A-League wrap round one: Winners and losers
Shinji Ono is one of many talents in an A-League that is growing up fast. (AAP Image/Paul Miller)
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It’s been the most anticipated season in the eight-year history of the A-League and the 93,500 fans who came through the turnstiles over the weekend were not disappointed.
The A-League has had a habit of shooting itself in the foot in recent years but if week one was anything to go by, this could be the season where the code can finally capitalise on the opportunities that have previously foregone.
One swallow does certainly not make a summer, but figures released by the FFA yesterday certainly give cause for optimism.
Along with the highest-ever aggregate attendance, the round also marked the highest-ever television audience in a single round with average audiences of over 100,000, with online traffic also up markedly from last season.
Of course, continued success will largely depend on the performances of the A-League’s flagship clubs, Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC, and only time will tell how the key markets fare.
Nevertheless, it’s a great start for those of us who have grown accustomed to mismanaged competition that has often failed to deliver.
Here’s a few of the things that caught my eye from week one:
Western Sydney Wanderers crowd
With pre-match predictions tipping the crowd to be in excess of 15,000 the official crowd of 10,458 could have earned the crowd a spot in the losers section. But hey, it’s week one so let’s take the glass half full approach.
Fact is, the Western Sydney project has been rushed together in a few short months and we should not underestimate the mammoth task the club has had, and will continue to have, in uniting fans in such an expansive geographic area.
The solid if somewhat unspectacular crowd, who turned up in trying weather conditions, should be viewed as a great start. If the club continue to show the same application and commitment on the field as they did on Saturday night, this figure should only continue to grow.
The new Heart boss looked like he was cut from Melbourne’s best Italian suit cloth on the touchline on Friday night’s Melbourne derby, and his fashion sense drew more than a few comparisons with former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola.
The energetic performance that his side displayed in pressing high up the pitch mirrored the approach of Guardiola’s Barça, and the tactic denied the Victory the space to play out comfortably as Postecoglou’s old Brisbane Roar side loved to do. Smart football.
There were murmurs about the Heart after a quiet preseason but Aloisi looks to have reinvigorated David Williams and Dylan McAllister and if he can continue to get the same effort, the Heart could turn out being one of the most potent attacks in the competition.
We saw enough of Liam Miller last season to understand the former Celtic midfielder’s importance to the Glory but Sunday’s display tells me we might not have seen the best of him yet.
Miller was imperious in the first half, displaying impressive composure and vision in what was at times a heated 45 minutes.
It was a classy display and put the Glory well and truly on the way to collecting the three points, and a small slice of revenge from last season’s grand final defeat.
Notable mentions: Aaron Mooy, Adelaide United, the potential for South American duo of Flores and Finkel.
Sydney FC midfield
Nobody needs to be told where the focus on Sydney FC was on Saturday afternoon following the decision to start Alessandro Del Piero and by the look of the performance of some his his teammates, so was theirs.
In trying conditions, Terry McFlynn and his midfield colleagues were as abysmal as the weather, and Wellington ran all over their half-hearted attempts to try and pass the football.
From a neutral perspective it was cringeworthy to watch Del Piero try and deal with such inferior footballers. Ian Crook must be praying that Tony Pignata moves heaven and earth to try and sign Jason Culina.
Gary van Egmond
Since the former AIS coach began acquiring a slew of young, athletic players from around the country, Jets fans have been hearing how their side would be playing high-tempo, high-possession football.
They must have been rubbing their eyes on Sunday as that went largely out the window. His team continued to hoof long balls at, around and over new number nine Emile Heskey for the majority of the 70 minutes he was on the pitch. The result was a largely impotent performance that barely managed to draw a save out of Eugene Galekovic all afternoon.
Adelaide had travelled 33 hours back from Uzbekistan and many expected the Reds to wilt on a sunny afternoon at Hunter Stadium. But they were comfortable all afternoon as the indecisive Jets continued to throw away possession.
It was dumb football and van Egmond should wear the responsibility for that.
Notable mentions: Melbourne Victory’s deadwood, Wellington’s weather.
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