The festive period has seen a huge number of games since our last A-League roundup in week 11.
In part one of our roundup, we take a look back at Adelaide, Brisbane, Central Coast Mariners, Melbourne City and Melbourne Victory’s current situation following the festive games, as we enter a three-week break for the Asian Cup.
Josep Gombau’s men had fallen a long way from the standards they set with their early-season form, before Monday night’s trip to Perth. Having won the inaugural FFA Cup, they had proceeded to lose two out of their next three matches, and had only two wins in their last five league games overall.
Injuries had played a part in the loss of form as defensive lynch-pin Osama Malik has been out since the 3-2 defeat to Melbourne Victory on November 28th, and Marcelo Carrusca’s struggle for fitness had seen him in and out of the side since the Victory game.
The loss of Malik’s excellent range of passing from the back, coupled with the loss of Carrusca’s inventiveness in the middle of the park would hurt any A-League team, and Reds fans were delighted with the news that both had been included in the squad to face Perth Glory.
The festive season has seen the Reds produce a convincing 3-0 win at Sydney, with goals from Bruce Djite, Pablo Sanchez, and Awer Mabil in the second half wrapping-up the victory. This seemed to be just the kind of victory that they needed to release them from their post-cup final mini-slump, yet less than a week later they found themselves on the end of a 3-1 defeat while hosting Wellington Phoenix at Hindmarsh Stadium.
They bounced back in style last night as they defeated the league leaders for the third time this season, with a well-deserved 2-1 win in Perth.
Gombau will be glad to have the three week break for the Asian Cup on the horizon, as it will give his squad a much-needed break to fully recover from the various injuries that have plagued his star players. A couple of extra bodies coming into the squad during the transfer window may be a wise move to lighten the burden on an already stretched squad.
A disappointing festive period overall for the Roar, as they struggle to get anywhere near the type of performances that saw them crowned champions last year. Yet they still remain just four points outside the play-off places as we reach the midway point of the season. All hope is not yet lost for them, but they will need to find some consistency if they are to make the top six come the end of the season.
Their first game of the festive period saw a trip to Gosford to face-off against a struggling Central Coast Mariners side. In what turned out to be an exciting game for the neutral, although perhaps not the greatest game quality-wise, Roar had to come from behind twice during a 3-3 draw that saw Jean Carlos Solorzano net his first two goals of the season.
Amazingly, those two goals moved Solorzano into second-top scorer on the Roar’s goal-scoring chart for the season. The squad as a whole need to start contributing more goals, purely to take some of the goal-scoring burden off Henrique. The Brazilian’s seven goals means he has almost twice as many goals as all the other strikers at the club combined. A striker should be top priority for the Roar during the transfer window.
Following on from the six-goal thriller, the Roar had a disappointing 0-0 draw at home to Sydney and a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of the in-form Wellington Phoenix. There remains a lot of work for Frans Thijssen to do to get his team into the top six come seasons-end.
Central Coast Mariners
The Mariners will have been encouraged by the form shown in the three games since we last caught up. Two wins and a draw in that time has moved them level on points with the aforementioned Brisbane Roar, just outside the top six. There is still some way to go but things are looking a lot better in recent weeks than they did following the 4-1 drubbing against Perth a couple of weeks back.
Phil Moss’ men were left frustrated that they didn’t take all three points against Roar, having twice led in the second half only to draw 3-3. This was followed up with a resolute 0-0 draw away to the winless Western Sydney Wanderers, and topped-off with a deserved 2-0 win over a lacklustre Melbourne City at the weekend.
Mitch Duke finally found his scoring boots again, as he put City to the sword with two excellent goals in the first half, and he’ll be hoping he can kick-on in the second half of the season to have his best ever goal return in the A-League. His best return of his career has been six goals, and his double at the weekend takes his tally to three so far this season. There’s a decent striker somewhere in there, and Moss will be hoping he can coax it out of Duke for the latter part of the season.
The results over the festive period for City are perhaps viewed as a micrcosm of their season overall as they won one, drew one, and lost one. Defeat at the Mariners on Sunday took the gloss of what could have been an excellent couple of weeks for City. Starting out with a 1-1 draw at home to Perth Glory, a game in which they matched the league leaders for large parts and were perhaps disappointed not to take all three points.
City then made the trip to Newcastle to face off against the Jets and produced arguably their best performance of the season, albeit tempered by the fact that the Jets were truly hopeless on the day.
The game signaled the (injury-delayed) arrival of Robert Koren to the A-League, as he marked his first start of the season with a superb hat-trick. Damien Duff also notched his first A-League goal, won a penalty after just a couple of minutes, and provided an excellent assist for Koren’s second goal.
City are lacking a presence up front, so the arrival of Australian international Josh Kennedy will be a much-welcomed addition to John van’t Schip’s squad.
The big centre forward could be the focal point that City have been lacking, as they see plenty of the ball but often don’t have a target to hit in the box when the ball is worked out wide. Kennedy will be relishing the potential service he could receive from Aaron Mooy’s set pieces, and the crosses of Damien Duff. If City can keep him fit for the second half of the season, there is no reason why they can’t make a push for a top-six finish.
In what has so far been a disappointing festive period for the Victory, they find themselves leapfrogged by both Wellington Phoenix and Adelaide United as we near the Asian Cup break. However, Victory traveled to Wanderers last night knowing that a win would see them move level on points with second-placed Phoenix. They did just that by coming out 2-1 winners.
Having just done enough to get past Newcastle Jets, a late Gui Finkler free-kick seeing them through, Victory hosted Perth Glory in Geelong last Friday night. They found themselves a goal behind after just nine minutes, as Andy Keogh took advantage of some hesitant defending from Adrian Leijer to fire Glory ahead.
Things went from bad to worse for Kevin Muscat’s men as a terrible defensive mix-up between Scott Galloway and ‘keeper Nathan Coe allowed Chris Harold in to score. Besart Berisha pulled a goal back from the spot in the second half, but it was to prove little more than a consolation goal.
The defeat again highlighted the effect that the loss of Matthieu Delpierre is having on the Victory defence. The big Frenchman has not played since the end of October, and has reportedly struggled to overcome the foot injury that has kept him out. Victory expect him to return after the Asian Cup and his return is a much-needed one.
Gavin Bergin, Pundit Arena