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Melbourne Victory vs Wellington Phoenix: What I learnt

Melbourne Victory played its final home game of the season and ended it the right way, recording a 3-0 win over Wellington Phoenix in front of 12,000 at AAMI Park. Carlos Hernandez, Isaka Cernak and Jimmy Jeggo all recorded goals against a well below par travelling Wellington side.

Melbourne Victory

1. there’s something bout Carlos…

Plenty of speculation surrounds the Victory champion’s future at the club, but he gave a reminder of what he still can do with a stunning goal outside the box. What was promising about his game was that he looked willing to run at times and it opened up and created for Victory. There have been stories over the past week over his future in the Melbourne Herald Sun and my gut feeling is that he will leave.

2. unlucky Archie

It was amazing/frustrating in equal measure watching Archie Thompson miss several chances. With a mix of some good last-ditch defending and just bad luck, he wouldn’t end up in the score sheet but would play a part in all three Victory goals. His last goal was on the 13th January this year against Adelaide United. He has been lively up front in recent games, and has to be wandering what more he needs to do to score.

3. team goals

All three Victory goals came from great build-up work and were rewarded with sublime finishes by Jimmy Jeggo, Carlos Hernandez and Isaka Cernak. Jeggo set up Victory’s second with a defence splitting pass wide to Archie Thompson, who would cross and find Isaka Cernak to tip in. Fabio and Thompson would combine for Jeggo to score one of his own, right in the top corner off the post. All well worked and reflected most of the play on the night.

4. What does the result mean?

I don’t think any game can mean nothing. It was good to see Victory trying to play the ball on the ground, but it is still clear more needs to be done. They played with no pressure or expectations and it showed. It was a chance for Tando Velaphi to make his Victory debut (and keep a clean sheet) and a chance to farewell Tommy Pondlejak (pre-game) and possibly Carlos Hernandez. It may mean something for Jim Magilton as he looks to prove he is the man for the job.

5. great send off for fans

It was interesting to read Adrian Leijer’s article in the Herald Sun on the day of the game, saying that “We, as players, accept sole responsibility for the position we are in…we acknowledge that we have let down our fans.” Attending games this season, it has been clear how angry and saddened fans have been this season, an abject failure. Which is why it was great for fans to see a 3-0 win, nothing more than what the league’s biggest and loyal fan base deserved.

Wellington Phoenix

1. Poor overall

I tipped Wellington to finish second last. Yes, rub it in. They have surprised me; they have been extraordinary considering where they were pre-season. But this weekend saw the Phoenix drop off, never getting into the game and very lax in midfield. Too much space was given to Hernandez and co. as chance after chance was conceded, they paid big time by losing 3-0. Whether that paints a broader picture for their upcoming finals series, I don’t really think so.

2. early second half moments

Thought the Phoenix’s moments came at the beginning in the second half. Victory looked half-asleep from the break and the Phoenix came into it. They wouldn’t take advantage of the Victory lull however, not making the most of their possession. That was about all the Phoenix would get from the Victory. I thought this looked a one-off performance from the slow Nix, and they will be a major threat, especially at home.

3. Manny Muscat

The Phoenix defender/midfielder would end Marco Rojas’ night early with a crushing tackle on the talented Kiwi, leaving him with a broken jaw and concussion. How the referee decided that wasn’t worthy of a card is beyond me. Muscat is an important player for the Phoenix, and he walks a fine line with his physicality at times. This was a line-crosser, just in my view.

4. the midfield

Biggest issue that came out of this performance, for mine, was the midfield. Too much space was given to Jeggo and Hernandez, and that contributed to all three goals conceded. Durante and Sigmund battled, but weren’t well served by their midfield. Tim Brown, Dani Sanchez and Vince Lia were below par and were outdone by the Victory midfield of Jeggo, Milligan and Hernandez. Phoenix are going to need a much better effort in coming weeks.

5. fruitless Melbourne sojourns

Wellington’s trips to Melbourne haven’t seen much luck for the Phoenix. 3-0 and 3-1 losses to Victory, and a 1-1 draw and 1-0 loss (in the regional town of Morwell) to the Heart have been the results for the Kiwi club, ones which I think they’d want to forget. This is what makes a home final very important for them. Who they play will be even more intriguing, will it be the Heart or either of Newcastle or Sydney? Enjoy your football.

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Sydney FC vs Melbourne Victory: What I learnt

Sydney FC got themselves right back into finals contention with a 1-0 win over Victory in front of over 18,000 at the newly-named Allianz Stadium. Karol Kisel would give Sydney the huge win from the penalty spot in the 34th minute. Victory can feel lucky that the end result wasn’t as ugly as it should have been.

Melbourne Victory

1. Poor

Don’t really know where to begin with this performance. I wholly agree with Mark Bosnich’s comments post game on Fox, after he labelled Victory’s performance “disgusting” and the worst he’s seen in the last three seasons. Mistakes, a defence with a sea-legs and a tough night in midfield saw the Victory never get in the game. They allowed Sydney to dominate after an at times messy, scrambling opening characterised by strong tackles and were poor throughout.

2. Ineffectual subs

It was frustrating watching Magilton sit on his hands not making any changes after the carnage that was the first half. Allsopp would come on for Cernak on the hour, but I didn’t think that was the change needed. I would’ve made two changes at half-time, Broxham for Foschini at right full-back and Solorzano for Cernak, pushing Kewell wide. Foschini was shocking and should’ve been taken off, and Kewell shouldn’t start up front when he is playing his best on the left.

3. Defensive mistakes

So what else is new? I’ll repeat the question I asked last week, why are the same mistakes happening week in, week out? One of the problems were the full-backs were caught too far up the pitch and out of position, leaving the centre-backs with plenty to do. Franjic and Luzardo continue to struggle, which is a worry. Both were very clumsy and looked out of depth as Sydney would attack and attack.

4. The penalty call

Ubay Luzardo was foolish in the extreme as he held onto Bruno Cazarine, who would make the most of the contact and ref Ben Williams would point to the spot. However, I find myself asking this question with plenty of refereeing decisions this A-League season, would the decision be different in a different game? That’s the worry with A-League referees this season. And I’m not saying this penalty call was wrong, but consistency is needed and the standard needs to lift.

5. Let the season end and cleanout begin

What a season it has been for the power club. The season never really took off on-field as many problems, stemming from a lack of rejuvenation of playing ranks over the years, stacked up. The question is what to do? My opinion is to make Jim Magilton coach on a one-year deal. Let him do the job at cleaning out the list and get new faces and youth into the club. He needs to get Victory playing the way he says he wants them to. Only way that can happen is by time. Another massive off-season awaits the Victory.

 

Sydney FC

1. Big atmosphere

Over 18,000 would go to the SFS to watch this “Big Blue”; it’s a match I genuinely look forward to no matter how either side is going. It was great to see a good crowd in; it gave the game a real big-time atmosphere that the A-League will thrive on. Question is how this “big” club can get these crowds to keep coming through the SFS gates. The league needs a strong Sydney team with great crowds, and this is an article that won’t fit all that here.

2. Should have won by more

For all the chances they created, Sydney would only win by a goal from the penalty spot as afterwards they would spurn chance after chance. They left themselves open to a few nervy last moments, but as Victory was woeful, they would get their clean sheet. They were stopped by Ante Covic and a couple of very close shots cleared off the line. Don’t know how often they can afford to be so profligate in coming weeks however.

3. The midfield

Lavicka settled on a 4-4-2 with Carle and McFlynn in midfield and Emerton and Kisel wide. I liked the idea of one holding midfielder, that being McFlynn, and one advancing. It is made possible to work by the defensive effort that Carle puts in. The captain has struggled at times this season, but I think he still is an important player as captain and screener. He is a presence in midfield and was complimented by Carle against Victory.

4. What does this win mean?

Will this performance from Sydney FC worry the top 4 teams on the table right now? I’m still not sure. Why they weren’t able to put more past the Victory is a good question and their switch-offs in crucial parts in games this season has cost them hard. I think they have now got some pace up the front with Chianese given a chance, which was needed. They hassled the Victory in midfield pressing them and not allowing them much space and time, so there are signs there. The next two games are huge because of this result and others on the weekend.

5. Back in it

Only a win would do for Sydney and they did that. After the Jets and Heart’s draws on the weekend, the script could not have been written any better for upcoming weeks. Sydney play the Heart in Melbourne and the Jets in Sydney to round out the season. The situation is quite simple, and they are now the masters of their destiny, only they will determine whether they play finals or not. Bring on the next couple of rounds.

Melbourne Victory vs Newcastle Jets: What I learnt

Newcastle Jets drove a nail further into the coffin of Melbourne Victory’s dire season, dishing out a 3-1 loss at AAMI Park. Ryan Griffiths and a double from midfielder Jacob Pepper would have the Jets firmly in control by half-time. Victory winger Harry Kewell would score his side’s only goal from the penalty spot.

Melbourne Victory

1. Bright start

The opening 20 minutes of the game saw Victory have the majority of play; all that was missing was the finishing. This has been the case all season, and yet the same wasteful things are happening. In this game, there were moments for Victory, but the final touch was missing. Plenty has been made of Victory’s attacking wealth, but the missed opportunities have been stunning. It also shows the importance of the team as one, rather than attacking trios.

2. No attitude

At half-time and being 3-1 down, I thought that the Victory had shown enough in attack to work themselves back into the game and force something from it. It’s the optimist in me. But the players weren’t as optimistic as I was and came out looking a defeated team. That is worrying, even if a team isn’t doing well, a key test is the effort put in, and I think Victory flunked that test. You can criticise coaching moves etc. but it all starts with the players.

3. oh Matt Kemp

The full-back disgraced himself after being substituted for Leigh Broxham on the 41st minute, making his disgust for his coach and team-mates clear by storming off the ground. I can understand him being frustrated if he was playing well and taken off. But when all three goals come from his flank, you take the responsibility for it, not anyone else. It has been a sad fall from grace for Kemp and I feel bad for him, but I don’t see any future for him at Melbourne Victory.  

4. horrid defence

Slack, sloppy, almost beyond words how bad defending led to all three of the Newcastle goals. The same mistakes being made from early rounds are being made now. Question is why hasn’t anything been done about it. It has helped to bring the whole season unstuck from the dizzying expectations pre season. Petar Franjic is a young talent and should be persisted with, the same goes for Matt Foschini. Fabio is sorely missed on the left side and Ubay Luzardo hasn’t settled. It is all shambolic in the least.

5. season‘s end can’t come quick enough

Leaving the stadium, I can’t remember such anger shown from the terraces. It is now clear the season is over. Miserable showings from the side have stunned the fans, leaving many flattened by it. It is now time for Victory to learn from the myriad of mistakes from this campaign and the board needs to be decisive, starting with making a decision on Jim Magilton and appointing a Director of Football.

 

Newcastle Jets

1. defence rocky early

Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Tiago Calvano lined up in central defence and took a while to get sorted as Victory went on the attack early. But they would settle down to deny any real chances for Victory in the second half. They were also helped by Victory’s failure to do anything forward, lacking that final touch. Both Topor-Stanley and Calvano are key to the van Egmond side, both playing the ball out and starting play from their half.

2. predatory in front of goal

Jacob Pepper and Ryan Griffiths would give Victory a lesson in how to take chances, as glimpses at goal were few and far between in the opening 20 minutes. It wouldn’t stop the Jets from ending the game by half-time though. Griffiths’ goal came off a cross from Zadkovich and taking it past Victory defenders and Ante Covic, an opportunistic, well worked goal. Both Pepper’s goals saw him arriving late in the penalty area as the Victory defenders played the role of statues. All goals were at the most cutting times and gave the Jets a memorable away trip.

3. crucial midfield, dynamic wide

Pepper, Kantarovski and Wheelhouse lined up in midfield and managed to get a hold on the game when it mattered, helped along by full-backs and wingers Byun, Zadkovich, Elrich and Griffiths. Pepper had a huge say in the game with a double, but most (if not all) of the damage came from that right side as Zadkovich attacked Kemp from full-back. Their dynamic left and right flanks will be a huge key for them come finals time, if they make it of course (which I believe they will).

4. an away win

I couldn’t help but laugh after hearing about the travelling Jets fans singing “we’re winning away, we’re winning away, how s**t you must be, we’re winning away”. Part of the football humour that I love. In all seriousness, they have had a shocking run away from home this season, but turned that around with a brave 1-0 away to Brisbane in Round 17, a 5-2 win in Sydney and now this win in Melbourne. It has now left them all set for a big finals campaign to come.

5. set for finals

They have control of their own destiny in regard to what they can achieve this season, which is more than I can say for Victory. They are in that 6th spot and a game ahead of their nearest challenger, Sydney FC. Their situation is to their advantage, but if they drop any of their next three games, Sydney will get a sniff. Their away game to Sydney has the potential to be the last-spot decider on the final day of the regular season.

Gold Coast United vs Melbourne Victory: What I learnt

Melbourne Victory travelled up to the Gold Coast on a wet Saturday night to face the league cellar-dwellers Gold Coast United. Neither side could find a winner at Skilled Park, Gold Coast forward Maceo Righters would open the scoring early in the second half, Victory star Carlos Hernandez would equalise minutes after. Here is what I took from it…

Melbourne Victory

1. goodbye finals?

This draw and Melbourne Heart and Newcastle Jets’ wins over the weekend could confine Victory to a spot outside the six by season’s end. Based on the year and this game, I can’t argue with that. They are going to have to depend on the kindness of others to get in. This game saw many of the frustrating parts in play that have plagued the Victory this season. Defensive mistakes and fade-outs were part of this performance, as well as good parts of play. It is frustrating beyond belief to say the least.

2. unimaginative subs

Jean-Carlo Solorzano, Leigh Broxham and Isaka Cernak made up the bench in this game, and I think it’s fair to say they weren’t used at the best times. Cernak came on for Rojas at the 52nd minute, which I couldn’t understand as Rojas was one of Victory’s better players on the night. Magilton shouldn’t have been afraid to take a risk and bring Cernak on for Kemp at full-back. Another question: why give Solorzano only 5 minutes game-time? It was a waste and he should’ve been on earlier for Jeggo. They were unimaginative and not game-changing moves from Magilton.

3. no luck Archie

Archie Thompson continued his lean run of goal-scoring form on the weekend, coming close several times but not finishing. I would be worried about his form, but his signs are there. Thompson’s runs off the ball and spark up the front caused trouble, but it wasn’t enough. It maybe a case of one goal and they’ll come back for Thompson, but the side can’t afford to wait.

4. no patience

Victory looked more likely of the teams to come out the winner in the last 10 minutes, with much of the ball lodged in their attacking half. However, too many long balls were played into the box without much hope. There was no patience from the players to build up play and look for the hole in the defence. It played into the Gold Coast big centre-backs hands and wasn’t likely to get Victory a winner.

5. Leijer’s season over

It has been a wretched season for the first-year skipper and it was compounded by his season ending hip injury. It was revealed after experiencing “severe discomfort in the pelvic region”, according to the club. I feel for Leijer, and I hope he can come back a better player and captain than what he has shown this season.

Gold Coast United

1. draw the right result

The strugglers carved out a draw in what has been a story of their year on and off field. They took advantage of Victory’s letdowns at certain points at the game, which they exploited with Maceo Righters scoring early in the second. They hung on near the end and were helped by Victory’s wastefulness in the last 10 minutes. They weren’t consistent over the game, which can be expected with a developing, young and talented side.

2. An early blow

speedster Ben Halloran was removed in the 14th minute after copping some early attention from Victory midfielder Mark Milligan. It was a big blow for the Coast, as Halloran would have been a nightmare for Matt Kemp to deal with all night. It is never good seeing such a young talent injured early on and I hope it isn’t serious. A key to the Gold Coast future (on-field of course) is keeping Halloran at the club.

3. Jarrad Tyson a lucky man?

Yes, in my view. The understudy keeper clattered into a charging Archie Thompson just outside the penalty box connecting with the strikers head in an ugly collision. First-game referee Regis Queffelec wouldn’t even call it a foul and Tyson escaped punishment. It was a foul in my view and I would’ve shown Tyson a yellow for it.

4. Maceo Righters’ goal

The Dutch striker was on the receiving end of some great build-up work from young midfielders Mitch Cooper and Jake Barker-Daish and sloppy Victory defending to put away a goal early in the second. The Gold Coast started the last 45 brightly, buzzing around pressuring Victory. The work of their starlets was great and it got even better from there. They have an exciting young squad, with some key senior players, but that has been overshadowed by off-field events in recent weeks.

5. Clive Palmer strikes again

The larger-than-life Gold Coast owner courted more controversy, with the FFA issuing the club with a breach notice over a “Freedom of Speech” logo displayed on the shirts and signboards. When you strip the emotion and rhetoric away from all this, the combative Palmer made many good points on the FFA, its governance and structure of the A-League.

Palmer’s approach has been wrong in my view. Rather than igniting a war of words through the media and his players, why not speak to Lowy or Buckley? The question what to do about Gold Coast United is a very tricky one and it will remain so. Cool heads need to come to the fore and prevail.

Guest column: How do you solve a problem like Clive?

this following blog was written by a passionate, committed football fan, follow him at @imnowtweating

Didn’t Clive Palmer have a lot to say?

Some of it, almost all of it in fact, was in the wrong forum and certainly bordering on inappropriate. His mention of excessive salaries, insolvency and strong hints of ‘back room’ behaviour certainly left a foul taste.

But I had to ask myself, a couple of times, then on reflection, change my mind a million times – “what was his point?”. Other questions came up as my mind drifted… “How long has he been angry for and what exactly is he trying to achieve”?

What he is trying to achieve is and should be the biggest question… I will conclude with my view on this later.

In a nutshell…

So the strategic and financial management of the FFA, according to Clive, is a shambles. Even if it is Clive Palmer, and one can safely assume he has vested interest, I buy into it because, despite my impulsive emotions to reject everything he says, he carries with him enormous credibility in this field. For goodness sakes, he is a millionaire and as far as I’m aware, none of it was inherited!

Were he doesn’t carry the same level of credibility is in the actual football side of things – his awful references and hints at conspiracy regarding the selection of players for national teams, for instance, is outside the scope of what I want to write about because I don’t know all the facts, and I’m certain Clive Palmer doesn’t either. For this reason, I am only focusing on the financial side of his ‘rant’.

Money, money, money…

Hearing Clive Palmer speak about governance and the FFAs inability to maximise financial opportunity sent shivers down my spine and gave me thoughts I haven’t had for many years. Not because it may or may not be true, but because it was reminiscent of historic scathing attacks on Soccer Australia, one that the Crawford Report, among others, attempted to expose and recommend a range of solutions.

Doing my best to maintain composure and avoid defensibility throughout the interview, I was distracted by his conviction and specific examples of financial mismanagement. I asked myself, quietly I might add…

“What do you mean insolvency?”

“Are we really amongst the worst in Asia regarding corporate governance?”

The further the interview went, the more I said “fair point” and this for me, was devastating!

So what is the “fair point” and what isn’t?

Firstly, and quickly, just to get it out of the way…

Different franchise costs for different markets is a feasible approach. Any governing body would do exactly this, and if not so blatantly, would underwrite costs by other means to assist where necessary. Clive Palmer knows this better than most and I think he strategically raised it in a poor attempt to enhance his underlying ambition, which ill get to shortly.

Secondly, and probably non-related… Clive Palmer was completely scripted, suggesting that he had more than usual opportunity to prepare for questions. Despite my love and gratitude for SBS, I occasionally question their own vested interest in these types of matters. This, however, is another story for another day!

Thirdly, and in more detail…

I don’t agree that the current/previous TV rights arrangement with Fox (due to expire in 12/13, so next season) was a bad move, although, I do question its long term sustainability and the strategic foresight on the FFAs part.

Fox substantially outbid all key players, including SBS, and were given the rights in the inaugural season as a means to generate revenue which would, among other things, subsidise each club’s salary cap, as well as get the game into the mainstream – the latter was a strong recommendation from the Crawford Report (in terms of strategy, not an actual recommendation) and one that arguably failed in the final years of the NSL. This move was all about striking a balance between entering the mainstream and generating revenue. It seemed a move well done.

Unfortunately, the economy got worse, the salary cap increased and the revenue from the TV rights deal with Fox hasn’t, to my understanding – as a result, clubs have to pick up the outstanding amount.

Sustainability is, as you know, is critical in everything, from public policy, right through to TV rights and negotiations. Further, it’s easy to say we need sustainability in policy, contracts etc, but you don’t just buy or negotiate sustainability – it’s is a competency of a good policy writer, an adviser or more relevant in this case, a negotiator.

Perhaps the FFA missed this one and while easy to brush it off and say, “well, that’s just what happens”, the absolute sceptic might remind the FFA that in the glorious 7 years since that TV rights deal, two clubs have come and gone, a raft of them have gone into receivership at one time or another and to my knowledge, there is no sign that clubs are generating an annual profit (of course with the exception of the exceptional Melbourne, where things are run better than most, both in and out of football, but that’s also another story for another day!). Worse, the FFA itself has been in financial trouble (keeping in mind that financial trouble doesn’t necessarily mean you have no money).

When you take a step back, and average it all out, almost one club a year has undergone significant financial duress since the A-League’s inception.

So what does all this mean?

I am conscious of the fact, perhaps more so than others, that the A-League has made its assault on football reform in the most turbulent and unstable financial climate since the eighties. The timing of the football revolution was met with enormous enthusiasm, but also, a harsh economic climate. Naturally, it’s an external factor that is difficult, if not impossible, to control, but I would like to think it would have been a key risk identified in initial strategic planning and risk management, and were possible, mitigated.

The current climate has unfortunately had a harsh impact on fans too by way of membership sales and general attendance, but importantly, it has been a blocker to one of the very key things the football reform set out to do – that is, involve and leverage off big business and allow it to grow in its own right – that is, after all, the major way to boost the profile and financial viability of the game.

The lack of activity on the financial front doesn’t allow the governing body to evolve, maintain media and public interest (same thing really) and realistically put its money were its mouth is. In fact, as stated by Clive Palmer, the inevitable result was insolvency.

What’s my point?

A great deal of evidence (not all of it outlined here) suggests that the FFA doesn’t have sound financial planning and management capability. Everything from overall budget management (the World Cup Bid Vs A-League advertising and promotion), through to strategic planning and execution of financial risk mitigation involved in expansion, TV rights negotiation etc has had an element of failure. No, it hasn’t failed, but it certainly hasn’t stood up to the challenges.

Given some of the ‘individual’ heavy hitters involved in clubs, ala Clive Palmer, Tony Sage, Nathan Tinkler, it was only a matter of time before someone lost patience and spoke up. In this instance, it was Clive Palmer.

I think Clive Palmer was happy to have a go at the management of the FFA, specifically, in an area of his own personal expertise and one in which he has excelled in life – finance. I believe he was happy to expose the FFA for their apparent failures in the same way he probably feels he has been exposed through his Gold Coast product. Let’s face it, while Gold Coast is financially viable (in case you missed it last night), they are certainly not a model club or product and it is perhaps a dent on an otherwise perfect suit of armour that Clive Palmer wears daily, hence the dramatic and somewhat personal backlash.

I think one key message is a big discussion point, and not one for the average fan like me, but for the heavy hitters in football. In my opinion, Clive Palmer purchased a franchise to make money. Since making that decision, he has realised that the game is so heavily regulated, it is virtually impossible to do so. Worse, while he feels restricted, executives at the FFA continue to be paid generously. Rightly or wrongly, he feels aggrieved… And doesn’t like it.

Interestingly, he didn’t, and to my delight, turn his back on his franchise. I strongly believe we need people like Clive Plamer in the game (personality aside, he has the money and we need it). Rather, he suggested a raft of things he would do if he had it all his way…

…More power to the clubs. Less regulation from a governing body he perceives to be financially incompetent. Allow heavy hitters to ‘do the negotiating of big deals’, both at club level and nationally (including commercially). All these things that he either said or alluded to screamed one thing – he, and I’m sure many others, want the shackles off and the opportunity to make big bucks out of football.

Is this OK? Yes in my book, although, naturally, I have some disclaimers, which I touch on below.

So what next?

It’s for the executives who get paid at the FFA to work out how they manage a long term transition of a competition heavily reliant on its governing body to one that is sustainable, generates competition and attracts big business.

In its current form, it’s clear that it isn’t sustainable.

The sensitive points for all involved, including the fans, is how does this happen without losing control to the money makers? How can we do this so everyone gets a slice of the pie? How do we do this and keep the fans happy? How do we make sure the Clive Palmers of this world don’t own football entirely?

These are dangerous questions that carry significant risk. It is a question of reform and so big that it is beyond the fans. We just hope they get it right.

But now that someone has raised it, unless the FFA can demonstrate over the next few years that it is self sufficient, whity and business savvy enough to compete in a saturated sporting market on its own merit, it should be considered.Finally, was last nights interview bad for football? God no!

Essentially, it was a millionaire.., a billionaire even… Trying to muscle in on our great game. So long as we find a way to manage it, it can only be positive.

Brisbane Roar vs Melbourne Victory: What I learnt

In a highly entertaining game in front of a crowd over 18,000, Brisbane Roar would hold off the Melbourne Victory, winning 3-2 at Suncorp Stadium. Besart Berisha’s double and Henrique’s penalty would put the Roar well ahead in the first half. Harry Kewell netted a double for Victory on either side of the break to give his side hope, but Victory would fall short.

Melbourne Victory

1. defence costs a point

I think it would be fair to say that all three of the Roar’s goals came from Victory defensive mistakes. How four Victory defenders (Leijer, Luzardo, Franjic and Fabio) weren’t able to stop Berisha’s 43rd second goal beats me. Thomas Broich and Henrique helped to provide Berisha’s second, but the Victory defence again looked lost. The penalty call was clear, with Luzardo the culprit.

The problem I find is the lack of the organiser in the heart of defence. Leijer has had a shocking season and Luzardo is still finding his feet in the A-League, until that organiser is found (or made), the Victory defence will keep conceding soft goals.

2. effort was there but not for 90

Victory again looked to try and play football, similar to last week’s win. The problem was it didn’t last. At times, particularly in the first half, Victory let momentum slip and hoofed the ball long with no real intent or purpose. Victory played better with the ball on the ground and through midfield and it could’ve gotten them a point. Toward the end they looked an exhausted team that couldn’t give anything more, which I’m confused by given the long pre-season.

3. why was Kewell taken off?

The marquee player was Victory’s most potent in attack, showed his pace and scored two very well-taken goals to keep his team in the game (his third goal in two games). All this made it even more baffling to see him taken off in the 75th minute for Danny Allsopp. Victory would report during the game on social media that he “ran out of petrol”, you couldn’t tell by his reaction.

4. Carlos Hernandez and Marco Rojas

This game showed how much and little Carlos Hernandez can give the Victory. In one second of the game, he could’ve gotten Victory a point with a thunderous volley that could have broken the bar. However, his lack of pressure continues to grate. Particularly in a game like this, you need to be up for working both ways and he didn’t. On a brighter note, Marco Rojas continues to provide glimpses of his talent. His speed and dribbling on the wing were a threat, and led to Victory’s first goal. Full credit must go to Jim Magilton for backing him in the starting side.

5. stretch to play finals

This loss hurts the Victory, who find themselves in eighth spot with five games left. Five wins will be required, as well as some results going their way, the upcoming games against Jets, Sydney and Wellington will be huge. However, if Victory are relying on fortune to get into the finals, do they deserve to be there? I’d have to say no.

Brisbane Roar

1. Full strength side

For a variety of reasons, I don’t think Brisbane have had the best XI on the park over the past month. Of course, this is the case with many teams in the league as they have grappled with losing players to injury and international duties. For Brisbane I thought this was their first full strength XI for a while. The past few weeks have seen them start picking up their top game in the run to finals, and they look set to be a big chance at going back-to-back championships.

2. sloppy at times

They had some sparkling moments in play and are continually looking back to their best, but they let-up at times against Victory. I thought they gave away too much space for the midfield and the wings, and that led to them conceding two goals. It didn’t cost them in the end, and I think they can only get stronger building in to the finals.

3. classy edge

They controlled the game at what turned out to be the most crucial times. The last 10 minutes saw the Roar give Victory nothing at all, as they controlled the ball and handled it well. The players in midfield were able to hold the ball and snuffed out whatever chances tried to be built up. Those sorts of moments are going to happen in finals, and I think their classy edge will be the key to them. It proved to be a key difference in this game.

4. Thomas Broich subbed off

In the first half, the German superstar landed awkwardly on his shoulder from a tackle. He played for the rest of the half and poked holes through the Victory’s leaky boat defence, but was removed very early in the second half. It looked to be a precautionary move and one they could afford with their 3-2 lead, it didn’t turn out to be a blow either. He has been a key to the Roar returning to their best, and I hope the shoulder knock is nothing serious.

5. very open

Too many times Victory were able to attack freely, with Rojas and Kewell causing havoc down the right and left. I couldn’t believe how open the contest was, it was great viewing and these two clubs are beginning to start a great rivalry. I expected the Roar to place tons of pressure on the midfield pairing of Jeggo and Milligan, but it didn’t quite happen as I thought. There were a few lapses on the night from the Roar, but ultimately they paid no price for it.

Melbourne Victory vs Central Coast: What I learnt

Melbourne Victory rekindled their finals hopes last Friday night, defeating the Central Coast 2-1 in front of over 14,000 at AAMI Park. Recent Central Coast recruit Tomas Rogic would open the scoring early with a brilliant run, Carlos Hernandez would equalise for Victory soon after with a thunderous strike just outside the box. It would take the scores level to half-time. Harry Kewell would win the game for Victory with a volley off a corner, helping the Victory to a pressure-relieving 2-1 win.

Melbourne Victory

1. much better football

Magilton rang in the changes after the last week’s derby draw, naming a 4-4-1-1. Hernandez returned to the squad in behind Thompson, recruit Ubay Luzardo and Jimmy Jeggo would also be named in the starting XI. It was promising to see Victory try to play the ball on the ground and build up, rather than going route one. Magilton hasn’t had the squad to suit his game he has been trying to implement, which boils to midfield woes.

2. difference in midfield

It has been clear that Victory’s on-field problems this season have begun with the midfield. Victory haven’t had the players that can pass and win the ball back to trouble teams. This has changed recently under Magilton, with the players he has brought in.

This game, the Northern Irishman bought in NYL product Jimmy Jeggo to partner Mark Milligan, who departed from his centre back role. The difference was massive, as Jeggo looked accomplished in his debut and the presence and brains of Milligan complimented. It was a promising pairing and one to stick with.

3. Welcome back Hernandez

The popular playmaker returned to the starting side and proved a key difference on the scoreboard with a great strike to get Victory back in the game. He proved to be a key link-up player, setting up many attacks. There is speculation over his future at the club, and I have major doubts he’ll be at the club next year. He has been out of favour and it doesn’t seem Magilton is convinced on him yet. We shall see.

4. suspect defence

New loan recruit Ubay Luzardo completed a deal at the Victory and was paired with his new captain Leijer in the heart of defence. He had a solid game, but looked like he was still adjusting to the A-League game. Fair enough too. However, the captain had an average night and needs to lift his game. I’m not entirely sold on Franjic at right-back, its not his natural position and he played like it against the Mariners. Plenty of work to be done, still.

5. something to build on

This was Victory’s best performance of the year and there were plenty of promising signs on the night. Too many times however, Victory have squandered their form after a win and I’m wary of it happening here. They have a very tough draw to come and due to their poor season, have a challenge to play finals. They can make finals, it will be tense and tough, but fun to watch.

 

Central Coast Mariners

1. Rogic’s game

The young midfielder recently signed for the Gosford club and started in behind the strike pairing of Adam Kwasnik and Danny McBreen. He played a blinder of a game and scored a great goal to get his team off to the right start. He was complimented by the midfield three of Hutchinson, Griffiths and McGlinchey and worked some magic throughout. It was a great performance, and I think he’ll prove to be a great pick-up for them.

2. Sainsbury’s red

Replacing an injured Pedj Bojic on the weekend, Trent Sainsbury came in for his second appearance of the season. He was controversially sent off by referee Peter Green for a sliding tackle on Fabio. I didn’t think it was a send-off when I saw it, but after endless replays I changed my tune. If he connected with Fabio’s leg, serious damage could have been done. He slid in clumsily, and ran the risk of a card. Biggest problem for me however is the lack of consistency in these decisions. Ask the question, if he made that tackle in another game with another referee, would Sainsbury have been sent off?

3. missing players hurt

Over the weekend, the Mariners missed Amini, Bozanic, Bojic and Ryan all due to international commitments and injury. All four players mentioned are vital. All play a big part in the well-drilled Mariner machine and when you take them out, it doesn’t operate as well. Try as they did (and well I should add), they were going to be missed. In particular Bojic and Amini, both very creative players who bring a different edge to their team

4. Did they deserve to lose?

I thought they were a little hard done by. It was great watching both sides play to win, and playing well. They were the more consistent of the sides, as Victory played good football in burst periods as the Mariners were just their efficient selves over the 90. Being down to ten men helped take any chance of winning away from them, and they were all class in defeat. Their second straight loss has thrown the premier’s plate race wide open, but I think they’ll do enough to stay top. All looks set for a big finals campaign for the yellow and navy.

5. Another signing…

Englishman John Sutton has recently signed a four-month loan deal for the Mariners from SPL club Hearts. He seems to be the replacement for Matt Simon and bolsters the squad ahead of their finals and ACL campaigns. I can’t say I know much about him and he really could be anything for them. I hope it works for all involved.