Sunday, October 28, 2007

Still sore from Friday.

Having given myself a couple of days to cools off, turns out that I'm still quite annoyed about Melbourne's performance on Friday night. Last time we lost I was quite cheery about it as Adelaide had put in a wonderful performance playing some quality football that was exciting to watch. They had beaten us, but on Friday day we lost.

Conceding the early goal wasn't too disheartening - after all, Newcastle was the team that we had managed to claw from 2-0 down to get a draw. Away. But much like last season, Melbourne are a different team at Telstra Dome.

In the preseason match against Newcastle in Geelong, Danny Allsopp was completely nullified by Adam Griffiths. On Friday night the same thing happened right from kick-off. So when attacking, Allsopp was marked by A. Griffiths, and you would have expected the roles to reverse if A. Griffiths was to go up for a corner. Instead it was a free kick, and Allsopp did not drop back. A free header and the goal was scored. Whether to blame Merrick or Danny, I don't know. I'm inclined to think that it was the former, but I suppose we'll never know the truth. The postitive thing was that after the goal Danny would drop down with A. Griffiths.

Adam D'Puzzo was having a great game, making the midfield his own domain. Well time tackleds and excellent distribution meant that Melbourne found working through the middle difficult. We had no width and continued to try to play through the middle. Even Keenan (who is as wide as we get with Caceres still on the bench for far too long) frustrates - he'll make a run down the wing only to stop the ball when he is confronted by a player and knock it into the middle. To think that this is the same player who took the opposition on in that first match of the season against Wellington, tearing an entire wing apart and leading to Allsopp scoring.

Although playing through the middle was not working, much like the rest of the season, we persisted. We need to learn how to adapt to different match situations by changing our style of play. Unless Merrick is able to change how he wants the team to play he'll have to go. And so far, it doesn't like like he has that ability.

Merrick was lucky to have found Fred last season. Fit, quick (physically and mentally), creative and a very hard worker; Fred gave Melbourne's 2006/07 team an air of unpredictability that made us exciting to watch and difficult to play against. Fred provided an excellent link between the midfield and the attackers. It's a link that is no longer there and on Friday left Allsopp ended up completely isolated up front. Thompson has been playing a little deeper to try and feed Danny - after all, Danny has the strength to hold his own, something that Archie doesn't have. But Archie lacks the pace Fred had and also lacks the willingness to chase every stupid ball down. So I think Fred's abilities masked Merrick's short-comings.

The events that left me distraught and angry involved referee Matthew Breeze. A few minutes prior to the incident, Pantelidis made an excellent diagonal run from his left back spot that had the effect of putting Newcastle in an uneasy situation. Nothing became of it, but that run gave us a glimmer of hope (last week he had us in hysterics with a run down the right wing and we all witnessed the slowest stepover ever, "a baby giraffe on ice skates" is how it was described by someone). So when Panta was in possession of the ball again there was an anticipation that soumething could happen.

Joel Griffiths chased Panta down and was shirting for a good 5-10 paces until Panta had enough and gave Griffiths an elbow (I can imagine many other players would have loved to have given Griffiths this elbow). Panta received the red card he deserved for his actions, and Melbourne was awarded the free kick we deserved due to Griffiths' fouling. Breeze did everything right after the elbow except give Griffiths a yellow. But Breeze should not have let the situation occur. The fould should have been called during those first few paces of persistent shirting, and not have been allowed to continue and escalate to the point where Panta pulled out the elbow. Dreadful piece of referreeing. Unfortunately, the A-League looks to be in a situation where we have no other refs...

To make things worse, when Griffiths did get a yellow a few minutes later, in my head he then should have been off. So it's not an easy pill to swallow when he ends up scoring. That goal was the result of a dreadful piece of Melbourne defending. Griffiths had broken through the defence line through his right moments earlier, no-one could catch him and he had a shot, which was saved by Theoklitos. My memory's a bit hazy at this point (and I haven't seen any footage of the match), but a poor throw from Theo or woeful ball control from Vargas (?) resulted in Griffiths with the ball again, off onto the right and in exactly the same play as before he scores. We obviously couldn't immediately learn from our mistake. It doesn't help that we don't have any pace in the defence either, and we are clearly missing the pace that Leijer had.

I could go on for a while with Caceres only being given a run late, Ryall not starting, Hernandez significantly improving but with holes in his game that are not being covered by teammates, but most of all I have to say that Kemp is absolute rubbish.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Our first proper returning Socceroo

Just watched Elrich score a gorgeous goal for the Phoenix and dad was a bit confused. Turned out he wasn't aware that Ahmad Elrich had returned, nor was he aware that John Aloisi had been signed for the Mariners.

I'm personally a bit tired of heaps of ex-Socceroos returning to our shores for the domestic league and all being labelled "returning Socceroos" as if it's a measure of their class and ability. There's a contrast between the Socceroos of the past and the current crop. Even though we're still a physical team, I would say the the current crop are far better players of the ball than the past ones. When they come to the A-League to play out their careers, they continue to play in their appropriate style.

Tiatto, Laybutt, Muscat are all from the earlier style, and generally don't bring anything 'nice' to the league. While I have included Muscat in that batch, I do treat him as an exception. He still had a career over in Europe but he came home to play in the A-League as a continutation of his career. Many of the others who have since returned look like they're just here to keep getting paid for what they do.

So, let's move onto the new batch. Moore, Vidmar and A. Elrich could be included here, but we have to consider that the latter two had some fitness issues and Moore had his club problems. Not in exactly the same position as Muscat. So I would classify John Aloisi as our first returning Socceroo. He's still a player, and while he is coming home for retirement, at least he still has something to offer to the local game.

Perhaps it's just for the sake of media hype, but we ought to be far more careful of what we define things. I'm sick of "professional fouls" (there's no such thing in the rulebook, but then there's no such thing as 'backpass' in the rulebook either), although my dislike of the PF has probably got more to do with my passionate dislike of Cockerill and Harper. 'Backpass' at least defines something that does physically occur in matches, whereas the PF is completly subjective. So, when a nasty tackle occurs, it's either a foul or it's not a foul. Nothing about the PF.

And it's something similar with the "returning Socceroo" tag. How many of them are actually active as Socceroos? Covic, perhaps. And Vidmar would have been too if he didn't have his heart condition. But I think that's really about it. Covic on the bench for the World Cup, Vidmar missed out, but Moore and Aloisi were actually there. Moore's been great for Queensland so far (minor hiccup with that red card), and I expect that Aloisi would be a greater revelation for the Mariners.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


A suspension that won't bite me back on the ass!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Terrace Punk Band

Check it out, olé!

Our midfield problem

I'm not a Ljubo fan. So with Brebner suspended* and Muscat injured (Broxham too, but he would've been ineligible due to Olyroo commitments) we had a new midfield. Of Ljubo. If anyone saw one thing that Ljubo did for the team, please let me know. All I saw was someone doing bugger all and giving the team instructions the whole time. As if I'd listen to someone who wasn't putting in the hard yards themselves! And how can such a tall guy be beaten in the air?!?! Oh that's right, as part of the step-onto-the-pitch-only-package, the guy can't jump. Couldn't jump during preseason or against Wellington, can't jump now. It's not the knee, it's him. He's useless. So what did Ernie do? Use the three subs but kept Ljubo on the pitch.

I owe Beltrame a hug, not just because I do find him swoon-worthy (I 'fessed up last week during Eamonn's podcast) but because he almost took Ljubo out. I seriously think that we would've been better with ten men and no Ljubo than ten men plus Ljubo. Not only was Ljubo completely useless on the pitch, it looked like the other Melbourne players were avoiding passing the ball to him unless there was absolutely no other option! Perhaps passing and playing with Ljubo gets you on the wrong side of Muscat...

Anyway, let's not waste anymore time on Ljubo.

How GREAT were Adelaide! Sorry, I know I should be licking my wounds, but the main difference between the two teams was desire. Everytime there was a fifty-fifty ball or yet another Mickey-Mouse-pass from Melbourne, Adelaide would be there challenging for the ball. They looked so much quicker, getting there before us most of the time. Mentally and physically faster than us. I think not having Burns, Djite, Agostino and Valkanis means that a few players who don't often get a chance to play really wanted to prove their worth.

Pantelis had a great match, perhaps the best on the park. And to cap it off with that goal - it was quite a pretty strike. Dodd also had a great match, he seems to have really stepped up since taking on the captain's armband. Vidmar is now in the enviable position of having to seriously decide who to start with, and I'm hoping he gives Pantelis another start, he really did have a good match.

Yeah, I'm happy with our loss to Adelaide, but only because I can sit down to watch Adelaide and find myself watching some football. Vidmar may have started his head-coaching career in a bit of a shaky manner, but there's a real football team in the A-League season now. Perhaps two once I see the Roar play this weekend.

*Serves me right, I know.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


I've been a bit sick with hayfever and a cold, such that my memory was a bit of a blur immediately after the match!

The next day at the Victorian Premier League final I was chatting to a Melbourne fan who made the trip up to Sydney and he asked if I was annoyed that we kept playing through the middle and didn't make use of the extra man on the wings. While this infuriates me now, it should give an indication of how rubbishy I was feeling on the weekend.

For the record, I thought that the red was a bit harsh on Corica. Perhaps a yellow for being reckless. The way I saw it, Corica was turning about with a high foot, still trying to figure out where the ball was. Pantelidis came along and ended up on the end of Corica's boot.

Anyway, perhaps I wasn't that crook, I managed to ID Panta when all I could see was the back of him rolling about on the ground...

Friday, October 05, 2007


Over at Football in the Capital, Eamonn's started to do some podcasts. So if you want to listen to my ranting and swooning rather than read it you can now do so! Here's the most recent one, with previous installments available here and here. Should you decide to listen to all the podcasts, follow this link!