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Any team that gives the ball away cheaply to Keisuke Honda is not going to win too many A-League games against Melbourne Victory this season.
One of the more notable aspects of yesterday’s A-League action was the fact that neither losing coach blamed their team’s loss on anything other than a poor performance.
“I think the performance was not the best. The intensity was not so high as I expected or as we need, and also the compactness was not (as high),” said Adelaide United coach Marco Kurz in the press conference following his team’s 2-0 defeat to Perth Glory at a hot and sunny Coopers Stadium.
Mariners coach Mike Mulvey was even more succinct in his appraisal of his team’s 4-1 defeat to Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park.
“(You) can’t give a team like Victory opportunities to score, because they’re good enough to score goals themselves,” said the brutally honest Mancunian.
“You’ve got to play two halves of football. You can’t play just 20 minutes in the first half, concede three goals and then come alive in the second half. It’s not good enough,” Mulvey added.
So far, so accurate. And Mulvey – who was characteristically blunt – suggested he wouldn’t be afraid to test his squad’s depth since there’s “no relegation and promotion” in the A-League.
But here’s the problem if you’re a Central Coast Mariners fan. Despite signing no less than 14 new players during the off-season, do they really possess the quality to compete with the A-League’s best teams?
They certainly won’t trouble too many opponents when they needlessly hand possession to a player like Honda.
As if the Japanese star hadn’t already fired enough warning shots, he was quick to seize upon Antony Golec’s misplaced pass and fire Victory in front with a clinical finish.
And as impressive as Honda was for the hosts, it was arguably James Troisi who stole the show, with the pair working in perfect sync playing in duel number 10 roles.
That’s one of the major differences between a side like the Mariners and the defending A-League champions.
Whereas one team had a player like Tommy Oar struggling to impose himself on the game, the other had two creative sparks working in tandem.
And the Mariners inability to defend as a cohesive unit in the first half – let alone create some decent chances themselves – cost them dearly.
Why so many teams persist in trying to play the ball out from the back instead of employing safety-first tactics remains a mystery to many A-League observers.
Giving the ball away in the final third of the pitch is the ultimate coach killer.
Liam Reddy almost cost Perth Glory a penalty when Dino Djulbic put the Glory goalkeeper under all sorts of pressure with a difficult back pass, and the tendency for teams to constantly turn around and go backwards is one of the more frustrating elements of the A-League.
Glory got lucky again when the VAR intervened to adjudicate on a Shane Lowry handball, and while the replay suggested the incident took place inside the penalty area, referee Chris Beath nevertheless awarded a free-kick instead.
Credit, then, to Marco Kurz – who refused to blame the VAR decisions as the reason for his side’s defeat.
Had Joel Chianese buried an earlier chance when he smashed a left-footed shot against the crossbar, Glory might have been in the ascendency anyway.
Perth will be tough to beat under Tony Popovic this season – particularly if they continue to string five-men across the back when not in possession – and so far they’ve done all the little things well, including taking their chances.
It will be interesting to see if much changes once Diego Castro comes back.
And it’s nice to see a bit of attacking endeavour rewarded in the A-League.
Plenty of teams set up with their defence in mind, but it’s attacking football that keeps fans coming back.