Roar defend valiantly to hand the Victory a third straight defeat

Evan Morgan Grahame Columnist

By Evan Morgan Grahame, Evan Morgan Grahame is a Roar Expert

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    Victory began the game by immediately fashioning a chance as fluid and technically clean as has been crafted by any team this season.

    It was not converted, but the statement was made as to the home team’s sharpness and snap. They won a couple of corners early, and were pinning back Brisbane, making aggressive pushes down each flank. It was a focused sort of urgency; the Victory, having lost the last two games, and with a daunting ACL campaign looming, needed to win this. 

    And then, six minutes in, the Roar worked their way forward, up the left. Fahid Ben Khalfallah neatly turned away from his marker on the sideline, and a hopeful, fading sort of cross was punched forward. It was limply cleared, the ball fell to Massimo Maccarone, and his shot-on-the-swivel flew inside Lawrence Thomas’s left upright. It was a sudden, piercing piece of finishing from the Italian, and it knocked the wind out of Victory’s promising early pressure. 

    Melbourne regathered, and came again, winning another corner. Confident, vertical passes were finding confident, vertical runners, with a sense of precision and timing that hasn’t been common at home for Melbourne this season. Furthermore, the Victory were pressing ravenously; such was their enthusiasm, Jason Geria was seen haring forward madly, ahead of his winger, to press the Brisbane defence.

    He subsequently left a huge hole behind him on the Melbourne right flank, and the team were nearly caught out as the Roar simply chipped the ball into the void. Appetite to press is all well and good, but not at the cost of defensive integrity.

    Terry Antonis, who replaced the dropped James Troisi in midfield, was linking up well with Leroy George, who continues to look like the most dangerous man in dark blue by some distance. Matías Sánchez picked up an early booking, probably a little belatedly, having flown into a number of heavy, crashing challenges in the opening 20 minutes. Ivan Franjic was tackling with similar venom for Brisbane, and the match was simmering up to a boil. 

    Crosses, from both teams, were flying into the box and finding only defenders or fresh air; there was so much activity occurring on the wings, but it was not being met with off-the-ball inventiveness down the centre. Then, with the first incidence of coherent central play, Maccarone – dribbling into the interior from the right – played through Brett Holman, who was tracing a line back across Maccarone from the left. Holman then cut back inside and punched a curling left-footed shot into the net. 2-0 to Brisbane, and the Victory were stunned.

    The goal had begun with Brisbane cleanly dispossessing a rampaging Rhys Williams charge into the attacking third, a manoeuvre that – not unlike the Geria incident earlier – left his defensive colleagues hopelessly exposed. The home team’s frenetic beginnings now appeared a vain attempt to conceal their softness in defence. Brisbane sneeringly exposed it twice in the opening half hour. 

    Besart Berisha, in contrast to his attacking colleagues, was not particularly effective or precise; his touch – admittedly under oppressive Jade North pressure more often than not – was heavy, and his feet muddled and sluggish. Level with each other on goals going into the evening, Berisha was being shown up by Maccarone down the other end. The Melbourne striker was being offered precious little support too; twice Kosta Barbarouses was seen shooting tamely, and only George had really tested Jamie Young. 

    Besart Berisha Melbourne Victory

    (AAP Image/Joe Castro)

    Every Brisbane counter-attack looked threatening, with the Victory midfield offering about as much resistance as the toffee’d surface of a creme brulee; nothing a hot teaspoon couldn’t perforate, to get to that custard Victory defence. Half time arrived; perhaps the home team would stiffen over the break. 

    The Victory began the second half by nearly handing Maccarone a second goal, passing direct to him right in front of their own box. Only a desperate lunge from James Donachie saved the Italian from picking his spot and plundering again. Melbourne’s passing – so crisp in the opening stanza – was now skittish and wayward.

    A number of times, Melbourne players lost their footing lurching to make or receive passes, or simply let the ball run under their studs. A truly remarkable sequence saw about four Melbourne players fail to shoot when it seemed harder to miss than score. The scene was excruciating to watch, the hesitancy, the mistiming, the awkwardness. James Troisi was brought on for Sanchez.

    Troisi was just the kind of almost arrogant attacker that Melbourne needed, to kick away all this nervous energy and twitchy tentativeness with some virile shooting or dribbling. Victory’s possession suddenly seemed much more confident and penetrative, with Troisi heavily involved. Brisbane were greeting all of this, however, with just enough defensive urgency. 

    The match ticked on past the hour mark. Brisbane were surviving Melbourne’s surge, and were now working on killing the contest; their attack was muted, their energy now devoted to matters of defence and disruption. The flowing counter-attacks were now absent, replaced with lunging blocks and conceded corners. Kenny Athiu, 25 years old, tall and leggy and rarely used by Kevin Muscat this season, came on for Berisha.

    Kevin Muscat Melbourne Victory A-League Grand Final 2017

    (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

    A wildcard move perhaps, but one that surely would have been better with Christian Theoharous somehow involved – Theoharous, for some reason other than injury, was left out of the squad entirely. Josh Hope, aged 20, replaced the Victory captain Carl Valeri, just his third appearance. Now with 15 minutes remaining, Muscat was pinning his hopes to these young, untested bolters. Brisbane were accepting the pressure, and Melbourne needed someone to burst through their resolve.

    It was Troisi who powered the Victory back into the contest, on the 80th minute. From all of 30 metres out, Troisi smacked a supreme howitzer into the top corner, a shot struck so sweetly and with such relish, it smacked the gob. It barely spun as it flew through the air, and it clipped in off the frame, right in that lovely area where post meets bar. A more emphatic testament to his value could scarcely have been made by the benched star, and his team were now one goal from parity. 

    Melbourne were throwing waves of men forward, attacking, reloading, and attacking again. Jamie Young was required to put his considerable body on the line, punching while leaping into a maw of Melbourne attackers. Melbourne were frantic, Brisbane were ragged. The final whistle went, and 2-1 to Brisbane it ended, Melbourne’s fifth home loss this season, and their third defeat on the trot. 

    Simply put, the ease with which Brisbane cut through in the first half meant Melbourne spent the entirety of the second half fighting sweatily to clamber out of a hole they’d dug themselves. In their eagerness to press with intensity and begin the game with energy, they lost all sense of defensive structure.

    Brett Holman

    (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

    They also needed a worldie from Troisi to break through; Melbourne’s bluntness was clear, finishing with 15 shots taken in total, but just three on target – Brisbane had three on target too, from six shots. The Roar were clinical, and defended with grit as the game wound down. The Victory fans whistled and booed at the end of the game, and with Ulsan Hyundai in the AFC Champions League up next, things might get worse before they get better. 

    Evan Morgan Grahame
    Evan Morgan Grahame

    Evan Morgan Grahame is a Melbourne-based journalist. Gleaning what he could from his brief career as a painter, the canvas of the football pitch is now his subject of contemplation, with the beautiful game sketching new, intriguing compositions every week. He has been one of The Roar's Expert columnists since 2016. Follow him on Twitter @Evan_M_G.

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    The Crowd Says (25)

    • February 10th 2018 @ 6:46am
      Waz said | February 10th 2018 @ 6:46am | ! Report

      This has to be the side and formation JA envisaged in pre-season. It took until R20 for him to get it and even then Brown was missing – a damning statement on Roars pre-season preparations.

      But here it is and I think fair to say we saw Aloisi’s master plan in play: Defend and counter – the almost opposite of Roar-celona.

      I think there will be some BIG changes and new Signings for next season better able to execute his plan:

      * New Goalkeeper
      * New DM to play alongside TK
      * A new winger to replace FBK
      * A new, fast striker.

      FBK, Holman, Hingert, North will probably get re-signed.

      Maccarone, Mackay, Brown, Oxborrow, Theo, Young, all going with the rest of the squad a bit of a lottery

      • February 10th 2018 @ 8:23am
        Jordan said | February 10th 2018 @ 8:23am | ! Report

        What’s wrong with Young Waz?

        • February 10th 2018 @ 8:28am
          Waz said | February 10th 2018 @ 8:28am | ! Report

          Nothing imo. Aloisi is known not to particularly like him. But I think it will come down to salary expectations – the model SFC have in place is not to overpay except in the critical visa positions and rumour is Theo is the highest paid keeper in the league and Young is probably aiming there as a replacement. Personally I hope he stays, I look around the league and only Izzo is a more attractive proposition, although not yet as good as young he will be soon.

      • February 10th 2018 @ 9:18am
        j,binnie said | February 10th 2018 @ 9:18am | ! Report

        Waz – I think you had your tongue firmly in your cheek when you offered this explanation.
        The message is obviously getting through and “play it like Ange” is fading away into the now distant past.
        At International level especially we have witnessed the emergence of a tactical ploy that grants teams the majority of ball possession but sees the discipline of retreating defence taking over as the way to negate a system of play that almost demands a higher than normal talent in passing the ball with accuracy, and more essentially ,speed, if is is to be deemed successful.
        Unfortunately at this time we do not have eleven players playing in any HAL team to guarantee that success.Roar, with their vast number of experienced veterans ,could actually be better equipped than most teams to adopt the “new” system
        Last week I sent you a comment saying that this group of Roar players were not necessarily a “bad” playing group ,it was simply the way they were being put together that was causing their apparent problems.
        This game last night went a long way to proving that statement correct
        By what you deem “coach clarity”, a “new ‘ system was introduced ,that of breaking away, grabbing a goal or two,and then defending “to the death”.
        What’s new about that? ,Sydney FC have been doing it for the last 18 months and not so long ago CCM took Angie’s Roar, “right to the edge” playing the same game.
        Can I put it to you that , almost by accident, certain “partnerships” started to evolve last night..
        Brett Holman has tactically ,always been a law unto himself running,at pace, hither and thither chasing the ball non stop.Last night this proved to be a huge asset when combined with the veteran Maccarone’s skill at holding up the ball, waiting for support that doesn’t appear to come from anyone else with any regularity.
        In midfield last night Matt Mackay ,due to opponent pressure , was forced to do most of his work in lateral movement across the field and in doing so it appeared he and Kristensen did win the battle,although when the Dane tired towards the end,understandably, they did lose a bit of that effectiveness.
        With Hingert and Franjic forced to play as “old-fashioned ” full backs due to the threat posed by their immediate opponents the Roar defence looked more impregnable to “wing threat”,a flaw that has manifested itself over these last 3 or four seasons with opposing wingers enjoying almost total freedom of that area of the park
        So what are we left with? A return to former days when a back four HIngert,Popadopolous,North and Franjic played like a back four, and in midfield we could see Mackay asd Kristensen as ball winners with Khalfallah and Bauthac given the task of using the flanks to get behind defences whether by passing the ball to the roving Holman and Maccarone or using their undoubted ball skills to stretch defence lines
        So more by accident than planning it would appear a Roar line up in 4-4-2.would start to bother other teams in the HAL.
        Young.
        Hingert,Papadopolous,North, Franjic
        Kristensen Mackay
        Bauthac Khalfallah
        Holman Maccarone.
        Leave that thought to your imagination. Cheers jb.

        • February 10th 2018 @ 10:23am
          Waz said | February 10th 2018 @ 10:23am | ! Report

          Good stuff jb.

          As you say, I think the shift to 442 to counter Victory’s wing threat had a lot to do with the improvement. Aloisi’s preferred 4231 opens up the midfield which temps the wing backs forward and they’re often found out of position. Mackay also looks at that open midfield in the same way a young child looks at a playground, often roving forward to play leaving Kristensen issolated, and by occupying that space with 442 as you say Mackay did go lateral instead of up and down the park.

          The other key benefit was Holman/Maccarone who played tight and off each other yesterday. Maccarone is better at feeding Holman mind you, often when Holman passes to the No 9 it’s not to his feet where he likes it, but to the space in front.

          Let’s see where JA goes next. Two weeks off gives him perfect preparation before playing the top two sides. Now there’s a test.

    • February 10th 2018 @ 7:51am
      Nemesis said | February 10th 2018 @ 7:51am | ! Report

      About a year ago, these 2 teams – albeit with slightly different XI – but the same coaches, at same venue produced an epic contest filled with goals, intensity & controversy.

      In just 12 months, all that has evaporated.

      Roar’s goals were clinically executed, but, other than that, they did nothing except wait for MV to turn the ball over & then try to counter.

      Victory did nothing except run around with the structure & discipline we see from the kids playing at half time. No system, not cohesion, no organisation.

      Brisbane would be very happy with the win, but that sort of football is fine for the occasional “snatch & grab” win, but, over a 27 match season, it’s the football for teams who aspire to finish mid-bottom of the table.

      Victory’s football in the final 20 minutes showed that Muscat’s stubbornness in playing his mates (Berisha, Valeri, Broxham) has cost MV success this season &, most likely, it will now cost Muscat his job and he’ll leave MV in disgrace.

      • February 10th 2018 @ 8:08am
        Waz said | February 10th 2018 @ 8:08am | ! Report

        Roar are definitely happy for that win, for obvious reasons.

        “but that sort of football is fine for the occasional “snatch & grab” …. not really, it’s the foundation of SFCs approach and it’s no surprise that Aloisi is copying it. SFC won the title with a much better executed version of this which is why, in my post above, I suggest Aloisi has found his formula but he hasn’t got the players for it so there’ll be big changes. Welcome to the new Roar way!

        Victory are a mystery; they should be doing better than this but they seem to drift in to a bit of form then just as easily drift out in to mediocrity again.

        As you say, both sides are well short of where they were last year and any win is just papering over the cracks.

        • February 10th 2018 @ 8:15am
          Nemesis said | February 10th 2018 @ 8:15am | ! Report

          As much as I despise Sydney, you can’t be comparing the way Arnold sets up SydFC with what Aloisi did last night. Arnold’s teams pass the ball around with precision & regularly create attacking threats. For sure, they wait for mistakes, but, given the number of mistakes MV made – particularly in the 1st half – SydFC would’ve carved out many many more threats on MV goal than what we saw.

          In fact, other than the 1 terrific save by Thomas from Macarrone, I don’t recall Brisbane making any other meaningful threat.

          • February 10th 2018 @ 8:34am
            Waz said | February 10th 2018 @ 8:34am | ! Report

            Agree you can’t compare the way SFC play and the way Roar played last night (and in several other games this season, Adelaide fans will recognise that performance).

            SFC are now a finely tuned machine but the basic principle is the same as what Aloisi is trying to do. In effect Aloisi is trying to copy SFC but is about two years behind and about 5 quality players short of being able to do it.

            Roar might have lost last night, on another night Victory could have won 3-2 and neither side can walk away pleased with their performance

            But for Roar we’ve seen the future under JA.

            • February 10th 2018 @ 10:47am
              j,binnie said | February 10th 2018 @ 10:47am | ! Report

              Waz – your last statement frightens me a bit. Who are “we” going to “copy” next?
              Ange’s system appears to have been dumped, Arnold’s system,albeit older that Roaralona), has been adopted, and, we wait with bated breath to see what BVM is going to do with the national team.
              Hope he doesn’t go for “Total Football” for we don’t have any Johan Cruyff’s in the HAL or at national level. cheers jb

              • February 10th 2018 @ 11:05am
                Waz said | February 10th 2018 @ 11:05am | ! Report

                Ah, total football. Wouldn’t that be nice. There’s nothing knew in coaching really. Only copying and countering.

                Maybe Okon will invert the pyramid at Mariners and we’ll see a 1-2-3-4 formation again with two wingers and two strikers rampaging forwards in search of the winner in frequent 5-all games??

      • February 10th 2018 @ 8:26am
        Onside said | February 10th 2018 @ 8:26am | ! Report

        I’m a Roar supporter Nemesis. Have seen a few MV matches. Honestly, I’m never quite sure what I am watching from a strategic point of view, but one thing does appear to be missing from MV this season, they dont seem to have the same control of the centre of the park. as they once did. Just saying.

        • February 10th 2018 @ 10:35am
          j,binnie said | February 10th 2018 @ 10:35am | ! Report

          Onside – You are not far off in your observations. Carl Valeri is coming on and no longer stands out as a midfield “general” (a bit like Matt Mackay’s general play) and with Berisha a year older,and a visible lack of support (a la Broich) Victory are in the same boat as Roar ,finding it difficult to score goals,but probably their biggest “loss” was that of the Frenchman Delpierre, who ruled their defence.
          Many have been tried ,Ansell,Donnachie, Milligan, and Williams ,to mention a few, but all lack the overall control and dominant performance of Delpierre. Maybe Popadopolous is next in line?. Cheers jb.

          • February 10th 2018 @ 11:07am
            Waz said | February 10th 2018 @ 11:07am | ! Report

            Avraam has a year left on his contract so they’ll have to wait. But alarmingly for Victory’s defensive coach it looks like they’re getting Brown.

      • February 10th 2018 @ 3:41pm
        stu said | February 10th 2018 @ 3:41pm | ! Report

        Nemisis…….agreed. Melbourne made Roar look ok at best. But on the positive side of the ledger, it will provide the Roar with confidence, but never lasting success with the current role call.

    • February 10th 2018 @ 11:29am
      Cool N Cold said | February 10th 2018 @ 11:29am | ! Report

      Troisi’s 35 m left foot strike was a thunderbolt. He is left footed? He will be in Socceroos.

      • February 10th 2018 @ 12:44pm
        Waz said | February 10th 2018 @ 12:44pm | ! Report

        Except Troisi has been rubbish all season hence he was correctly started on the bench last night.

        It was a great strike but if one shot gets you in the Socceroos, then hell, you and I stand a chance.

        • February 10th 2018 @ 1:20pm
          Fadida said | February 10th 2018 @ 1:20pm | ! Report

          Agree. Troisi has been awful this season. An admittedly brilliant goal doesn’t change that

        • February 10th 2018 @ 3:24pm
          Cool N Cold said | February 10th 2018 @ 3:24pm | ! Report

          Neither you and me can do it.

          • February 10th 2018 @ 4:00pm
            Waz said | February 10th 2018 @ 4:00pm | ! Report

            He’s still been awful this season

            • February 10th 2018 @ 4:04pm
              Cool N Cold said | February 10th 2018 @ 4:04pm | ! Report

              Thank letting me know he has been bad in playing.

              Thank updating my knowledge as I am not a Victory fan.

    • February 10th 2018 @ 1:47pm
      Nemesis said | February 10th 2018 @ 1:47pm | ! Report

      This is very very sad news for all ALeague fans & particularly those from Brisbane Roar & Perth Glory.

      Club rivalries mean nothing at times like this. He brought class & quality to the ALeague.

      RIP Liam Miller

      Former Hyundai A-League midfielder Liam Miller passes away aged 36

      Full story: https://www.a-league.com.au/news/former-hyundai-a-league-midfielder-dies-aged-36

      • February 10th 2018 @ 2:50pm
        punter said | February 10th 2018 @ 2:50pm | ! Report

        Very sad news, so young & lots of love to his family.

      • February 10th 2018 @ 3:01pm
        Chopper said | February 10th 2018 @ 3:01pm | ! Report

        So sad, makes playing and watching any game seem irrelevant. RIP Liam if there is a heaven, you will be joining a team of greats up there.

    • February 10th 2018 @ 4:43pm
      Churchman72 said | February 10th 2018 @ 4:43pm | ! Report

      Patchy performance again from Brisbane, but the good patches are starting to outweigh the bad. Some good combination play developing between Holman and Maccarone. A more conservative set up in a flat 4-4-2 with the fullbacks dropping off and sitting in the defensive line more. Perhaps a sign that Aloisi is cutting his cloth according to the resources he has available. Brisbane no longer have the players to play the high-intensity pressing game he set outnto at the start of the season, nor to play the style developed under Ange. So a larger element of pragmatism enters the picture.

      Holman looks fully fit at last and his pace and direct running set panic into the Melbourne Victory defence, and once he and Beautheac gain a level of understanding then Brisbane may at last have enough pace and movement up front to trouble other teams. They have been frustratingly static in attack at times this year, the loss of Borello and McLaren has cut deep.

      Some signs of solidity at the back, but not there yet. Being able to put out the same back four three times in a row would help that immensely. Hopefully this direction can yield enough to keep us in the six until the end of the regular season.

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