Sophistication on show in ever-improving A-League

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    Mark Milligan celebrates (AAP Image/Joe Castro)

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    If Ange Postecoglou is the master, Tony Popovic is the apprentice. Melbourne Victory and Western Sydney Wanderers play the most attractive football in the A-League.

    Postecoglou hailed the atmosphere created by more than 41,000 vociferous fans in Victory’s gripping 2-1 derby day win over Melbourne Heart at Etihad Stadium.

    Not for the first time this season, the atmosphere inside the ground seemed to spur both teams on, in what was an utterly compelling 90 minutes of football.

    When eagle-eyed referee Strebre Delovski spotted Jonathan Germano manhandling Marcos Flores inside the penalty area – how many fouls is Germano permitted to make per game, by the way? – it was left to another pet Postecoglou project in Mark Milligan to tuck away the penalty.

    And while converting spot-kicks is hardly tantamount to ‘sexy football’, it was no less than Victory deserved for their free-flowing, fluid passing game.

    That David Williams pulled a fabulous goal back for the Heart says that for all their attractive football, Victory didn’t have it all their own way against their fired-up city rivals.

    Indeed, had Heart substitute Golgol Mebrahtu not rattled the crossbar from a stunning free-kick, the outcome might have been different – but then you could say the same of Victory midfielder Billy Celeski rattling the woodwork from distance.

    At the very least, what was noticeable from a neutral perspective was just how much time and thought Postecoglou has put into getting his side to play possession football.

    Victory were at times mesmerising, as they patiently carved their way through the Heart defence and except for some heroics from Heart goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne late on, they’d have won by a wider margin.

    There was no such issue at Hindmarsh Stadium yesterday, as Western Sydney Wanderers thumped an Adelaide United in disarray 4-2.

    In what was Michael Valkanis’ debut on the Adelaide touchline following the shock resignation of John Kosmina, it was the visitors who grabbed a somewhat flattering 2-0 half-time lead.

    But having established their lead, the Wanderers simply got better in the second half as Aaron Mooy and Shinji Ono dictated play, before the Japanese star limped off with what appeared to be a hip injury.

    Wanderers coach Popovic has worked wonders with a squad which many critics claimed was littered with nothing more than journeymen at the start of the season.

    The likes of Ante Covic, Michael Beauchamp, Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Mark Bridge might have been around the block but Popovic has got several of his veterans playing the best football of their A-League careers.

    And in Jerome Polenz, the impressive Mateo Poljak, workhorse Dino Kresinger and the pacy Youssouf Hersi, Popovic has also coaxed some superb performances out of a group of foreign players most Australian fans had never heard of before.

    However it’s Ono and his splendid vision and range of passing which have made the Wanderers the most dangerous dark horse in the race for a top-four position.

    Popovic will hope the much-travelled midfielder hasn’t suffered a serious injury because Ono remains a major key in unlocking opposition defences.

    It’s the same across town at Sydney FC, where Alessandro Del Piero once again proved his worth to the Sky Blues in their 2-2 draw away at Newcastle.

    Not only did the Italian open the scoring with a typically astute piece of finishing, he also set up Blake Powell’s goal with a stupendous no-look pass.

    In fact, Del Piero’s passing is second to none and his excellent form – despite an obvious lack of pace – highlights just how valuable a signing he has been for the Sky Blues on the pitch.

    There’s a growing sophistication on display in the A-League, so perhaps it’s no surprise to see problem clubs Perth Glory and Wellington Phoenix are the sides struggling to keep up.

    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.

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    The Crowd Says (155)

    • February 4th 2013 @ 7:25am
      MV Dave said | February 4th 2013 @ 7:25am | ! Report

      Didn’t think MV played particularly well on the night and were fortunate not to concede early in the game and late on when Heart were pressing. I have seen MV play much better this season…

      • February 5th 2013 @ 12:30pm
        mahonjt said | February 5th 2013 @ 12:30pm | ! Report

        Not our best noght in terms of consistence – but some particularly great passages of play I thought.

    • February 4th 2013 @ 7:51am
      Stevo said | February 4th 2013 @ 7:51am | ! Report

      Marcos Flores = Swan Lake. Strebers was sucked in. How Williams received a yellow card for simulation while Marcos earned a dubious free kick in the first half for going down too easily after the commentators claimed Germano left a foot out. Well the replay easily shows that Marcos was going down well before he ‘found’ Germano’s foot. And the push for the penalty, well Germano should not have had his hands out but Rudolph sure made the most of it. And while I’m at it, Archie going over to the Heart fans to celebrate his goal was the act of a simpleton. If that isn’t incitement what is? FFA where are you? But for 99% of the game it was a thrilling encounter. Sure MV supporters reckon their team didn’t play well but it was because Heart played better for significant periods of the game.

      • February 4th 2013 @ 1:43pm
        AVictory said | February 4th 2013 @ 1:43pm | ! Report

        I love it that whenever Melbourne succeed, bitter losers such as yourself whine about everything.

        – Archie’s goal celebration was a reaction to wife beating taunts
        – It was a clear foul, I thought Williams was fouled too
        – Before you accuse opposition players of diving, look at your own first, Germano and Fred are serial divers.

        How about those Heart fans deliberately destroying seats so that MV have to pay the bill, can they seriously not be anymore stupid? They don’t deserve to have an away section next game, those feral idiots. And it’s also gathered negative media attention on what was a great game of football. And well done on ripping out all those seats, those 15 year olds are so hardcore!

        • February 4th 2013 @ 2:13pm
          Roger said | February 4th 2013 @ 2:13pm | ! Report

          “How about those Heart fans deliberately destroying seats so that MV have to pay the bill, can they seriously not be anymore stupid?”

          Yea seriously, after the Melbourne Heart fan filed out, you could see that there around 20-30 seats ripped out in the Melbourne Heart active support section.

          This from the so-called football elite/purists in Melbourne.

        • February 5th 2013 @ 12:32pm
          mahonjt said | February 5th 2013 @ 12:32pm | ! Report

          Yea, grabbing a player around the waist in the box is a great idea. What on Earth was the referee thinking!!!

      • February 4th 2013 @ 11:02pm
        Stevo said | February 4th 2013 @ 11:02pm | ! Report

        Looks like my last post here was moderated out of existence 🙁 Surely a reference to the crazy, silly “Ef OFF HEART” scarf waved by some MV supporters couldn’t have been that evil? If it can be waved in public and shown on TV and if the word is similar to the French fashion label then what’s the problem ?

    • February 4th 2013 @ 8:14am
      jamesb said | February 4th 2013 @ 8:14am | ! Report

      I wonder how Sydney FC are feeling right now. A few years ago they had Poppa as an assistant coach. Now he is doing wonders at Wanderland

      • February 4th 2013 @ 8:21am
        vinnie said | February 4th 2013 @ 8:21am | ! Report

        i love comments like this James B and i like getting all over them, how would Syd fc be feeling well they probably would have ruined popovic’s reputation, the same theyve done for all other greats they brought to the club like Aloisi, and now del piero who wonders why he came to this dis-functional club, and why would popovic come to club thats had double figures in sacked coaches over 8 years of seasons.

        • February 4th 2013 @ 9:42am
          Kylesy Sky Blues Fan said | February 4th 2013 @ 9:42am | ! Report

          Yep that’s it boys get in on the SFC hating, jump all over us, your opinions are clearly important and fair.

          • February 4th 2013 @ 10:24am
            Garcia said | February 4th 2013 @ 10:24am | ! Report

            Kylesy Sky Blues Fan > >

          • February 4th 2013 @ 10:26am
            Qantas supports Australian Football said | February 4th 2013 @ 10:26am | ! Report

            Be gentle—-he only just recently found out how to spell his name correctly..

            • February 4th 2013 @ 12:45pm
              vinnie said | February 4th 2013 @ 12:45pm | ! Report

              thats your best comeback hey Mr Qantas, Maybe you should buy Lucas Neil and finish and end his career too.

    • Roar Guru

      February 4th 2013 @ 8:16am
      TomC said | February 4th 2013 @ 8:16am | ! Report

      I thought Victory were more impressive on the counterattack than trying up through a possession game.

      • Columnist

        February 4th 2013 @ 5:26pm
        Mike Tuckerman said | February 4th 2013 @ 5:26pm | ! Report

        That too.

      • February 5th 2013 @ 12:34pm
        mahonjt said | February 5th 2013 @ 12:34pm | ! Report

        They do both is the point. Possession is nto just the art of holding the ball in your back line and/or around the edge of thebox. The passing in the midfield was trrific at times. I have “bookmarked” a couple of passages onthe iQ box and gone over them. Terriffic possession football.

    • February 4th 2013 @ 8:18am
      vinnie said | February 4th 2013 @ 8:18am | ! Report

      Very Nice article to start my working week and help me get over my Mondayitis, thanks Mike!

      • Columnist

        February 4th 2013 @ 5:26pm
        Mike Tuckerman said | February 4th 2013 @ 5:26pm | ! Report

        It was a great round of football, vinnie.

    • February 4th 2013 @ 9:25am
      striker said | February 4th 2013 @ 9:25am | ! Report

      I thought this round of fotball was outstanding the derby game was something special and the wanderes are marching on, good to see most crowds break 10K mark which im am sure would have brought the season average up with 41k at the derby.

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