveness. Two or three were competitive, but it wasn't sufficient to carry the whole team. So I had to be the one to bend. We'll see how I go next season.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Continuing the consistency

...albeit in an inconsistent manner.

We dropped the points against Wellington after being up 2-0, and now things seem to have come full circle as we clawed back from a 2-0 scoreline to steal a point from Newcastle.

Our first half was awful. Players watching the ball, atrocious marking, and no pressure on Newcastle players. No wonder we were down at half-time.

I suppose I should be happy that the boys managed to come back. Perhaps we haven't quite lost our competitive edge. If anything, I should go to bed knowing that the boys believed that they could come back. And I should go to bed remotely happy... but I'm disappointed with the first half.

Not that the second half was an improved performance by Melbourne, we somehow got two goals out of nothing. Love had a woeful first half, getting involved, having the ball, but only a handful of passes being released in received successfully by a team-mate. He was much improved in the second half - with the ball that went to Thompson being a lovely one, and I hope that it was intentional. It certainly looked it.

Pantelidis was brilliant again. I think his performance today shows why he needs to be (and deserves to be) in the starting eleven. Competitive and measured - his well timed tackles and careful distribution (even under pressure) were a relief to see when the rest of the team looked a complete shambles.

Keenan had a great half too, I'm not sure what Merrick's up to... perhaps he was being cautious and only letting Keenan play 45 minutes for fear of a lack of fitness? Or is it really because Keenan wasn't playing the way Merrick wanted him to? If it was the latter, it's a little frustrating to see from my perspective as Keenan looked to be the only one really causing Newcastle problems. Even if he wasn't following the coach's instructions, I'd keep him on as he was giving the opposition some serious headaches.

Finally, it was great to see Caceres back on the left where he belongs. And to finish up with a goal too! That is all - quite happy with that, so I'll go to bed now. :)

And Hamish - thanks for the call, completely forgot about tipping, but I wasn't too far off! I 'knew' the boys would score two, I just didn't want yet another draw! ;)

Monday, September 17, 2007

A bit on our Central and South Americans

Hernandez has lost weight, and now that he's not quite as physically slow as he was in preseason (in terms of getting from A to B), he's getting more involved in the game. But it shows that he's still not match fit. His quick one-twos occasionally work, but don't quite penetrate defence lines. What really annoyed me last night was his inability to put a good shot or cross in. By the time he controlled the ball, pushed it to where he wanted it, accommodated his body to align himself for a shot, wound his leg back... a Central Coast player had taken the ball of him!

Most of my disappointment comes from that I expected more from him. Such an experienced player from Puerto Rico surely isn't as dependent on having to turn his whole body just to use the inside of the foot to shoot or cross like many of our home bread A-League players. I'd expect him to be comfortable in using any part of his foot to do something with the ball, and I'd have expected him to be able to put some power onto a ball from the knee not only from the hip.

Perhaps I'm the only one (judging by what I could read from the Melbourne Victory forum before it went down), but I was completely dismayed by Love. I would have kept Hernandez on the pitch if I knew how badly Love was going to play! I only counted three intentional passes that were completed, one unintentional pass (a throw in from Archie, I think Love tried to control it, ended up going into the air and Archie managed to do something with it) and one shot, nicely saved by Vukovic, as his contribution s to the match during his 30 minutes of play. Not once did I see him win a ball - he would give the opposition player in possession of the ball about 2 to 3m of space (and time!) to do whatever he wised with the ball. In the end Brebner was often coming from behind Love to put the pressure on! Ridiculous! Love made Archie's occasional-defending-from-the-front look brilliant. I'm hoping Love wakes up and lifts his game... he'll end up like Claudinho otherwise.

Well, at least we're consistent...

So we managed to get a point from Central Coast… I really think it should have been all 3, especially as we were starting to get the upper hand towards the end. Four draws from four matches... at least we're the most consistent team in the A-League.

Not to say that we were struggling at the start. But I think Vukovic only had to deal with one tricky ball for the entire first half – towards the end when Archie should’ve gone for a header, but just stood there instead. Vukovic tried to punch the ball away, albeit badly, so it rebounded off the top of Thompson’s head and uugggh…

Even Danny (Allsopp) was disappointing, with the ghosts of season 1 apparently lurking about. The thing about season 1 was that we had our opportunities, but we couldn’t convert them into goals. Danny would miss a few each match – perhaps why the Victory fans were on his back so much. Unfairly though, as he contributed so much to the rest of the field, often saving us in defence… Anyway, last night Danny was a fraction late a few times. Often unmarked too, so he would’ve scored for a couple of them… but hearing up how much pain he was in, I’d have to say that he deserves a lot of praise for still putting in a solid effort.

So Danny ended up being subbed off for Ryall. Considering how solid Ryall was last week, I really wonder why Merrick didn’t start him last night, in right-back instead of Broxham who was not only struggling with the Mariners attack, but Heffernan’s ventures down the wing.

I don’t think Broxham was having a bad day, he’s just not defensive material, and I suspect his lack of height doesn’t help. But when he was freed from defensive duties and allowed to roam the midfield, he started to give the Central Coast outfit some problems and the whole team lifted. With a low centre of gravity and a stock build, Broxham is built to play in the middle of the park – it would take a very hard tackle to make him lose his balance. The only reason I can think of for Merrick starting Broxham is his attitude and work ethic vs. the desperation that comes from the Mariners.

Broxham is a hard worker, eager to win the ball and persists until he wins it. It’s something that can be done in the midfield as there’s space, bu noin the defence where there’s no time to have second chance. Once the ball is in his possession, he makes good use of it too. The final 15 minutes of the match finally connected our defense to the attackers, as the long balls were still going, but there was a shorter ball option as Broxham was about making sure the connections were there.

I’m quite concerned about how little game time Caceres is getting. With Keenan out, it would’ve made sense to play Caceres on the left wing. Instead he’s played on the foreign right wing*, where he has limited opportunities to play on his preferred left foot. Further, while his defensive abilities have improved, putting him on the right wing against the stamped that was Brown and Heffernan forcing Caceres to under-perform. I don’t think he was doing that badly, so I was as surprised as Caceres was angry to have been taken off so early in the match.

Pantelidis inclusion in the game on the right flank cut out all the nonsense that was going on that side of the park, and I don’t know why he didn’t start in the match. If Merrick wasn’t sure on playing Ryall, but happy to play Panta 30 minutes into the match, then why not start Panta in the right-back position instead of Broxham?

*I know I put him on the right in my midield, but I wanted Keenan in there too.

About yesterday's opposition

Before kick-off I was standing at South End watching Vukovic warm up. A few weeks ago I was concerned about his goal kicks and distribution when it came to long balls. During his time away with the Olyroos, things didn’t seem to have improved, so I was getting quite concerned. But he was looking good during his warm up, with both kicks from the group and from his hands consistently getting to Redmayne. During the match there was one shocker, about midway through the second half, but a nice improvement on how he had been going lately.

While at South End, I think I convinced another (female) Melbourne fan of Vukovic’s swoon-worthiness… I’m trying to get opposition votes for him early should I decide to do the Best Looking Bloke Award again for the A-League! I do think that the Mariners have the best team, but that’s just my completely biased opinion, heavily weighted by one player.

Back to the football, McKinna’s done a great job for a team of players that may not have the individual technical brilliance that some individuals in other teams may have, but they’ve got a lot of heart. I don’t think there’s one player out there for the Mariners that McKinna would have to sub off because he wasn’t trying or didn’t feel like playing. The main reason why I think the Mariners have gotten off to such a great start, is that the team is largely unchanged from season 2, or even season 1! They’re quite a stable club, unlike current bottom team Sydney…

P.S. Looks like Central Coast have taken up the position that Queensland Roar had for me last year...

Friday, September 14, 2007

Let's not lose the Ghana goal!

Matildas win 4-1... yay first win... just not as excited about that as I expected I would be...

Why am I not excited? It's not that I'm not patriotic, but when it comes to football I can get distracted by the skills on the field. At the start of the year I came across a book, Only the Goalkeeper to Beat and early into it, I found a few lines that describe how and why I get distracted".
Many of my own prejudices will become perfectly clear as we go along. But here, just to get started, are a few that might as well be out in the open once and for all. In the first place, I don't believe that goals are particularly important in football. I know that games are won and lost by them, but I don't (unless I happen to be playing) care about them that much. As a spectator I tend to enjoy rather small things. To see somebody trap the ball neatly, swerve away from a defender, and give a thoughtful and efficient pass to move the game on is often more of a pleasure than to watch some routine goal work again against a foolish defence.
-Francis Hodgson (1998, p.10)
So while Eamonn and Neil have covered the glory that is our first World Cup win, I hope that the one goal that we conceded does not get lost in the hype.

I got distracted by the silky skills from the Ghana girls. Beautiful stuff to watch! Unfortunately they're just not very desperate for the ball, they lacked heart. Oh well...

I did love their goal. And not because it was a goal, but the way that it was set up and then executed. Two touches - it's all you really need. First touch to not only control the ball and put it where she (
Amankwa) needed it to hit it well, but crucially got past the defender by playing it BEHIND the defender! And then the second touch was a beautiful strike. Barbieri had no chance.

And that penetrative ball through the defence and to
Amankwa was gorgeous! I love through balls! (Spase Dilevski crush should be explained by that.) They had a number of beautiful balls that would slice through the Australian defence, but just no desperation to make it a completed pass... oh well. Really pretty football!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Melbourne midfield

A completely selfish post...

Over on the Melbourne Victory Forum, Watt made a comment about how our midfield is too slow in moving the ball about, and made some un-comparisons to the Argentine play from Tuesday night.

Anyway, after a bit of discussion I thought about how I would play Melbourne - and I'm desperate for Merrick to play Caceres more, and to give Patafta and Hernandez a chance to play together. I think Patafta could cover the ground that Hernandez can't and Hernandez provide direction to the heart of the team. I also want Pantelidis in the starting eleven, so I had to drop Brebner. :( Quite upsetting, but I simply didn't have room for him!

I'd go for this:






I thought Ryall had a solid game against Adelaide. So why not free up Keenan by putting Kemp on the left (he had a good game vs. Adelaide even though he hasn't impressed me in other matches). Caceres is starting to use his right a lot more these days, so I think he can do a good job on the right.

There's only room for 2 of the 3 hardmen. Sorry Brebs, I couldn't leave out the captain and I think Panta's awesome defensively and with ball distribution too.

I'm putting Hernandez in the middle to control the midfield, and I'd want him to be the heart of the team. He doesn't need to run about all over the place, but try to always be free to receive the ball from the defence, Panta/Musky or the wings, and then be able to distribute it to the wings, Patafta or Allsopp.

I'm not inclined to put Patafta on the wings, as I'd think we'd half-waste him there. I'd like to give him the space to run about in, but not in the engine room with Hernandez all the time - some freedom to move up, but letting Danny be the target man. Kaz a wee thing, and so try to play him like an annoying little mosquito.
No Milicevic and no Thomspon either. Thoughts? Criticisms? Am I completely delusional?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The tough ask

With Vukovic away on Olyroos duty, Matthew Trott had some awfully large shoes to fill. I'll admit that for the first hour of the match I wasn't particularly impressed with Trott; after all, I do hold Vukovic on a bit of a pedestal.

But then Trott made a wonderful save. Things were looking up for him in my books. A beautiful stretch out to the left to stop the header from Reinaldo and he parried even further to the left - away from the Queensland Roar strikeforce. I thought the lack of Wilkinson and Heffernan would have had a more destabilising effect on the defence. But with Vidmar fit and Brown in the line-up (whose amazing form at the end of the season had been forgotten about by me until I saw his name in the line-up) Central Coast were solid. The best part about Trott's save of Reinaldo's header, was that if he had not made it he had a defender backing him up. It was really nice to see after last week's sleepiness from Adelaide.

Later in the match, perhaps about 10 minutes to go there was another gorgeous save - low and to the left again went Trott. Well timed, and very secure. There were other saves during the match, but it's the saves that involve timing and really good form that I love to see.

I was converted, still think the world of Vukovic, but Trott's a great understudy. Now all I need is for Vukovic to do a dummy of the sort Trott did in injury time. He forced the Queenslander to commit to the ball by looking like he's going to kick the ball far, only to not do anything at all. Looked even better in the slow motion replay. It really showed his mind was ticking, good to see the boy has a fully functional brain. Whether he meant it to waste time or not is another matter (taking a goal kick eats up a bit more time, and I'm always on the hunt for new methods), but it showed great presence of mind. So good to see in such a young player.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Still feeling the let-down

Over at Football in the Capital, Eamonn made a bit of a better recap of the game from last night than I did. I suppose I was disappointed, I still am. Anyway, had a bit of a rant over there, and I think my comment is a bit of a supplement to my initial post.

Much like I couldn't watch Perth vs. Newcastle last week, if I wasn't a Melbourne fan and at Telstra Dome I would've walked away from the TV set.

I don't think our boring play and apparent reliance on long balls is due to the surface of TD. I simply think we didn't have any ideas. Patafta, who has been a spark of energy in the preseason cup and against Wellington had no, or little effect. He seemed to get out-muscled, and I think his early yellow card put the dampener on him.

I'm quite annoyed with Archie for not passing the ball off to Allsopp at about the 85 minute mark when we had superior numbers to Perth - 2 to 1 (not including the keeper). Archie should've passed it off to the left, where Allsopp was, as the Perth defender was approaching (can't remember who - I was very Melbournised at this point of the night). But no, Archie chose to hold onto the ball, and upon being tackled by nameless Perth defender, lost possession of the ball.

Keenan's injury didn't help either - he's a little consistent, but if he's on the field at least there's a chance of him producing something special. Caceres not in the squad was also a disappointment - he's a far more competitive player this season by what I've seen and I can only hope there was a good excuse for him not to have even been on the bench this week. I'm hoping he's making the trip to Adelaide.

More on why I hate assumptions in football

The first rule of life should be not assume anything. It's very applicable in football, and I've vented about it before. Last time, my rant was angled towards strikers (using Ronaldo as an example) and had a bit to do with the second ball. i.e. the ball the occurs when the keeper spills it, parries it, or if the ball hits the post.

This time I will rage against defenders. So many times in my playing days I was let down by my defenders, who would assume that I would safely deal with the ball. It was really only in my final full season that I played that I came across a defender who would always back me up (loved that sweeper to bits), and more often that not you'll see defenders slow down when the ball gets closer to the keeper. What I mean is, there's a shot, and once it's taken the defenders back off, preparing to receive the ball from the keeper once s/he has it. But what if the keeper doesn't end up with it?

When I got to my seat at Telstra Dome last night, Dad warned me about Sydney's first goal. No hello or how was work, just a "When you see Sydney's penalty you will fume." I suspected the worst - and when I saw the penalty, my fears were realised. No one should ever assume that a penalty will end with the kick itself. What if the shot hits the post or the 'keeper attacks it? The defence (and the attacking team) should be ready to run into the box as soon as the ball is hit. Not after you see that the ball is still in play.

Where were the Adelaide defence!? Alagich was the only one who reacted, and even then, you could have measured his reaction with a calender.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The let-down

Empty. Ho hum. My initial reaction to the match is, oddly enough, the feeling I had against Perth at home last year. Unfortunately we didn't have a late strike from Brebner to at least get us the three points.

Things started to go awry when Keenan picked up a knock earlier in the match, hobbled about for a bit and was substituted for Kemp. Now Keenan's not consistently spectacular, but his runs down the left flank in preseason (against the VPL teams and in the preseason cup) showed that he has something special to contribute to the team. An occasional spark that can can work wonders - such as his wonderful set up of Allsopp's goal last week. Only 10 minutes into the match and our creative spark was gone. I do rate him as our most creative player at the moment.

Kemp, on the other hand, is quite the opposite. Dull to watch and has a tendency to thump the ball up the field to no-one in particular. Seems to do it consistently too, which adds to the anguish of watching him play. I'm fairly finicky. I appreciate that Kemp is quite stable as a defender, but it's his playing of the ball that depresses me. If he really loved the ball, I think he could do more with it. Instead, he seems more eager to clear it from defence and just getting rid of the ball.

I was delighted to not only have Pantelides back in the squad, but to have him in the starting line-up. It looked like Panta had the job of looking after Rukavytsya, occasionally passing the responsibility to Broxham when he felt the need to push forward. Aside from the foul on Sekulovski, Panta had a great game. Solid tackles and well thought passes - essential for building play from the defence. I'm hoping that he makes good use of the opportunities that may be thrown his way while Ljubo is injured.

Unfortunately Panta couldn't complete the match after tackling the elephant that is Topor-Stanley. An African elephant. Looks like Panta copped a knock to his knee, and while he was still competitive (he really does seem to have a never-say-die attitude), he ended up coming off. So early in the season, not worth sustaining a serious injury after playing on from a bit of a knock.

All up it was a disappointing match. Not once did we threaten the Perth goal, Tommich was never tested. We really never had a scoring opportunity. Perhaps I should be happy with the single point and a clean sheet. But I'm not - all that excitement of the A-League being back in town and we couldn't even get close to cheering and celebrating as a combined Melbourne fan base. Anyway, perhaps we'll get the better of current leaders Central Coast in a fortnight.