How Melbourne won the grand final, and how the Jets lost it

Evan Morgan Grahame Columnist

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

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    Having beaten Sydney – by the skin of their teeth – in extra time last weekend in the semi-final, by playing reactive, counter-attacking football, it was assumed Melbourne would have to modify their game-plan against Newcastle.

    Sydney made 642 passes against the Victory in their semi final; Newcastle made less than half that in theirs against Melbourne City. Sydney’s calm, yawning possession, their neat, sober passing, would now be replaced by Newcastle’s break-neck transitions, long balls, and wilful ceding of possession; two teams could hardly have more different attacking gaits. Surely Melbourne would emerge a different team in the final, right?

    Well, no, in fact they came out with an even more distilled defensive approach, operating almost entirely on the counter, and defending as a team with clenched teeth and steeled nerved. They had as little of the ball as they did in the semi-final, and took fewer shots, made fewer passes and fewer crosses, blocked more shots, and passed in the opposition half with a rate of accuracy nearly 20 per cent worse than they did against Sydney. 

    This is not to say Newcastle played in any way like Sydney had. O’Donovan won a free kick within five minutes, racing onto a long lofted pass, testing the will of Thomas Deng. The Newcastle air raids had begun. Newcastle aimed long balls a number of times in the opening stanza, targeting Leigh Broxham. Broxham is not a statuesque aerial presence, and Jason Hoffman was seen clambering all over him in one instance, fouling the Victory utility in the process. This appeared to be a concerted tactical effort, at least in the early stages, to test Broxham in the air. 

    Steven Ugarkovic of the Jets

    (AAP Image/Darren Pateman)

    The wings were set alight with activity. Newcastle were playing with what on paper looked like a midfield three, but settled into a pairing of Riley McGree and Steven Ugarkovic holding dutifully in the middle, and Vargas stepping forward and drifting liberally out to both wings.

    Melbourne’s midfield pairing, Carl Valeri and Terry Antonis, were also positioned even more reservedly, largely marshalling and roving, and funnelling balls out to Leroy George and Kosta Barbarouses on the wings.

    Only James Troisi was offering central penetration by dribbling or passing in the first half, the rest was happening exclusively out wide. Of course, this makes perfect sense; these teams have thrived this season on sudden transitions, and the wings are a much more accommodating environment in transition. Set pieces – like the one Melbourne were wrongly allowed to open the scoring from – were important too, and frequently occurring, with scything challenges to stop break-neck wing play coming thick and fast. 

    Newcastle were continually going to Dimi Petratos on their left wing, and he was flourishing, combining well with Johnny Koutroumbis, and occasionally Ronny Vargas. The Victory were doing the same with Leroy George on their left flank, who was also linking up neatly with Troisi. In this way, the teams were mirroring one another.

    It seemed as though Merrick’s side, playing at home and buoyed by a vocal, partisan crowd, were almost forced to take the initiative. But Merrick’s caution was still present, and in the first half his midfielders were only advancing when progress has already been made – or possession won after a long ball – on the wings.

    McGree and Ugarkovic would creep up the middle, off the ball, to receive lay-offs from their wide players. Only rarely did they run with the ball from deeper areas, leaving themselves open to being dangerously out of position if dispossessed. Let others do the risky dribble-work, and join the attacking fray only when the time is right; this was the brief. Even so, Melbourne were looking frightening at times on the counter, with George and Barbarouses the main bogeymen. 

    Besart Berisha of the Melbourne Victory

    (AAP Image/George Salpigtidis)

    The rhythm of the match, then, meant Berisha and O’Donovan were relying almost entirely on the invention and accuracy of others to get involved. Both had clearly been told to stay centrally, to avoid muddling with things out wide, and to wait, poised, to finish once the ball was centred. Berisha finished the match having touched the ball just twice inside the Newcastle box. O’Donovan’s frustration would manifest horrifically, late in the match. 

    Newcastle were giving Melbourne a stern test though, and Lawrence Thomas showed why he’s the league’s goalkeeper of the season, making four outstanding saves to deny Newcastle an equaliser. His ability to save low-down on either side, and then spring up to meet a follow-up shot is remarkable. A sequence that finished with an astonishing lunging save to deny Hoffman, flinging his body in the way of a close-range shot, was the pick of his efforts on the night.

    Essentially, having snatched the lead early – the quickest A-League Grand Final goal ever, in fact – Melbourne were relying almost totally on their defence. Newcastle are at their best puncturing through defences that have overextended; Melbourne’s was anything but, set in a dug-in stance for most of the night, with the full backs rarely venturing too far forward, and the central midfield pair shielding the back line well.

    Kevin Muscat identified his assets in attack – namely, the pace and directness of his wingers on the break – and drained his team of anything extraneous to that, diverting it into the defensive cause; if you weren’t defending, you were one of of the counter-attacking bolters, with almost nothing in between.

    Even the bolters weren’t excused from the dirty work – Barbarouses finished with seven times as many successful tackles as he had shots. Muscat knows a thing or two about defending with grit, and he expected just that from the bulk of his team. 

    It was enough to win, thanks to Thomas’s heroics, and the VAR’s generosity in awarding the goal. The second half saw Melbourne retreat even further into their defensive third. Newcastle tried hard, but their strengths – pace in transition, quick interchanges between players, their ability in the open field – were all dulled by Melbourne’s staunch defensive retreat.

    Their long balls were ineffective – over and over Thomas Deng was seen rising with majesty to power away clearing headers. Melbourne employed all the darker techniques of gamemanship. The time ran out, and Thomas, victim of a horrific tackle from O’Donovan, who crashed his studs into the goalkeeper’s jaw in added time, was the hero. He won the Joe Marston Medal. 

    Melbourne’s approach was the archetypal away performance, and was ideally employed as such, with their fans outnumbered 4 to 1 in the stadium. Muscat forced the opposition to play in a way to which they’re unaccustomed, a way they’re not designed for; this is exactly what a good manager does.

    On another day Jason Hoffman scores from close range, and indeed on the night Melbourne’s goal should have been chalked off; this would have undoubtedly changed how Melbourne carried out the remainder of the match.

    Ernie Merrick said as much after the match. But it wasn’t, so it didn’t, and Muscat’s team executed their game-plan perfectly. Reactive football, especially against a team not used to taking the initiative, can get results in crunch, one-off matches. It was ugly, but Melbourne secured the ultimate result here. 

    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 (144)

    • May 6th 2018 @ 6:36am
      LuckyEddie said | May 6th 2018 @ 6:36am | ! Report

      How did Victory win and hold the lead? Well it helps when the clown in the VARS unit does not know the basic off side rule.

      After that , well the time wasting even started straight after the goal but was at least a bit subtle. It then escalated in the second half and that is the tactic that finally won them the game. Newcastle were awful in the second half and that made it easier. Newcastle players and the crowd were all just getting frustrated, but unlike a lot at home they just could not hit the off button.

      Victory/Muscat tactics resulted in, a lot of time wasting that destroyed the game, a game fractured even if a few extra minutes are added on later, frustrated players started doing silly things and MVFC treated the crowd to garbage to the point where people must have wished they had stayed at home. Adding some fractured time on at the end does nothing to help the game flow and so it was another cynical “win”.

      FOX commentators thought the spoiling and time wasting tactics by their mate Mussie was brilliant, Of course they get in for free and are very well paid so what do they care about the mug who coughed up some hard earned cash.

      As some of us had predicted earlier in the week the last thing the final needed was for Victory to score first. Well it happened and as a lot predicted it was pretty much down hill from there. Newcastle had some chances in the first half but blew them.

      AS for the second half I doubt I have seen a poorer game of football for a long time.

      Do the MVFC and the FFA and others think that people are going waste their money to watch time wasting, diving and pathetic players faking injury?

      Why not finish the game with some class instead of dragging the whole occasion into the the gutter?.

      • May 6th 2018 @ 10:36am
        Kangajets said | May 6th 2018 @ 10:36am | ! Report

        Good summary

        You predicted it

        that time wasting and fouling,….., is a great advert for fans to spend their money on other sports or social activities.. ..

        So many parents in attendance last night will never bother to take their kids to the A league again .. surely one of the most putrid games ever .

        • Roar Guru

          May 6th 2018 @ 2:26pm
          Cousin Claudio said | May 6th 2018 @ 2:26pm | ! Report

          You said that 10 years ago Pip and the A-League is still around buddy.

          • May 6th 2018 @ 2:43pm
            LuckyEddie said | May 6th 2018 @ 2:43pm | ! Report

            It’s just still around Buddy.

          • Roar Guru

            May 6th 2018 @ 7:08pm
            Cousin Claudio said | May 6th 2018 @ 7:08pm | ! Report

            With 12 consortiums bidding for 2 new licenses next season and the FFA set for a 10 million cash injection from the World Cup in June just for qualifying and then another $10 million in prizemoney on offer for the Asian Cup.

            Stop dreaming mate, just keep fologging AFLX, AFLW, AFLY and AFLZ and chip in another $400 million this year to keep the Suns and Giants going.
            AFLX will take over China and the rest of the world any minute now.

            • May 6th 2018 @ 9:16pm
              sammy said | May 6th 2018 @ 9:16pm | ! Report

              Seriously there are enough people that are really pissed by this that you might just see crowds affected and TV audiences down next season and if that happens, the clubs will struggle and all because the FFA have admitted they got it horribly wrong when it really mattered. But for them to say the laws of the game don’t permit a replay (which is what a groundswell of support is now demanding) from happening is odd..considering a high profile example in the UK shows that it most certainly can be done

              https://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/ars-ne-wenger-offers-fa-cup-rematch

            • Roar Guru

              May 7th 2018 @ 11:22am
              Cousin Claudio said | May 7th 2018 @ 11:22am | ! Report

              You’ll be predicting the end of the A-League with your dying breath Pip.
              The NSL had average attendance of less than 2K per game, never made a profit and had no government assistance and it ran for 27 years mate.

              Don’t assume there won’t be any changes to the FFA administration or the A-League set up before next season kicks off.

    • May 6th 2018 @ 7:27am
      Kangajets said | May 6th 2018 @ 7:27am | ! Report

      When you are the away team and you get a fortunate goal after 10 minutes, you start time wasting,,but how can a team get away with time wasting for 80’minutes unpunished is beyond me .

      Why is the referee to afraid to book players from either team early , there were more fouls then football, it reminded me of the ugliest football of Italia 90 era ,, it’s a step back into the dark ages , but also shows why football struggles for spectators in Australia, people said they want their money back , because they paid to watch football, not fouling time wasting .
      Most bandwagoners will stick to watching rugby league and not come back , that gsme typified everything I don’t like about football, fouls time wasting, diving around , soft unpunished fouls ..,… did I say time wasting

      What was Merrick instruvtions to play long balls about . And . most jets fans have been screaming for Champness to start and give us some width in attack a bit like Nabbout did , but Merrick stuck with Vargas again despite Vargas not featuring in any of the Jets success this season ..

      The long balls also took petratos and Magree out of the game , who looked dynamic at times in the first half .. unfortunately things broke down with Koutrombis linking up .

      I would give Magree and petratos a Socceroo chance , they are ready .
      Lawrence Thomas was excellent and hopefully got msn of the match and congratulations to victory……. winning with that style of football will damage the game enormously, but had Newcastle won playing that way I suppose I would be celebrating…,,
      Anyhow, that’s it season over and 6 months to be reminded of a putrid grand final….

      The jets fools who threw bottles, ban them , the Victory fans that let a flare off , punishment is useless unless you deduct the club points
      .
      Thank goodness for the World Cup, because cynical football won’t prevail their … ???

      Anyhow for Newcastle a terrific season and victory another trophy , it’s up to both these teams to test Sydney next year … I just think rugby league in nsw might feel it was the biggest winner out of last night , football did not enhance its image .

    • May 6th 2018 @ 7:32am
      j binnie said | May 6th 2018 @ 7:32am | ! Report

      Evan – This game ,played in front of a record Newcastle crowd,and probably watched by thousands more on TV did nothing for the game in any way.
      The tactics employed by both coaches were strange to say the least, Jet’s danger man of recent weeks,Petratos, was moved out wider to accommodate another ball playing midfielder and didn’t that decision severely affect their attacking prowess as what they gained in possession, they lost in muscle power,also an essential in midfield play.
      Victory, having been put through the “possession ” hoop by Sydney the previous week, decided to tighten up on their defensive strategy and so we were left with a tactical throwback to the late 50’s when the self same tactic almost killed off football as a spectator sport in Italy.
      And so, what should be a show game, deteriorated into a display of almost boring football with one team, “gifted” a goal very early in the match, deciding that was the start they needed and threw the gauntlet down to their opposition , “score if you can”.
      So as the game progressed, the chinks began to appear in the Jet’s tactics, passes started to go astray, long balls to no one took over and these “faults” were eagerly accepted by Victory as a sign their tactics were bearing fruit, aided and abetted one must say by some excellent goalkeeping.
      What was the end result of this game?
      Surely in our infancy we are not going to foist this ultra defensive strategy on an already shrinking,in numbers, public.
      The season is over with crowds down over 13% in the season proper, and down 19% for our finals competition.
      These are not good figures and it is doubtful if this game helped them in any way. Cheers jb.

      • May 6th 2018 @ 7:45am
        LuckyEddie said | May 6th 2018 @ 7:45am | ! Report

        JB it was a marketing disaster for football and a few people need to be sorted.

        Muscat has had his team time wasting and faking injuries for years and part of that is the faking of injuries and yet no one has got onto to him about it.

        Apart from a useless FFA the commentators have just turned a blind eye to this time wasting and diving. In fact it has got to the absurd stage where the commentators consider diving and time wasting as a skill. Then again Harps is good friends with Muussie, and Boza and Arnie and Robbie and Spider and Neddie etc. etc. and that old boys club needs sorting as well. They want football to get a head but refuse to discuss the obvious – cheating and that leads to cheating the crowd who paid to go and watch.

        Sad night for football but the moment the off side goal was allowed by that useless VARS it was always going to be downhill.

        I actually never watch any game SFC and MVFC after the 80 min if they are leading a game. Why subject yourself to all the time wasting rubbish.

        The frustration level was the only thing that increased during that game and I was glad I did not pay to go.

      • Roar Rookie

        May 6th 2018 @ 7:46am
        Stevo said | May 6th 2018 @ 7:46am | ! Report

        It wasn’t the prettiest of games but not all games will reach heady heights.

        “Surely in our infancy we are not going to foist this ultra defensive strategy on an already shrinking, in numbers, public.”

        But what’s the alternative? Legislate that teams must play in a certain style? FFA put out a memo to clubs asking for more goals?

        • May 6th 2018 @ 7:51am
          LuckyEddie said | May 6th 2018 @ 7:51am | ! Report

          Well something has to be done and quickly. Maybe it could be pointed out to all those making a living out of football that the crowds are dwindling due to – TIME WASTING, CYNICAL FOULS, FAKING INJURY and just outright rubbish.

          Do these clowns want HAL and do they want to keep their high paying jobs? Because a lot of us do not want to waste time and money watching garbage and being played for fools.

        • Roar Rookie

          May 6th 2018 @ 8:03am
          Waz said | May 6th 2018 @ 8:03am | ! Report

          It’s a good question but one that needs an appreciation for the curse on Italian football that ultra-negative football was. It nearly killed the proffessional game there, jb references the 50’s and it happened again to some extent in the 80’s.

          This cycle started in Australia with Adelaide abandoning Gombau’s possession football and moving to counter attacking, SFC took it to the next level last season and picked up the “boring” tag in the process, Aloisi killed off Roarcelona this season and gave us 13 goals in 14 home games, Victory went defensive and the cycle deepens.

          As you say, how to change it is key … the last 3 champions have all played defensive minded football. The lesson is clear – if you want to be champions then you need to defend and bore your way to the title. So how will it change??

          • May 6th 2018 @ 8:57am
            Kangajets said | May 6th 2018 @ 8:57am | ! Report

            Exactly waz

            How to change Australian coaches who are winning through negativity??

            18000 bandwagoners fans last night ,, the chance to engage a few of those supporters to come back more often has been destroyed by anti football ..

            I’m not sure I would call that second half counter attack by victory. , it was just Jose mourinho time wasting or a version of Italia 90 rubbish.

            I have no answers , it’s agsinst my sporting ethos to play or coach in a negative manner in the other footy codes . .
            If I was 20 years younger, I’d take up refereeing and give yellow cards out from the first minute lol,, 😂 they would be none of this anti football stuff 😁

          • May 6th 2018 @ 9:39am
            j binnie said | May 6th 2018 @ 9:39am | ! Report

            Waz -Your comments are spot on,,all the facts you highlight are too close to the truth for comfort, and, like a creeping disease, perceived success will only see the use of the tactic expanding down the pyramid that is football coaching.
            How to change???This is a good question for it took near bankruptcy for many major clubs in Italy, plus continued development elsewhere in attacking football, ie Holland, Spain,Germany and France,to name a few, that saw the tactic buried in the late 1960’s.or so we thought.
            It has been evident for some time now that it appears to be being resurrected in the lower echelons of professional football as coaches, frightened by possible consequences to them if their team does not perform,have begun to re-assess their tactics under the guise of “playing on the break”.
            After all in most cases in life, it has long been recognised it is easier to “defend” than it is to “attack”.
            Whether the A-League as an entity,can afford to go through a spell of this type of football is strongly debatable?. jb.

            • May 6th 2018 @ 12:18pm
              LuckyEddie said | May 6th 2018 @ 12:18pm | ! Report

              We can handle defensive football but it is the time wasting, diving and cynical fouls that are doing peoples heads in. You do not have to be a tactical genius to see that the three issues I have outlined are killing HAL.

              • May 6th 2018 @ 12:28pm
                Redondo said | May 6th 2018 @ 12:28pm | ! Report

                The problem with your argument is that what one fan calls a cynical foul an opposition fan might call a dive. Often only the players involved know which is which. Next best hope is the ref, so you are basically saying they don’t know what they’re doing.

              • May 6th 2018 @ 12:41pm
                LuckyEddie said | May 6th 2018 @ 12:41pm | ! Report

                Redondo there is no problem with my assessment, the players are diving, know they are diving and are directed to dive. Years ago the refs knew if someone went down you could be sure the players was injured.

                Watch any replay and it is obvious most are diving and the clowns in the commentry box applaud the players for diving.

                The players as soon as the free kick is given are up on their feet sprinting away, that’s how hurt they were.

                But Redondo don’t take my word for it just look at the dwindling crowds and the fact that other sports regard these players as divers and cheats. Would any neutral person want to go back to a HAL game after 90 mins of fake injuries, diving and out and out time wasting.

                In Europe players actually train to take a dive and it’s killing the game.

              • May 6th 2018 @ 2:25pm
                Redondo said | May 6th 2018 @ 2:25pm | ! Report

                So Eddie now you are saying it’s not cynical fouls, it’s diving.

                Your last line veers into fantasy.

          • Roar Guru

            May 6th 2018 @ 9:48am
            Grobbelaar said | May 6th 2018 @ 9:48am | ! Report

            Apart from an Ange coached Roar, all the A-League champions have played counter-attacking football.

            From the manager’s perspective, it’s a no-brainer that you will favour counter-attacking football in the A-League – it works.

            Why?

            Because there is this constant demand from fans and the media to improve the football, to play possession football.

            If you’re a smart manager, you’ll let the others succomb to the demands to have a go at possession football, while you stick to a counter-attacking style to clean up on the errors which will inevitably follow, as day follows night.

            Let the dreamers muck around with something they can’t deliver while the pragmatists go and win the silverware.

            • May 6th 2018 @ 10:15am
              j binnie said | May 6th 2018 @ 10:15am | ! Report

              Grobbelar-If you study football tactics as much as you suggest you will know the difference between “possession” football and “penetrative” football.
              Possession football uses as it’s basis, if a team has possession of the ball (no matter where on the field) their opponent cannot do anything to punish them.
              Penetrative football uses as its basis the age old aim of the game,score more goals than your opponent, and this can only be achieved by getting behind an opponents defence and having an attempt at netting the ball.
              Possession without penetration is simply a means to an end and proves nothing about a team’s performance if there is not an end product to the possession.
              If you accept these points you will have to agree that penetrative football is potentially far more exciting and entertaining to fans than the skill factor in putting together a run of 30 passes without gaining some yardage on the field. Cheers jb.

              • Roar Guru

                May 6th 2018 @ 10:24am
                Grobbelaar said | May 6th 2018 @ 10:24am | ! Report

                The point still stands that there in some quarters, there is great pressure on clubs to play attractive, possession based football, but the bulk of the A-League championships have been won by teams playing counter-attacking football (by definition, this is not possession based football).

              • Roar Rookie

                May 6th 2018 @ 10:40am
                Waz said | May 6th 2018 @ 10:40am | ! Report

                Counter-attacking football in itself is not necessarily boring or unattractive. Some of the best games in football history have come from sides skilled in this.

                What happened in Italy (and other countries) was not counter attacking football but an absolute fear of losing which even stifles counter attacking football. Victory last night hardly attacked on the counter, they had ample opportunity and some of the best players in the league to do it – but they sat back, hoofed the ball long and waited for Jets next attack.

                It should be said jets were pretty awful themselves which only empowered Victory. But don’t confuse counter-attacking football with what Victory did last night; that was defensive football, not counter attacking.

              • Roar Guru

                May 6th 2018 @ 11:48am
                Grobbelaar said | May 6th 2018 @ 11:48am | ! Report

                Waz

                The term “counter-attacking” football contains a large array of possibilities.

                Even when the Jets were at their most dangerous (the next 25 min or so after the goal was scored), the Victory clearly played on the counter, as is evidenced by the occasions players such as George got in behind in oodles of space…that’s counter-attacking football.

                Whether we like it or not, Victory adapted to the game’s scenario, and did what it had to do to win, relying a fair bit on Thomas at times, but it had to given its minimal defensive stocks.

                At all times, the Victory had the players up front to play on the counter.

        • May 6th 2018 @ 8:06am
          Kangajets said | May 6th 2018 @ 8:06am | ! Report

          When in the A league the reward for a ugly football is winning, ….that’s why supporters in Australia will lose interest….. and just concentrate on their local club where it’s either free or 10 bucks to get in .

          Ernie, why the long balls?? What the heck were those instructions??

        • May 6th 2018 @ 10:01am
          j binnie said | May 6th 2018 @ 10:01am | ! Report

          Stevo – The answer to your question is not so easy to formulate.The game has changed dramatically in the last 50 years. The first “cracks” appeared in the tactic when Italian spectators began to vote with their feet and stayed away from the game in their thousands.
          In 1967 Glasgow Celtic drove what was regarded as the final nail into the tactic’s coffin beating the recognised world’s best,Inter Milan, in the European Cup final. The score was 2-1 but Celtic,actually set about and succeeded in running, with speed and aggression, the Italian masters off their feet.They did.
          With this example in tactical change taking root all around Europe it soon became evident that the tactic had been discarded to the waste bin and countries like Holland, Spain, Germany, and France, took us back to the joys of attacking football.
          In recent years there has been examples of the tactic again appearing with teams like Chelsea being accused of “parking the bus” a horrible description of a tactic that requires tremendous organisation and discipline if to be successful ,in results, but not in fan enjoyment.
          Can it be stopped?. With our crowds on the wane it is very doubtful if our top league could stand an Italian solution, or for that matter acceptance of a tactic that has been becoming more evident when the Socceroos are playing host to other World Cup opponents.
          So we get back to club managements and what they expect from their coaches and players.
          Not wins per se, but how those wins are achieved. Cheers jb.

      • May 6th 2018 @ 9:54am
        Kris said | May 6th 2018 @ 9:54am | ! Report

        Followers of that other code would probably say the semi finals are always better than the grand finals. The Grand Final is rarely a good game in most codes that have them. Great occasion, but not a great game.

        • May 6th 2018 @ 10:07am
          fadida said | May 6th 2018 @ 10:07am | ! Report

          Exactly. Spain v Netherlands WC 2010 was a tedious game, despite Spain being one of the greatest attacking modern sides.

    • May 6th 2018 @ 9:43am
      fadida said | May 6th 2018 @ 9:43am | ! Report

      Evan’s first paragraph summed it up, Victory scored an early goal and then time wasted from there on in, niggly fouls, slow restarts. Defensively excellent. The early goal was the perfect scenario, making the award of the goal decisive. If VAR can step in here? And it was a clear and obvious error.

      The game, because of the early goal and MV negative response to scoring, then degenerated. Saying it would harm the development of the game is hyperbole at its finest though. Big games all over the world are tight, niggly affairs. I’ve seen dozens of worse finals, though I was hoping for a thriller.

      Jets were excellent first half, 11 shots to 3, and should have been level at least. The signs were there though thy they were going to struggle. The failure to remove Katroumbus was THE key tactical mistake. Petratos was very influential for the first 30 minutes but as JK lost his confidence Petratos lost an overlapping option and faded totally.

      At half time I was calling for Georgevski to go left, Hoffman right back and Champness to expose Broxham, who is a weak fullback. As the game went on it became incredibly frustrating, so much so that the game was gone with 20 minutes to go. Jets long ball assault was bizarre, given that MV had weak flanks but were strong in the air in the centre. Merrick had a shocker, an absolute shocker.

      While the Jets went through him in the first half it was clear that McGree needs to go to the WC over Troisi. He is a younger, more dynamic version of the fading Victory player.

      • Roar Guru

        May 6th 2018 @ 9:53am
        Grobbelaar said | May 6th 2018 @ 9:53am | ! Report

        Actually, I would disagree that the Victory’s first half defensive effort was exemplary, they allowed the Jets to keep the ball around their own box for extended periods, let them get into dangerous positions time after time, and the Jets had a few golden opportunities on goal.

        If there is one reason why the Jets weren’t level at HT, it wasn’t because of any great defence from the Victory – it came down to one person alone.

        As I wrote midway through the first half on the live feed:

        Grobbelaar said | 8:35pm |

        if MV win it, Thomas likely to get man of the match

        • May 6th 2018 @ 9:58am
          Kris said | May 6th 2018 @ 9:58am | ! Report

          Yes the two halves were very different. Victory were barely holding on in the first half with Newcastle all over them and Muscat would have been praying for half time. Then the second half was a mere procession – Newcastle offered little, Thomas did nothing, and if anything Victory were the most likely to score.

          Whatever the managers said to their teams, or the changes they made, or the resolve of the players … whatever it was Victory had a much much better half time break than Newcastle and that decided the match.

          • May 6th 2018 @ 10:11am
            fadida said | May 6th 2018 @ 10:11am | ! Report

            Agree Kris. MV must have spoken about closing down the midfield because MCgree went out of the game and MV gave the jets no time on the ball.

            Again, it’s easier to defend than attack, making the award of the goal crucial to the outcome.

        • May 6th 2018 @ 10:09am
          fadida said | May 6th 2018 @ 10:09am | ! Report

          My “defensively excellent” comment referred to the second half rather taken the first. The 11 shots the Jets had showed their domination

      • May 6th 2018 @ 10:46am
        Kangajets said | May 6th 2018 @ 10:46am | ! Report

        Koutrombis butchered everything in the first half
        I can’t believe Merrick left him on either .

        For everything Merrick got right this year ,, he got playing Vargas instead of Champness wrong and what’s with the long balls

        O’Donovan should get punished

        Berisha elbow to the head ,, that’s legal in the A league as we have seen a few times this year .

        We all thought VAR would be useless, we were correct .

        Let’s hope that next season the jets and victory can play attacking football to challenge Sydney for the title .

      • May 6th 2018 @ 10:50am
        Kangajets said | May 6th 2018 @ 10:50am | ! Report

        Mcgree and petratos along with arzani should go to the World Cup, they are so confident on the ball .

        • May 6th 2018 @ 11:21am
          fadida said | May 6th 2018 @ 11:21am | ! Report

          Agree, McGree was superb first half, Arzani is thrilling. Petratos question mark is athleticism

        • Roar Guru

          May 6th 2018 @ 4:54pm
          Griffo said | May 6th 2018 @ 4:54pm | ! Report

          Yes to all three.

          For Fadidas comment I don’t think Dimi is a box-to-box midfielder. More an attacking one but any player is less effective if tightly marked or have their passing options reduced, which I thought Victory did for some periods second half.

          Troisi I can see going for the experience alone but McGree, Arzani have a future and some experience this time around could set them up for Asian Cup and next World Cup cycle.

    • Roar Rookie

      May 6th 2018 @ 10:04am
      Pablo said | May 6th 2018 @ 10:04am | ! Report

      Poor VAR decision, enough said.
      Were Newcastle robbed? NO
      Should Hoffman have scored from 4 meters out? YES!
      They had there chances but couldn’t find the net, due to some great goalkeeping by Thomas and Muscat tightening up the mid field space in the 2nd half, which took Petratos out of the game, who Merrick should have reacted to and moved him in into the mid field with Rodrigus our wide.

      Is Merrick happy this morning?NO
      At the beginning of the season, would he have taken the Grand Final runner up place?YES
      Wooden spooners to Grand Finalist says a lot about Merricks coaching skill, and man management, but the VAR poor decision certainly left him seething and did little for the game!
      It certainly had a Huge influence on both the way they game was played and its outcome.

      Thanks Ernie Merrick, for putting us back where we should be!

      • Roar Guru

        May 6th 2018 @ 10:28am
        Atawhai Drive said | May 6th 2018 @ 10:28am | ! Report

        Interesting to see Ernie Merrick’s avuncular mask slip a little bit in the post-match presser.

        His exchange with Michael Lynch is worth seeing.

        • Roar Guru

          May 6th 2018 @ 4:58pm
          Griffo said | May 6th 2018 @ 4:58pm | ! Report

          Yeah I wondered what that was about specifically.

          I’d have to go back a few of his articles to see if there was anything in it.

          It was unusual but perhaps Merrick saw something he didn’t like and a bit ticked off after the game.

          Lynch didn’t like it much either. Interesting future articles and press conferences ahead.

        • Roar Guru

          May 6th 2018 @ 10:36pm
          Cousin Claudio said | May 6th 2018 @ 10:36pm | ! Report

          Lynch writes for the Age and Herald and has a history of making things up and “paraphrasing” things people say to make up a story – your typical journalist with an agenda.

          Ernie has taken offence a number of times to what he has made up as “Sokkah” stories.

          Enough said.

    • May 6th 2018 @ 10:23am
      Nemesis said | May 6th 2018 @ 10:23am | ! Report

      Some utter nonsense written by fans who are hurting because their team are not Champions.

      MVFC were rubbish last night. That’s nothing unusual for anyone who watches MVFC, they’ve been rubbish all year. To suggest MVFC had a plan to be defensive is a laugh, when the team has George, Kosta, Besart, Troisi, Antonis. And, apart from Thomas Deng, none of the back 4 are good defence. I doubt any would get a game at SydFc, who are the benchmark for quality defence.

      If MV had a defence plan, it didn’t work. What did work, was Lawrence Thomas. A solid defence plan would protect the GK from being exposed to threats. A solid defence plan does not result in the GK being the best player over 90′.

      Stop complaining about the match. It was poor quality. Just like the FA Cup Final, UCL Final & World Cup Final have in the past been poor quality.

      I sometimes wonder if people on this forum watch much football.

      • May 6th 2018 @ 10:27am
        fadida said | May 6th 2018 @ 10:27am | ! Report

        Can’t argue with any of that Fuss.

      • May 6th 2018 @ 10:37am
        realfootball said | May 6th 2018 @ 10:37am | ! Report

        All good points.

      • May 6th 2018 @ 10:54am
        Kangajets said | May 6th 2018 @ 10:54am | ! Report

        Good summary
        Except you left out the time wasting for the last 80 minutes..

      • May 6th 2018 @ 11:25am
        sam said | May 6th 2018 @ 11:25am | ! Report

        “I sometimes wonder if people on this forum watch much football”……………or anyone?
        Ratings were 183k on FTA.
        More pain for FFA, ditched SBS and now looking stupid.

        • Roar Rookie

          May 6th 2018 @ 1:49pm
          Waz said | May 6th 2018 @ 1:49pm | ! Report

          400,000 people watched it on FTA/Fox.

          It was up against a full Saturday night schedule including AFL, NRL, Super Rugby, Super Cars, Super Netball … and it got 400k.

          That’s pretty good.

          • May 6th 2018 @ 1:55pm
            realfootball said | May 6th 2018 @ 1:55pm | ! Report

            Shame the game wasn’t better and that it wasn’t ruined by an offside goal and VAR.

          • Roar Guru

            May 6th 2018 @ 7:17pm
            Cousin Claudio said | May 6th 2018 @ 7:17pm | ! Report

            No Shame in drama charged football games.

            We’ll be talking about this game for weeks to come.

            Just like you are Pip.

      • May 6th 2018 @ 11:55am
        Redondo said | May 6th 2018 @ 11:55am | ! Report

        As you say Nemesis, Victory’s defence is crud – but that doesn’t mean Muscat didn’t have a defensive plan. In fact, most of what Victory did was defence, with its most attacking players spending most of the game helping out the crud defence. Look at Barbarouses’ tackle count. They rode their luck courtesy of the appalling VAR decision and Thomas in goal (2 weeks in a row). As Fadida has pointed out, they were also lucky that Merrick got his tactics wrong.

        The problem with a knockout finals format is it allow teams like Muscat’s Victory to gamble on stifling the opposition and getting a lucky break themselves in attack. In contrast to finals football, over the course of a season the luck usually falls in favour of teams whose focus is on scoring, not in favour of teams whose focus is on stopping the opposition scoring.

        Both the EPL and A-League ladders this season illustrate this point. Sydney and Man City easily outscored all other teams and finished far ahead in their respective leagues. Despite their dominance over the season, I’d never back Man City or Sydney to beat a Jose Mourinho or Jose Muscat team in a knockout finals game.

        That’s why you and I regularly argue for something like a mini-league finals format, with the top 4 or 6 teams playing each other (possibly home and away) to decide the championship.

        I can already hear the howls of derisive laughter from the usual suspects when they see I’ve bracketed Sydney with Man City in my example above. But, as J.Binnie has tried to point out elsewhere, too many of the comments about reactive and proactive football resort to binary judgments about a particular team’s style of play.

        Man City it purely proactive – they always try to play their way through the opposition. But they are also ruthless on the counter and strong defensively.

        Victory are usually almost totally reactive but counter-attack in numbers. Against weaker teams they can play proactively. Last night they were almost (but not quite) purely defensive, with only 2 or 3 players at a time free to counter-attack.

        Newcastle are also almost totally reactive. They rely on the opposition to attack to open up space for counter-attack. They are not so strong at playing through an opposition defence, hence the long-ball fiasco last night.

        Sydney, in contrast, play a hybrid style. They are very strong defensively, and very adept at counter-attacking, but they are also adept at playing their way through defensive teams. The key thing is that, in J.Binnie’s terms, they prefer penetrative passing over pointless possession. Hence their possession stats often turn out close to 50%. On balance, you could argue that Sydney are more reactive than proactive, but they are certainly not clearly either.

        Re finals – the low-scoring nature of Football means knockout finals are biased in favour of reactive teams, much more so than is the case for Aussie Rules or Rugby League.

        I guess that’s why the number of World Cups won by pragmatic German and defensive Italian teams is more than those won by Brazil and other more attack-focussed teams.

        • May 6th 2018 @ 1:02pm
          j binnie said | May 6th 2018 @ 1:02pm | ! Report

          Redonda – You enter dangerous ground when you try and compare the efforts of our A-League teams with the World Cup efforts of Italy and Germany.
          You must never forget the standard of footballer you are discussing and these teams ,especially Germany have,over the years , been serviced by what many regard as world class players.
          These players are better suited to play advanced tactical football than most of the 200 other identities playing organised football, and it is this factor alone that sees them finish high up in World Cup rankings every 4 years. . Cheers jb.

          • May 6th 2018 @ 2:35pm
            Redondo said | May 6th 2018 @ 2:35pm | ! Report

            You misunderstand my point JB. Of course it’s the quality of the players that gets Germany and Italy into World Cup finals.

            But when they get there they usually face teams with players of equivalent quality. As such, both teams can competently execute their tactical plan. And, on balance, I’d argue World Cups are mostly won by the tactically more pragmatic teams.

            I include amongst the pragmatic teams Spain circa 2010, who played laborious, un-penetrative, possession football that was more defensive than offensive in intent.

        • May 6th 2018 @ 6:48pm
          Nemesis said | May 6th 2018 @ 6:48pm | ! Report

          @Redondo

          Utter nonsense. If Muscat was focused on negative, defensive football he’d fill the team with players who are negative, defensive players.

          The fact that MVFC were hopeless yesterday is due to the problem MV has had all year – inability to retain possession, inability to pass out of defence, inability to pass forwards into dangerous areas.

          I remember suggesting after MVFC won 5-2 vs CCM a few weeks before the end of the season, that I thought CCM played the better passing football & MVFC just relied on 5 terrific moments of individual brilliance.

          However, everyone on this forum only saw the scoreline & laid the boots into CCM.

          I’ve watched every MVFC match this season – FFA Cup, ALeague, ACL, ALeague finals.

          I can recall only 3 occasions when MVFC looked terrific & were able to retain possession & create wave after wave to attack.

          1) The ACL home match vs Ulsan
          2) The 2nd half of the ACL home match vs Kawasaki Frontale
          3) The ACL home match vs SIPG

          This is the MVFC brand of football I want to watch.
          This is the MVFC brand of football Kevin Muscat had the team playing in the year we won the Double.
          This is the MVFC brand of football we played in ALeague from late October to mid January in 2016/2017.

          • May 6th 2018 @ 7:11pm
            Redondo said | May 6th 2018 @ 7:11pm | ! Report

            Victory played negative defensive football last night. If that wasn’t the plan then they are a worse football team than I thought.

      • Roar Guru

        May 6th 2018 @ 5:01pm
        Griffo said | May 6th 2018 @ 5:01pm | ! Report

        I thought Deng had a good game apart from some shirt tugging. 😜

        At least nothing was going to get past him aerially so some frustration at the continued attempts in his direction.

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