A-League 1,000: The Harry Edition


1,000-ish words, thoughts, and musings on Round 25 of the A-League which is sandwiched between two Socceroo fixtures – Thursday night’s seven-goal routing of Tajikistan and Tuesday night’s game in Sydney with Harry Redknapp in the Jordan dugout.

Melbourne Victory v Western Sydney Wanderers, Friday – AAMI Park

Draws for both sides last weekend but it’s the Wanderers who must surely go in with more confidence here after having 16 attempts on goal but Adelaide somehow held them out. Tony Popovic’s side will be the much more settled line-up and the chance to kick four points clear at the top to start the weekend makes for an enticing game. Melbourne seem to be lurching to the end of the domestic season and Kevin Muscat has had the week to reinvigorate his side for this contest. However, the continued absence of defender Nick Ansell won’t help. Jason Geria is also with the Socceroos squad.

Big game for: On Thursday it was confirmed Gui Finkler would be joining Victory attacker Kosta Barbarouses at Wellington next season but it was Besart Berisha who luckily saved Melbourne’s blushes against ten-man Newcastle last weekend. How many A-League goals does he have left this season?

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Tactics here. If it’s 0-0 into the second half does Brendon Santalab get a run earlier in this game. He got 15 minutes last weekend. Even Super-subs sometimes need time for a goal, or two.

Newcastle Jets v Perth Glory, Saturday – Hunter Stadium

Perth have stayed on the Australian east coast this week, or at least some of their team have, instead of traveling back to WA from Wellington after their 2-1 win. When these sides met earlier this month with goals to arguably Perth’s two key attackers, Andy Keogh and Gyorgy Sandor, the Glory won comfortably and they have won eight of their last nine games. Daniel Mullen is suspended for the second time month so Newcastle will need to re-jig their defence whilst Perth get Nebojsa Marinkovic back from suspension.

Big game for: It’s a shame for Jets coach Scott Miller that he must be concerned with constantly making defensive reshuffles (as outlined last week) when he is trying to conjure changes further up the park. Last weekend’s bold move was leaving Milos Trifunovic to start off the bench. Will it happen again here?

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit:  Jess Vanstrattan, once of Juventus in Serie A, will be looking forward to seeing the game from a different angle after copping a touchline ban. The Newcastle goalkeeping coach was sanctioned after he took umbrage following Daniel Mullen’s bookings. The ban was correct but some A-League coaches say far worse constantly during games, and it’s also picked up by microphones.

Brisbane Roar v Sydney FC, Saturday – Suncorp Stadium

Both sides had most of the weekend to stew over not picking up full points in Round 24 with Sydney the most shirty after they let the Mariners steal a point in Gosford. In the wake of suspension to Jack Hingert and still awaiting other injury returnees Brisbane could see veteran pair Jade North and Shane Stefanutto anchor the defence against the oft misfiring Sydney attack after the Roar were beaten 3-1 in Melbourne. Sydney coach has Milos Ninkovic available again.

Big game for: Sydney’s scramble back up the ladder could gain impetuous if one, or both, of Victory and Perth fall earlier in the round. Otherwise a six-point gap could be a big psychological concern heading into this game.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Often in this column we note how it’s important to not overreact to big wins, or big defeats, and this proved the case when Brisbane came crashing down to earth in Melbourne when they were grabbed in the straight. Goalkeeper Jamie Young and right back Corey Brown kept their spots in an unchanged starting line-up which was hard to argue with but Socceroo Tommy Oar was only unleashed with five minutes to go – which seemed odd given the hype around his possible use.

Adelaide United v Central Coast Mariners, Sunday – Beer Sauce Burger Stadium 

In what looks set to be Luis Garcia’s last game outside of New South Wales in the A-League the Mariners are aiming to pick up their first points away from Gosford since Round 14 in Geelong whilst Guillermo Amor’s side will be banking on a home win and three other results going their way to finish the weekend in first place. Tony Walmsley’s side can play to four spoiler with Mitch Austin also back from suspension.

Big game for: It’s never a good time to play a side that has won eight more games than you but Adelaide’s recent injury dramas and perhaps second guessing on attack after they have Bruce Kamau booked for diving last weekend could throw some doubt in the home side’s mind.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Adelaide lacked options in attack without Marcelo Carrusca and, to a lesser extent, Pablo Sanchez but they did unveil some of their young prospects with former Under 17 Joeys representatives Riley McGree and Mark Ochieng making their A-League bows on Saturday. Both Carrusca and Sanchez should feature this weekend though.

Melbourne City v Wellington Phoenix, Sunday – AAMI Park

Wellington go in search of their eighth triumph this term, and a hope to rise to eighth spot when they meet Melbourne for the fourth time across the FFA Cup and the A-League this season. The aggregate score is 9-4 with two wins to the second Victorian franchise and one to the Nix. The defeat in Wellington last month was perhaps one of the most frustrating for John Van’t Schip’s side with a windy day and an early Wellington push enough to see the home side across the line on that occasion.

Big game for: Just when Melbourne’s light blues had improved defensively allowing only one goal in their last three games they lose Alex Wilkinson to international duty against a side that has scored four goals in their last two games.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: With 27 attempts on goal, and playing against 10 men for 36 minutes, it wasn’t a surprise the home side got up on Friday in Round 24 but John van’t Schip’s side might be worried it took them until nine minutes from time to grab the lead. When the light blues had a penalty attempt denied and then Michael Zullo headed over in quick succession around the half hour mark it looked as if maybe Brisbane had some hope but Melbourne’s one substitute Anthony Caceres was crucial and will play a big role in the absence of Aaron Mooy.

The betting bit – One serious one not:

With three rounds left in the regular season this is no time to get cute. Adelaide, even with key players back for the visiting side, to win $1.30 into comedy ’Wellington Victory’ banners on Friday and Monday night in the Victorian capital.

Record: 14/24

Profit: 47.55 (ten units per investment)



About Hamish Neal

Born in Lower Hutt New Zealand Hamish is forever wedded to all things All Black, All Whites, Tall Blacks and more. Writing more nowadays in his 'spare time' (what is that anyway?) but still with a passion for broadcasting. Has worked in various sports development roles in England, Northern Ireland and Australia.

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