We’re in store for the best A-League finals ever

Mike Tuckerman Columnist

By , Mike Tuckerman is a Roar Expert

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    How about that for a final round? The A-League finals will kick off with some serious momentum and with any luck, in front of some big crowds.

    Where do we even start with a round of football like that? Some weeks there’s barely a single noteworthy topic to talk about, but this was certainly not one of them!

    It all started on Good Friday, when Besart Berisha finally notched his 100th A-League goal in Melbourne Victory’s 1-0 win over the Central Coast Mariners.

    It was hardly a vintage display from a stuttering Victory outfit, and the relief on Berisha’s face after he scored – not to mention Kevin Muscat’s – was palpable.

    Do Victory have what it takes to win the championship? They’ve got plenty of finals experience, but they could hardly be described as in-form.

    Sydney FC celebrated winning the Premiers’ Plate on Saturday night as they steamrolled the hapless Newcastle Jets 2-0 in front of a jubilant Allianz Stadium crowd.

    It was another stellar performance from the Sky Blues, but it all could have turned out so differently had Jets midfielder Andrew Nabbout not blasted his penalty kick wide.

    Did Nabbout’s miss cost coach Mark Jones his job? Not likely.

    But it won’t have helped a club now in desperate need of regeneration, not least because the Jets can ill-afford to waste another season as they’ve arguably done with this one.

    The grand final replay between Adelaide United and Western Sydney Wanderers finished in an enthralling 2-2 draw, but it also signalled the final Reds game for the one of the A-League’s finest creative talents, Marcelo Carrusca.

    What is it with A-League clubs jettisoning Latin American players? First Carlos Hernandez, then Marcos Flores, now Carrusca. And it’s not as if the league is flush with individual brilliance.

    Most clubs are quick to blame salary cap constraints for the chopping and changing of personnel.

    But as Mark Bosnich said on Shootout last night, the lack of transfer fees means clubs are reluctant to sign players to long-term deals, with the players often leaving the A-League altogether once their contract runs out.

    Let’s hope that’s not the case with Carrusca, who has proved – on his day, at least – one of the most entertaining talents in the competition.

    If you thought there was drama in the preceding three fixtures, it was nothing compared to what we saw on Sunday.

    What was it again about football being boring? Tell that to the fans who watched 16 goals scored across two rollicking Sunday night encounters.

    Brisbane Roar booked a home semi-final with a stunning come-from-behind 4-3 win against a shell-shocked Wellington Phoenix.

    It would have been even more had Jamie Maclaren not fired his spot-kick straight at Lewis Italiano – missing the chance to claim the Golden Boot outright in the process.

    If that wasn’t enough, Perth Glory then downed Melbourne City 5-4 in a frankly ridiculous encounter at nib Stadium.

    The hosts blew the chance to confirm a home semi-final of their own, but surely the bigger story is Melbourne City finishing fourth and missing out on an AFC Champions League spot in the process.

    That won’t sit well with the City Football Group, although there’s still time to inflict some serious damage in the finals.

    That may include a Melbourne derby in the semi-finals – and if the stars align a Sydney derby as well – with both Etihad Stadium and Allianz Stadium set to be packed to the rafters for what would be a surefire money-spinner for Football Federation Australia.

    They certainly have no qualms about asking A-League fans to reach deep into their pockets for finals tickets, with the cheapest seats behind the goals at Suncorp Stadium costing a hefty $45 for an adult ticket.

    It will cost them plenty of fans at the gate – but that rarely seems to concern an FFA determined to wring every last drop out of fans.

    That’s a story for another day, though. Right now it’s full steam ahead for the A-League finals.

    And if the Easter weekend is anything to go by, it could be the best A-League finals series yet.

    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.