What now for A-League’s struggling heavyweights?
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Italy's Alessandro Del Piero (C) of Sydney FC kicks on goal against the Newcastle Jets FC during their A-League football match in Sydney on October 13, 2012. Newcastle beat Sydney 3-2. (AFP Photo / Greg Wood)
The pubs and clubs on Caxton Street were packed with orange-clad fans all turned attentively towards television screens broadcasting a Sydney FC game.
Everyone wanted to see Alessandro Del Piero in action.
But after the Jets had spoiled Sydney’s party and Emile Heskey reminded Sky Blues fans that Del Piero wasn’t the only marquee in town, the focus in Brisbane soon turned towards Ange Postecoglou’s return to Suncorp Stadium as Melbourne Victory coach.
What a return it was.
After an acrimonious build-up which saw Postecoglou label as “disrespectful” comments made about his tenure at the Roar, all eyes were on the battle between the master coach and his apprentice.
It’s safe to say Rado Vidosic won that battle hands down.
It took the Roar all of five minutes to assert their authority when Erik Paartalu drilled home into the bottom corner, only for his effort to be correctly ruled out by an offside flag against Besart Berisha.
If it was a warning, Victory failed to heed it. It’s never a good idea to leave Thomas Broich unmarked in the box and the German maestro proved as much by hooking home the opener after 20 minutes.
Paartalu nodded home barely 90 seconds later and some gaping cracks in the Postecoglou facade began to appear.
Goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas was all at sea as he flapped at routine corner, but whether it was the right decision to let Ante Covic move on to Western Sydney Wanderers is a moot point.
The question now is whether Thomas is a genuinely better option in goal than the more experienced Tando Velaphi.
Likewise there will be questions asked about how the Victory defence could be caught square by a route one punt forward from Roar goalkeeper Michael Theo.
Mitch Nichols might have timed his run to perfection but what will have alarmed is the fact not one defender tracked Berisha as the Victory defence made a complete meal of playing the offside trap.
To then concede two more goals, to say nothing of the chances either ruled out or missed by Berisha and Ben Halloran respectively, suggests Postecoglou has plenty of work to do to mould a coherent defence.
It will undoubtedly take time for Postecoglou to make his mark on Victory.
His first two games in charge of Brisbane yielded a 2-1 defeat to Sydney FC and a 1-1 home draw with the Newcastle Jets.
But expectations are considerably higher in Melbourne than they were when Postecoglou took over at the Roar and should Victory lose to Adelaide United next Friday, the gaze of a sports-mad Melbourne media may shift uncomfortably towards the man in charge.
He will expect to meet the challenge but questions will be asked whether the likes of Danny Allsopp, Guilherme Finkler and Jonathan Bru are the right type of players to make the difference.
Time will tell, but Victory fans will hope it does so sooner rather than later.
Sydney FC coach Ian Crook could soon find himself in much the same position having now overseen two defeats from two games played.
Suddenly next week’s derby has assumed greater significance than perhaps many first thought and one player for whom it could be particularly significant is Terry McFlynn.
The long-serving Sky Blues skipper was substituted after 57 minutes against the Jets and all eyes will be on whether he takes his place in midfield against the Wanderers.
Should Paul Reid take his place it could mark the beginning of the end of an era in Sydney, with one of the hardest working – and most maligned – players in the A-League forced to step aside at the club he currently captains.
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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