The Melbourne derby showcased the best and the worst of the A-League. On the one hand we enjoyed one of the most exhilarating matches of the season, while on the other, the game made headlines for all the wrong reasons.
The less said the better about the cretins who ripped flares, although presumably the boos ringing loud and clear through the effects mics were reserved specifically for these idiots.
That Football Federation Australia was compelled to issue Melbourne Victory a show cause notice was the least that could be expected, given the fact FFA had already dealt with the Western Sydney Wanderers in the same manner last week.
Of greater concern for Victory – at least when it came to matters on the pitch – is that star midfielder Gui Finkler had a legitimate goal ruled out in the pulsating 2-2 draw with Melbourne City.
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It may have been difficult for referee Chris Beath to spot that Finkler’s free-kick had crossed the line – especially from where Beath was standing – but it was clear as day on the Fox Sports telecast.
It’s just a shame that FIFA, in its infinite wisdom, has decided that video replays are ‘technology non grata’ – meaning Victory were robbed of two potentially crucial league points.
Kevin Muscat’s team just about shaded proceedings, even if Bruno Fornaroli registered yet another contender for goal of the season.
It was hard to know what to expect from the peripatetic Uruguayan striker when he signed on for City, but if John van ‘t Schip can hold on to the livewire attacker, he could one day rival Besart Berisha for the mantle of the A-League’s best foreign striker.
Oddly enough, it was one of the A-League’s more maligned foreign front-men who threatened to cause a boilover in Brisbane, when Milos Trifunovic stroked home from the penalty spot to hand the Newcastle Jets a shock 2-1 lead at Suncorp Stadium.
That the Roar were good enough to grind out a 2-2 draw against the stubborn visitors should bode ominously for the rest of the A-League, with John Aloisi’s side showing no signs of wanting to relinquish top spot.
The same can’t be said of a Wanderers side torn apart by an inspired afternoon’s work from Blake Powell, who bagged four goals at Pirtek Stadium in a memorable performance.
Powell’s second goal – where he turned and smashed a technically perfect half-volley into the top corner – was as good as any scored around the world this weekend.
In fact, the 23 goals scored this round made a mockery of Herald Sun columnist Tom Elliott’s claims that “soccer is plagued by 0-0 draws” – a line breathtaking in its stupidity.
However, writers like Elliott get all the ammunition they need from selfish individuals ripping flares and roughing up TV reporters, so it’s little wonder an exasperated David Gallop penned an open letter to fans, reiterating FFA’s mission to stamp out troublemakers.
Caught between a rock and a hard place, FFA has done reasonably well to deal with the dramas – and the new banning procedure, which effectively gives fans a right of appeal, is another step in the right direction.
But there can be little doubt the A-League is at a crossroads, with poor attendances and lacklustre TV ratings an on-going concern.
Those problems are only compounded when there’s trouble in the stands, and as several savvy punters pointed out on Twitter yesterday, the free-to-air channels reporting on acts of hooliganism are essentially the same mainstream media FFA is hoping to score a new broadcast deal with.
There was plenty to like about the A-League round just gone. It’s a shame much of it was once again overshadowed by off-field events.