A-League’s forgotten teams make great start
Richard Garcia of Melbourne Heart takes a shot at goals against Archie Thompson of Melbourne Victory (AAP Image/Joe Castro)
It is fitting that Melbourne Heart kicked off a fabulous round of football with a well-deserved win over heavyweights Melbourne Victory on Friday night.
After all the pre-season hype the A-League kicked off in explosive fashion as the Heart got the better of their city rivals in a pulsating clash watched by more than 42,000 at Etihad Stadium.
It was John Aloisi’s first taste of success as a head coach and the Heart’s tendency to press high up the park in their entertaining 2-1 win set the template for the rest of the round’s fixtures.
At Westpac Stadium in Wellington some 12,000 fans braved brutal conditions in the belief they would see some silky-smooth skills and years of international experience come to the fore on the pitch.
That’s exactly what they saw – just not from Sydney FC – as the Phoenix and their Belgian import Stein Huysegems quickly came to grips with a greasy surface and icy rain in the New Zealand capital.
To be fair to Alessandro Del Piero he looked the game’s best player by a million miles, but sadly few of his team-mates were on the same wavelength as the Italian great.
Instead it was the Phoenix who made light of a succession of missed chances to open the scoring through Huysegems shortly before half-time and they capped off an excellent display with a late goal from teenager Louis Fenton – who already looks a real find.
Western Sydney Wanderers’ debut was also played out in difficult conditions but the plus side for the home team was a first-ever A-League point from a 0-0 draw with the Mariners in front of more than 10,000 fans at Parramatta Stadium.
The home fans only caught a glimpse of Japanese midfielder Shinji Ono, who came on for the last half hour, but it was a bright performance from Aaron Mooy which impressed – suggesting the Wanderers may not lean exclusively on Ono after all.
Of all the fixtures perhaps the least anticipated was Newcastle Jets’ home clash with Adelaide United at Hunter Stadium.
Logic suggested that following Adelaide’s demoralising extra-time AFC Champions League defeat to Bunyodkor in Tashkent in midweek, the Reds would struggle for motivation on a hot afternoon in the Hunter.
Instead they went ahead thanks to an early opener from Dario Vidosic and made the most of the dismissal of ex-Adelaide goalkeeper Mark Birighitti for a contentious handball eleven minutes after the interval to score a second through Iain Ramsay and snatch all three points.
Most in the healthy crowd of 14,868 who turned out in blustery conditions did so to witness Emile Heskey’s debut and the bustling front man turned in 70 minutes of industrious forward play.
But it was Adelaide’s Jeronimo Neumann who really impressed and on the basis of his performances for the Reds to date, John Kosmina has a real find on his hands, with the 26-year-old Argentinian terrorising the Jets defence with his penetrative runs and incisive passing game.
Perth Glory gained a modicum of revenge over Brisbane Roar thanks to Billy Mehmet’s late winner in front of over 14,000 fans at Subiaco – who helped set a new combined attendance record for a regular season round.
And just as in the four other weekend fixtures what was noticeable in a high-quality encounter was how high up the pitch both teams were willing to press in a bid to force defensive mistakes.
If this weekend’s round of football was anything to go by there should be plenty of goals and some outstanding entertainment on show throughout the campaign.
And after all the hype surrounding Del Piero, Heskey and Ono – none of whom bagged a win – it was arguably the forgotten teams of a frenzied pre-season build-up who got off to the brightest possible start.
Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he has settled in Brisbane and has been a Roar columnist since December 2008. Follow Mike on twitter @Mike_Tuckerman
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