Here’s this week’s roundup of all the action from A-League week six by Gavin Bergin.
The team has not yet won a game this season, there have been widespread reports of in-fighting within the dressing room, and two of their players were openly arguing on the pitch after their latest defeat. How do they respond?
In the case of Brisbane Roar this week, they simply rolled up their sleeves and produced by far their best performance of the season in demolishing Newcastle Jets 4-0 at Hunter Stadium on Friday night.
In what has been an extremely disappointing season for last season’s champions, they finally found their feet at the sixth time of asking and showed the kind of form which has seen them become the standout team in the A-League over the past few years.
Brazilian striker Henrique was the star of the show as he bagged a hat-trick and set up the other goal for a Roar side that took their time to find their feet in what was a drab first half. Whatever coach Mike Mulvey said at halftime seemed to work as just three minutes into the second half, Henrique found the net for the second time this season, getting on the end of an excellent cross from Shane Stefanutto.
Newcastle have yet to win this season, and their lack of belief was clinically exposed by a soon-to-be rampant Roar. First up, Ben Kantarovski fouled Thomas Broich in the area to give Dimitri Petratos the chance to double the lead from the penalty spot, but the striker was guilty of a poor penalty, which Jets’ ‘keeper Mark Birighitti saved.
The reprieve was only temporary for the Jets as Steve Lustica played a one-two with Henrique and finished superbly on the 66 minute mark.
The Roar could smell blood and went in for the kill, with Henrique picking up the ball on the left flank before cutting inside, skipping past Taylor Regan, and firing a superb shot into the far corner of Birighitti’s goal on 72 minutes.
The Brazilian then completed his hat-trick with just two minutes of the match remaining, again cutting in from the left and firing into the far corner, albeit from closer range than his previous strike. What made it all the more impressive was that he had only come onto the field as a 36th minute replacement for the injured Jean Carlos Solorzano.
It capped an excellent second half not just for the man himself, but for the Roar as a whole. This could well be the match that kick starts the Roar’s season, the only caveat being how poor the Jets were. Phil Stubbins was scathing in his assessment of his players efforts after the match, questioning their effort (or lack thereof) and mentality.
It’s now eleven games since the Jets last won an A-League game, and Stubbins will soon come under pressure if he can’t get his team performing to a competitive level on the pitch. They travel to winless Western Sydney Wanderers next week, and it’s hard to see the Wanderers not doing what Brisbane did in picking up their first win of the season against the Jets. Tough times indeed for Jets fans.
Adelaide United temporarily moved to the top of the table following their last minute victory over a dogged Wellington Phoenix at a rain-soaked Hindmarsh Stadium on Saturday.
The Phoenix once again put in a performance that suggested they will cause problems for every team in the league, as they took an early lead through Roli Bonevacia. A fantastic counter attacking goal which started with their ‘keeper Glen Moss denying Pablo Sanchez from close range, before the lightning-fast Roy Krishna raced up the pitch and found Bonevacia on the edge of the area for the Dutchman to finish emphatically into the roof of the net.
The Reds were stung into action and went close on a number of occasions as Marcelo Carrusca, Awer Mabil and Craig Goodwin all went close in the period following the goal, but could not find a way past Moss. It was left to centre-back Nigel Boogaard to make the breakthrough as he powered home a header from Craig Goodwin’s excellent corner.
It was a preview of things to come as Josep Gombau’s men showed repeatedly throughout the game that they can be just as effective from set-pieces as they are with possession football. Time and again Craig Goodwin’s set-piece deliveries caused havoc in the Phoenix area, and just when it looked like the men from across the Tasman had held out, it was another set piece which outdid their defence.
For those who watched Barcelona during the Pep Guardiola era, you will have noticed his penchant for sending Gerard Pique forward when his side were desperate for a goal. Gombau revealed after the game that his decision to place Dylan McGowan (a defender by trade) up front in the second half was borne out of his time at Barcelona, as his team were lacking a target up front with Bruce Djite out injured.
It was to prove an inspired decision as McGowan was to set up Cirio to score the winner with just seconds left on the clock, the defender-cum-striker nodding Goodwin’s freekick down to the Spaniard who got a toe to the ball to divert it into the roof of the net.
It sparked wild celebrations among the Adelaide faithful, with Gombau himself sprinting onto the pitch to join in the celebrations with his players in the far corner. Perhaps only topped off by some of the co-commentary that Ned Zelic produced during the match, as one will hear in the video highlights. “Individual Whip” used to describe a Goodwin set-piece being one of many highlights.
Syndey FC and Melbourne Victory have had a storied history since the inception of the A-league, and the latest chapter on Saturday night did not disappoint despite it finishing as a goalless draw.
The “Big Blue” as this rivalry is known, got off to a hectic start as Victory started brightly and will still be wondering now how they didn’t score in the opening 45 minutes. Undoubtedly the worst offender on the night was the vastly experienced Fahid Ben Kalfallah, who should have scored at least twice in the first half.
With just four minutes on the clock, Kalfallah managed to pounce on a mistake by Sasa Ognenovski and found himself with a clear run on goal with only Sydney ‘keeper Vedran Janjetovic to beat. Kalfallah never looked confident and having glanced around as he closed in on the goal, he noticed his teammate Besart Berisha running alongside him and decided to pass the ball to the Albanian who placed it beyond Janjetovic.
The only problem being that Berisha had run beyond Kalfallah and was in an offside position, which saw the goal ruled out. It would be comical if it wasn’t a display of such cowardice on behalf of Kalfallah and such naivety on behalf of Berisha, both experienced players who should know better than to mess up on such a massive scale.
Almost immediately, Sydney went up the other end and Ognenovski himself had the ball in the net only for his effort to be correctly ruled out for offside. Victory then found themselves with a number of opportunities to take the lead, but were either denied by some excellent Janjetovic saves or let down by some poor finishing on several occasions.
If anything this game once again displayed the strength in depth that Victory possess, as they had the better of one of their main rivals despite having a host of players missing due to international call-ups. Despite this, Sydney skipper Alex Brosque squandered one of the best chances of the match just before halftime, as he somehow fired over the bar having been put through by Milos Dimitrijevic.
All square at the break, and it was Dimitrijevic who went closest to breaking the deadlock in the second half as his 56th minute freekick clipped the top of the crossbar. Shane Smeltz made his first start of the season for Sydney and he had a chance to make himself the hero in the 58th minute, but he headed straight at Nathan Coe in the Victory goal. A chance that you would expect the Kiwi to score given his record in the A-League, and one which Graham Arnold’s side were ultimately ruing come the final whistle, as the remainder of the second half saw both defences on top.
Perth Glory regained top spot from Adelaide United, as they defeated a much changed Western Sydney Wanderers at NIB stadium on Saturday night. Glory are fast becoming the freekick specialists as they scored direct from one for the third time in a week. It was Scott Jamieson who took the plaudits this time around as his wonderful 77th minute set-piece flew beyond Dean Bouzanis in the Wanderers goal. That gave Glory a 2-0 lead which was to prove decisive, after Dino Djulbic had headed them in front in the 9th minute.
Tony Popovic had decided to leave most of his normal first XI either back in Sydney or on the bench, no doubt feeling a break might be what they need following the exploits of the Asian Champions League in recent weeks. His much changed side did pull a goal back through Jaushua Sotirio in the 85th minute but it proved to be mere consolation for the Wanderers. They can now look forward to four home games on the bounce as they look to pick up a first win of the season and move off the bottom of the table, a somewhat false position for them all things considered.
The final game of the weekend saw Melbourne City, fresh from an excellent win at Brisbane Roar last week, face off against a somewhat struggling Central Coast Mariners side. In what was a hugely entertaining game, it was the home side who took the lead as a wonderful cross from Ian Ramsay was dispatched by a brilliant Mate Dugandzic diving header in the 10th minute. The much maligned striker has now chipped in with two goals and an assist in the past two games, and he has begun to reward the faith shown in him by his manager John Van’t Schip.
City dominated for the first hour of the game and should really have put more daylight between the two teams, wasting several good chances. The only other chance they did take came in the 53rd minute as Erik Paartalu headed home from a Damien Duff corner to double City’s lead. Duff was excellent once again in this game, his clever use of possession, excellent delivery, and non-stop running a joy to watch. Ultimately though City were left to rue the host of missed chances they had in the game, as the Mariners hit back with a wonderful Glen Trifiro free-kick in the 79th minute halving the deficit.
This was the catalyst that the Mariners needed and suddenly the flow of the match had changed in their favour, as they piled on the pressure looking for an equalizer. It was to arrive with jut seconds to spare, a captains goal from John Hutchinson as he fired into the bottom corner from the edge of the area. Heartbreak for City, who had dominated the game but were given a lesson in the dangers of not taking your chances when on top.
Gavin Bergin, Pundit Arena