Some positive lessons to be learned from the ACL

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    Brisbane Roar's Henrique celebrates his goal against the Central Coast Mariners during the second leg of the major semi-final in Gosford on Sunday, April 8, 2012. (AAP Image/Paul Miller)

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    An ACL campaign which started with so much promise for Brisbane Roar ended with a second defeat to an unheralded Japanese side.

    But having labelled the trip to Tokyo a “learning experience”, new Roar coach Rado Vidosic will have picked up plenty of tips from his team’s 4-2 defeat to FC Tokyo at a rain-swept National Stadium on Wednesday.

    For one thing, ACL participants tend to be much tougher to beat on their own turf than they are on their travels.

    Ironically, before the latest round of matches the Roar were the only Group F team to have lost at home after losing to both FC Tokyo and Ulsan Hyundai in Brisbane.

    And once again it was a pair of home-grown Japanese talents who lead the way for the Gasmen at Kokuritsu.

    Hideto Takahashi and Kenta Mukuhara both progressed from the youth team at FC Tokyo, both are nominally defenders and both proved they could finish inside 20 minutes.

    These are traits we need to develop in Australia.

    But on the whole Matchday 5 was a positive experience for A-League sides.

    Central Coast Mariners proved that with their minds on the job they can get positive results in Asia.

    There’s always much hand-wringing about the style of football employed by A-League sides but the Mariners proved that a direct approach can unsettle travelling Asian opponents.

    And Daniel McBreen’s early rampage made any potential gamesmanship from Tianjin a moot point.

    I see the word “dive” come up a lot every time an Australian team plays against an Asian side, so I might as well use it myself and offer some free advice in the process.

    Don’t dive in. It’s a simple as that.

    I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve seen an ACL opponent collect a pass, wait a split second then tumble to the ground as one of our A-League representatives clatters into them from behind.

    And then our A-League representative – let’s for argument’s sake call him John Hutchinson – looks down at the player, then at the referee and mouths off about diving.

    Why is this necessary? We could eliminate much of the gamesmanship if our A-League players simply refrained from charging into opponents like a runaway freight train every time they touched the ball.

    It’s particularly annoying when it happens nowhere near a dangerous part of the pitch.

    That’s not to condone diving or gamesmanship, it’s simply recognition that a lot of Asian sides play smarter than A-League teams.

    At any rate, that’s to divert off on a tangent because I was pleased to see the Mariners bounce back from their recent thrashing at the hands of a rampant Seongnam.

    And I was also pleased to see Adelaide United hold Bunyodkor to a scoreless draw and qualify once again for the knock-out stage.

    The Uzbeks have flattered to deceive in the ACL and never really looked to have Adelaide’s measure.

    And while they’re not scoring many goals, is it purely a coincidence that Adelaide’s best results have come with assistant trainer Luciano Trani and not head coach John Kosmina at the helm? Food for thought.

    At any rate, Matchday 5 may have yielded a mixed bag of results for Australian teams in the ACL but it should also have proved a positive experience overall.

    Playing in Asia is a “learning experience” for all of us and on the basis of this week’s results, it seems we’re heading in the right direction.

    Mike Tuckerman
    Mike Tuckerman

    Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he settled in Brisbane, and has been a leading Roar football columnist from December 2008.