With the A-league Final on Saturday between Melbourne and Adelaide I thought I might have a go at a preview of the match.
There is a lot of history between these two teams. This will be the sixth finals match that two teams have played against each other. In fact in six finals appearances Melbourne has only ever faced Adelaide, a strange statistic.
It would be fair to say that Melbourne has had Adelaide’s measure this season. In the five meetings this season Melbourne has won every match and although some are saying Adelaide are due it is difficult seeing them completing a upset here.
Melbourne go into this match full of confidence, their 6-0 drubbing of Adelaide over the two legged semi-final has allowed them a week off to recharge the batteries and take care of any niggles that may have existed within the playing group. They go into the match as a team that know if they play to their potential Adelaide stand little chance of stopping them holding aloft the cup.
This is the team I would be expecting to start
No surprises here as Ernie settled on this formation in the latter half of the season. It has worked perfectly as Victory’s defence has gelled well, allowing only 4 goals in the last 7 home games. On attack the Victory at home have been almost unstoppable. Winning the last 7 and scoring an impressive 17 goals.
The attack has been much lauded in the media recently and no doubt Thompson, Allsopp and Hernandez deserve the pundits. Carlos Hernandez is clearly the best player in the League currently and his ability to provide the ball to his strike pair would prove a danger to any team. For Adelaide to have any chance on Saturday Paul Reid and Jonas Salley must close him down, if they allow him the space that he has enjoyed on previous occasions this again could turn into a rout.
Probably two decisions by Ernie Merrick have gone unsung in the recent praise of the Victory team. The first is the replacement of Michael Thwaite with Seb Ryall. Ryall has been outstanding since taking up the right back position. His confidence has belied his years and his influence has taken enough pressure off the central pairing that Muscat and Vargas now have effectively shut opposition strikers out of the game.
But the biggest unsung hero of Victory is Billy Celeski. His move to the Defensive Midfield has been a revelation. It is easy to forget that his has effectively pushed out two of Melbourne foreign players in Grant Brebner and Cost Rican international Pupy Lopez. His tackling and distribution from the back has been the major factor in the strength of Victory. Suddenly Hernandez is finding much more space. Pondeljak and Ward are getting forward with more confidence.
On the other side of the park, Adelaide has a lot to prove in this return visit to Telstra Dome. There can be no doubt that some mental scars must still be present from their last visit when Melbourne tore them to pieces in a 4-0 whitewash. It should be noted that it could easily have been even worse such was the terrible performance of the reds that night. Here is the line-up I would be expecting.
Salley’s performance last week and the fact that Vidmar must do something about the space that Hernandez was given last match makes this formation a foregone conclusion. Salley will be tasked with man marking Hernandez which should allow Reid to play a more positive role than he has on previous occasions against the premiers.
With this setup, Adelaide will be a tough nut to crack, I would be expecting them to play a little deeper than on previous occasions in an effort to avoid being caught out by the quick running Thompson and Allsopp. Victory are not known for their ability to score from crosses and if Adelaide can choke up the middle and defuse the Victory counter attack play they will go a long way to winning the match.
Of course to win they must score (unless it goes to penalties) and this has been Adelaide’s real issue. It took a wonder goal from Barbiero last week to get past Queensland and to be honest other than that awesome strike the reds looked again toothless up front.
Both Dodd and Pantelis have not brought the form they displayed early into the season into the finals and both have struggled to not only make an impact but have at times looked tired and uninterested. For Adelaide to win this match both of these players must place pressure on the Melbourne full backs. If Kemp and Ryall are allowed to push forward with ease Adelaide will be in trouble from the start.
In the end it is hard to go past Melbourne here. Pim Verbeek has handed Thompson and Allsopp some added motivation with his recent “hopeless” comments and with the form that Melbourne is in they should get enough chances to punish Adelaide.
Prediction 3-1 to the Victory
Saturday, February 28, 2009
With the A-league Final on Saturday between Melbourne and Adelaide I thought I might have a go at a preview of the match.
Posted by againstthecrossbar at 10:52 AM
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
If you are looking for a place for football betting.
Monday saw the Victorian Football Federation launch its Victorian Premier and Women’s Premier Leagues at the Young And Jackson Hotel. The night was a celebration of 125 years of Victorian football. It was on February 29, 1884 that a group of gentlemen meet to finalise arrangements for the forming of Carlton, South Melbourne, Richmond and Prahran and thus kick off club in Victoria.
This year a total of 12 teams will take part in the Victorian Premier League and a total of 9 will contest the Women’s Premier League. The men’s league first round will kick off this Friday night, with the Women’s season starts in early April.
This Friday at the Kevin Barlett Reserve, Richmond FC will take on the Whittlesea Zebras while over in the South East Suburbs, the Oakleigh Cannons will play host to Heidelberg United at Jack Edwards Reserve. Both games kick off at 8:30pm
The remaining matches of the round will take place on Sunday Afternoon/Evening
Hume City vs Altona Magic, Broadmeadows Valley Park, 4:00pm
Preston Lions vs Melbourne Knights, BT Connor Reserve, 5:00pm
Green Gully Cavaliers vs Sunshine Georgies, Green Gully Reserve, 5:00pm
South Melbourne vs Dandenong Thunder, Bob Jane Stadium, 6:00pm
This season is expected to be a tightly contested affair with Dandenong Thunder being quite active in the transfer market, while both Hume City and South Melbourne have signed ex A-league strikers, Isyan Erodgan and Vaughan Coveny, respectively.
Recent seasons have seen the Victorian Premier League gain a reputation as a jumping off point to a professional contract within the A-League and again this year we can expect to see many young players showcasing their talents in the hope of an A-league contract.
My prediction for the cup? It is hard to go past Green Gully. Although Altona managed to secure the premiership last year with a late season run of form there is no doubt that Gully where the standout team of 2008 and look set to be a strong contender again this season.
But whoever holds aloft the cup in early September, I am looking forward to the 6 months of local football. Bring on the Bratwurst Sausages and Souvlaki Rolls.
Posted by againstthecrossbar at 5:45 PM
Friday, February 20, 2009
The Melbourne Victory hierarchy face some hard decisions over the next few weeks. They must decide how much do they really think Carlos Hernandez is worth to the club. With his loan deal from Costa Rican club Liga Deportiva Alajuelense ending at the end of this season they must either negotiate a transfer for him, extend the loan deal or let him walk away.
Two years ago, after virtually winning the final off his own boot, Melbourne allowed Fred to walk away from the club and take up a contract with DC United in the American MLS. Can they afford to make the same mistake again.
I say mistake as the loss of Fred hurt the club badly. Although the club denies it, Fred was critical to the success of the 2006/07 season. He was the engine room of the midfield and the majority of the goals went through him. In the narrow system that Ernie Merrick favours he was the creativity outlet that provided the strikers with the ball to their feet that they needed. The loss of Fred was evident in the following season as the team struggled to find the fluency of the previous year as the newly loaned Hernandez struggled to find his feet in the league.
It has only been this year that the talent of Hernandez has shown through, it is no coincidence that he leads the league in providing through balls to his strikers, his vision and ability to hit his passes has no peer in the A-League. His work in close quarters and ability to hold the ball outstanding.
So why would Victory let him go? It will come down to money. It is from media reports Alajuelense want over $1 Million for his transfer and rumours are that there are other clubs in East Asia willing to part with it to obtained the Costa Rican’s services. Thankfully Carlos has indicated that he does want to stay at Melbourne which puts Victory in the box seat if they are willing to part with this amount of cash.
This kind of money would be a first for the A-League. The big question on supporters lips though is he worth it? In my opinion yes, empathically yes. However I am sure that the club’s decision will come down to whether financially they can take this step without placing undue stress on the bank balance.
Next year Melbourne we have their second shot at the Asian Champions League and need to prepare a team that can compete with the best from Japan, China and South Korea. A crucial aspect of that will be a team that can not only match these teams but win matches. To have to replace their key play maker could see a repeat of the 2007/08 season all over again and is something that Victory can ill afford.
A fully fit Carlos Hernandez will go a long way towards fulfilling that goal, without him I am not so sure we can find the back of the net consistently enough. So come on Gary Cole, Geoff Lord and co lets dust the cob webs off the wallet and ensure Melbourne has a fighting chance.
Posted by againstthecrossbar at 4:10 PM
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Not surprisingly the game last week didn’t live up to the hype that the media was building around it. If they didn’t know if before after last week all football fans will most certainly understand that Pim Verbeek is a extremely cautious manager. There was only one result that Pim was targeting last week and he achieved that with the 0-0 draw. It wasn’t pretty, especially in the second half when Japan ran rings around our midfield but it was effective.
With qualifying at the half way mark now it seems almost inconceivable that Australia could not finish in the top two of its group and book a place at South Africa. But in the bigger picture beyond even the qualification for SA 2010 are we satisfied with performance our team displayed.
As I was watching the game last though it struck me just how confident the Japanese midfielders were at moving the ball around and how they were able to apply constant pressure to the Aussies whenever they lost possession. Our team of Euro Aussies at times looked second rate against them. With the majority of their team coming from the J-league it really drives home the gap between our own domestic competition and theirs.
A little while ago I wrote about the introduction of the Asian Visa spot in the J-league and how this would result in J-league clubs raiding the A-league but this hasn’t occurred. To date not one J-league club has signed an Australian to their roster. Eddie Bosnar remains the sole Australian playing in the J-league first division and it looks likely to stay that way (for this season at least). This speaks volumes about the quality (or lack thereof) of the players in the A-League.
With most of the clubs going with South Korean players (a couple have picked up Chinese and North Korean players) there is no doubt that the J-League clubs see the K-League as a better option than the A-League and there is little evidence to argue against it. I think it is also interesting that not one Japanese player is currently playing in the A-League. If last night showed us anything it should be that the J-League could provide A-league clubs with talented midfielders (Even from their second division).
This year’s ACL will be a litmus test to the relative strengths of the four East Asian leagues. I think most supporters expect J-league clubs to finish top of each group but I have seen a lot of people talking up Newcastle and Central Coast’s chances of sneaking into second place. In my opinion if either team can progress out of the group stage they will have done a fantastic job.
With Adelaide United’s excellent and surprising run this year in the Asian Champions League a lot of Australian supporters seem to have an unrealistic idea of where the A-League stands in relation to the other leagues of East Asia. Both the Japan and Korea leagues are streets ahead of us. I put the Chinese league on par with us (and I am probably being generous).
Recent articles in the media seem to be suggesting the scrapping of the salary cap is immediately needed to halt the exodus of players to the higher paid Chinese and Korean leagues but is this really the answer. Are we in such a poor state that the talent pool here in Australia cannot handle the loss of 6-10 players to overseas clubs. The salaries of the players is not the key issue but the overall skill of our younger players coming through. We seem to be only producing 8-10 decent players per year, this needs to be transformed into 30-40.
The FFA has started the process of change. The SSG program will impart on our very youngest players a degree of ball control that has been lacking but we need to go a lot further than that. A complete culture change is needed in Australian and this type of change is the hardest to achieve. A move away from athleticism and towards creativity and skills is needed across all levels of our game. This is a change that will need years to achieve and will require a change in personnel at the highest levels of the game. Too many coaches of our youth (even at the elite level) are stuck in a mindset of win at all costs rather than development of the actual players.
But until such a change occurs I am afraid that we the supporters can only look forward to years of defensive strategies that we have witnessed recently at the Olympics and World Cup qualifiers.
Posted by againstthecrossbar at 9:54 PM