Stringing together wins in a packed run into the A-League finals looks like being a challenge, if the first few matches of the restarted competition are an accurate guide.
Beware the whammo of the double crosses!
When our children were little, a catch cry reverberated around the house for many weeks. They repeated it to each other in appreciation of its wit and clear message. They had copied what the wonderful conservationist Steve Irwin said on television: “Ya go down to the river, ya don’t know there’s a croc there, and whammo, he’s got ya.”
Football defenders under stress sometimes don’t see the apex predators. In the A-League, the strikers who ruthlessly exploit defenders are Jamie Maclaren (18 goals so far), Adam Le Fondre (17) and Besart Berisha (15). They come out of nowhere and whammo, the ball’s in the back of the net. You lose sight of them at your peril.
In Round 1, ball-watching occurred that led to Berisha scoring the only goal of the game. Three important setting events occurred in the match between Wellington Phoenix and Western United just prior to Berisha’s connection with the ball.
Defenders are urged to learn from this scenario as it occurs more often than you might think. You need to be ready to recognise it when you’re in it, so you can act in your own best interest.
We pick up the play as Western United attacked down their left flank and broke into the Phoenix’s defensive third. The defender on that side was not able to prevent a cross. The first of the double crosses. And yes, this was a defensive mistake, the first setting event.
Luke DeVere had tracked Berisha in front of goal. He had picked up Berisha. If you were looking for zonal defending (which I am not), then Berisha was in DeVere’s zone. This first cross from wide on the left travelled over the goal area beyond the far post, and to the right. There Callum McCowatt’s commendable tracking and defensive attempt on Josh Risdon ended in failure. This second setting event lead to another cross, the second of the double crosses.
During the ball’s flight from left to right DeVere had turned, and was drawn towards the ball as it arrived on the right. He lost sight of Berisha in that action, as we all might lose sight of a crocodile in murky waters. The second of the double crosses reached Berisha and whammo, he got him. One nil.
And that was the ball game. It was Berisha’s 117th goal. On replay the television commentators said that Berisha was all alone. This gave the impression that Berisha had been there all the time, just waiting.
Nothing could be further from the truth. This was a split-second, spontaneous and clever movement by Berisha. It was, however, within DeVere’s ability to deal to the danger, but he could not.
This was the third setting event in the sequence by the Nix that led to the goal being scored. It was the most significant of the three errors because DeVere was the last defender to be able to clear the ball and Berisha’s position threatened the greatest danger.
In his book Soccermatics: Mathematical Adventures in the Beautiful Game, David Sumpter describes that the best chance for scoring is close to goal and in the middle. So it was for Berisha.
The whammo of the double crosses in very quick succession took much less time to unfold in the match than its description here. But the detail will help defensive thinking to improve. This predictable pattern will also feature in future posts because it was evident among other teams this season.
Ball-watching is described by an unlimited array of euphemisms. The latest was coined during the telecast of last weekend’s Bundesliga matches. One set of defenders was accused of taking social distancing to the extreme when failing to track the player who scored.