Lively week for the A-League arena
Another eventful week has transpired within Australian football on and off the pitch.
We’ve seen some scintillating goals that would rival the highlights reel from the best leagues around the sphere, controversy again surrounding the officials, a bumper crowd in Auckland, Brisbane Roar continuing to rewrite the record books, casualties behind closed doors and much more.
On the field, Melbourne Heart exemplified their cavernous depth – with Mate Dugandzic, Jason Hoffman and Aziz Behich away on Olyroos duties – overcoming a resolute Gold Coast United outfit in Surfers Paradise. The win is the club’s second in a row, reviving optimism throughout the team’s finals prospects.
Wellington Phoenix salvaged a late equaliser against Adelaide United to have a share the spoils, in a fixture played in front of an enthusiastic Auckland public. Meanwhile, Brisbane Roar put its critics to bed, once again, with a tantalising display in a come from behind victory to equal the Australian club record for most consecutive games unbeaten.
The Central Coast Mariners got the better of their Sydney rivals triumphing in a five-goal thriller, which witnessed exceptional goals from free kicks – Dutchman Patrick Zwaanswijk and Socceroo Brett Emerton trekking their strikes into the back of the net. Last but not least, Melbourne Victory’s tumultuous season continued, yielding a two-goal advantage to ultimately draw against a 10-man Perth Glory.
Let’s discuss some of the chief talking points inundated throughout the A-League.
Brisbane Roar shows no signs of slowing down:
And so, the outfit situated in south-east Queensland has rewritten history yet again, this time equalling a long-standing 74-year-old record held by the Eastern Suburbs (renamed Sydney Roosters) rugby league club from 1936-37. Brisbane Roar, in sensational fashion, equalled the long-standing record by going 35 games unbeaten – showing immense character and fortitude, nullifying a one-goal deficit, to ultimately triumph 2-1 over the Newcastle Jets in the Hunter Valley.
There is no surprise that many pundits throughout the media, in conjunction with the football community believe this Brisbane team – under the tutorship of Ange Postecoglou – is the best football side to grace the domestic game in Australia. Time and time again, the Roar has illustrated its mental capacity, along with the technical and tactical nous to continually produce an elevated level of excellence.
Some have stated that the Roar have been lucky on occasion, however it is no secret that any top-draw team creates their own fortune. How often do we witness prominent clubs in the vein of Manchester United or Inter Milan produce late winner’s in stoppage time, or that equaliser against the odds? Quality and superiority will, in due course convey its own luck.
Postecoglou has implemented a football philosophy which heavily relies on team unity and an incredible constituent of discipline. The cattle assembled in this side need to work to the game-style – ball retention, patience and a team mentality are essentially the fundamental components on how this teams functions effectively – to be deemed successful.
On Saturday night, Brisbane Roar has an incredible opportunity to break the longest club unbeaten streak in Australia, when it entertains Perth Glory at Suncorp Stadium. Hopefully the city joins forces with the Roar, as a momentous occasion beckons.
Auckland gets behind the Wellington Phoenix:
An energetic crowd of 20,078 witnessed a late revival from the home side, to draw level with Adelaide United at Eden Park, Auckland. While vast turmoil surrounded the Phoenix only months earlier, it was fantastic to witness such a boisterous and rather large turnout at hand to New Zealand’s largest city.
After the demise of New Zealand Knights at the conclusion of the 2006-07 A-League campaign, Auckland has been starved of top-flight football. The Knights were, in many respects a shambles. The product on display was mediocre, consequently turning fans away from the turnstiles. The name “New Zealand” didn’t appeal to the locals, with little emotional connection between the club and its city. The formula was bound for failure.
With an exceptional crowd to watch Wellington Phoenix in Auckland, many have pondered at the notion of someday bringing in an expansion team to Auckland. While the idea may appear farfetched, it really isn’t a concept beyond belief. Perceptibly the allure of an A-League game in Auckland was an integral element for a large crowd over the weekend – with a novelty type factor playing its role.
However, if the blueprint is drawn in an effective manner then this city, with a population of 1.3 million – in contrast Wellington occupy’s just shy of 400,000 residents – can be a beneficiary to the A-League. An emotional correlation between the club and its city is integral for success. A name such as “Auckland City” for instance, will automatically compel the public as its club.
While the A-League’s short to medium-term objectives are to obtain sustainability and financial remedy within the 10-club system, a second team in New Zealand could well come into fruition – if the investment is applicable and strategic planning is astute.
Melbourne Victory catapults to a new low:
The biggest and most successful club in the A-League’s six-year history is seemingly in a state of turmoil. Last weekend, Victory served up, what was arguably its most pitiable performance in recent history, surrendering a two-goal advantage against a 10-man Perth Glory, to ultimately share the spoils, courtesy of a clinical header from striker Shane Smeltz near the death.
However, while the result is always a cause for concern, it was the tenuous manner of Victory’s game-style which had fans erupting in fury and the football fraternity in a state of disbelief. Melbourne was sluggish in all facets on the pitch, illustrating nil signs of a team working collectively as a unit.
Since Mehmet Durakovic began his first A-League season as head coach, Victory has not encompassed any cohesion, fluency or camaraderie throughout its star-studded playing stocks. Against the Glory, Melbourne looked a shadow of its former self, playing second fiddle to an undermanned team, on its home-turf – a sight rarely seen in its short, but proud history.
The game structure under Durakovic’s rein has thus far – with the exception of the team’s commendable Asian Champions league campaign – been rather tedious and lacklustre. The transition from defence to attack is leisurely; no penetration in the final third, ball retention is given up far too easily and an ostensibly vast reliance on individual magic to save the team’s grace.
Durakovic’s inability to front the media and articulate reasons for Victory’s sub-par performances is an accurate reflection on the team – no fluency whatsoever. Employing abysmal excuses in the post-match press-conference: players aren’t fit, the side needs some luck/consistency and the structure will fall into place once a full team is available are simply flawed, on a number of fronts.
The allure of a “big club” accompanies mass expectations – despite results not falling into place, it is the inept structure which has supporters offside.
What has made the turn of events bizarre is the axing of Director of Football Francis Awaritefe on Tuesday – despite the club’s best efforts to elucidate that the separation was for personal reasons. Using Awaritefe as the scapegoat is plainly wrong. He shouldn’t be held accountable for team’s incompetent playing structure and inability to gel the team as a forceful unit.
Awaritefe’s role was primarily a long-term vision, to implement a structure for the club’s youth system and playing philosophy that would be transferred through the various ranks throughout the club. Victory has obtained a reputation as being the most professionally run club, with an emphasis on stability throughout its hierarchy – how things can chance in a matter of weeks.
Despite the mass cynicism currently engulfing the club, the blue and white of Melbourne remarkably, only sit three points behind second place – currently in seventh position. Accordingly, it is not all doom and gloom for the two-time champions, however immense pressure will be on Durakovic to implement a sound football ethos, and importantly revitalise morality for the Victorian based outfit.
The resurrection begins on Sunday, against cellar dweller Gold Coast United at AAMI Park.
Courtesy of Goal Weekly.
Follow Robbie on Twitter @RobertDiFabio.
**Can this please me published today