A-League 1,000: The Holiday Edition


1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on Round 12 of the A-League which runs from Friday until Wednesday next week with only Christmas Day not featuring a game in that period.

Brisbane Roar v Western Sydney Wanderers, Friday – Suncorp Stadium
These two sides drew last month in Sydney in a fixture which saw Jumpei Kusukami score in the second stanza to cancel out Jamie Maclaren’s first half penalty for the Roar. John Aloisi’s side are unbeaten in nine games but, interestingly, have scored as many goals (15) as the seventh-placed Wanderers this season. Tony Popovic’s side will rue not going 3-1 up in Auckland after Wellington ‘keeper Glen Moss saved the penalty attempt from Dimas but it was again a game in which the red and blacks were caught out but letting an opposition side make too much ground wide on the counter-attack.

Big game for: Scoring first. For all the frustrations of not turning draws into wins the Wanderers now have the longest active streak in the A-League (19 games) when they score first that they go on to not lose the game. Melbourne City at 22 games held the record until their Derby defeat.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: More from Thomas Broich – the renaissance. The Brisbane veteran produced a pinpoint cross for Brisbane’s second goal as they won in Gosford on Sunday.

Newcastle Jets v Wellington Phoenix, Monday – McDonald Jones Stadium
The Phoenix beat the Jets in Wellington last month courtesy of two goals from Roy Krishna but the Jets, under the stewardship of Scott Miller, beat Wellington twice in Newcastle last season. Significantly in the second of those games Morten Nordstrand, who netted the winner on Friday night, scored twice so he likes playing the Phoenix and is in form. However for Wellington having Gui Finkler playing in role which allows him to drift wider if he sees fit seems to have benefitted them in recent weeks since Ernie Merrick left the club.

Big game for: Hamish Watson. The former Hawke’s Bay United forward would have been happy with his starting spot last weekend but less so when it was announced Shane Smeltz, a Johnny Warren Medal winner, was returning to the club. Watson has two more games until Smeltz is eligible to play to prove he deserves to retain his starting spot.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Recruitment business. Since the Jets didn’t land Smeltz and Mark Bridge appears out of their price-range where do the Jets go in recruiting another forward?

Adelaide United v Sydney FC, Monday – Beer Sauce Burger Stadium
In Sydney last month Graham Arnold’s side and Adelaide played out a 0-0 draw before the Reds won their subsequent game only to then concede six goals in losing their next two matches. In the three games the Sky Blues have played since that encounter they have won twice and picked up a draw scoring seven goals in the process. Barring the entry of Nikola Mileusinic in stoppage time it would seem Guillermo Amor has lost some faith in his substitutes with only Ryan Kitto given any major time when he came on with 12 minutes to go. I guess you can’t blame he after he used two subs (Cirio and Kitto) the week prior in a game they got thrashed 4-0 in.

Big game for: Paying attention. Amor will be unhappy his side lacked the will or wherewithal to defend the late fast breaks from the Jets which cost them the game in Newcastle. Losing the ball on attack and persistent attempts at a high offside line did not work in the end.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Continuing to see sensible off-field management. With Arnold having inked an extended deal to stay as coach of the inaugural A-League winners it seems odd that, for the first time ever, a Sydney FC coach is secure in their job in the A-League. Only took the harbour city franchise 12 seasons to get to this position.

Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships v Perth Glory, Tuesday – AAMI Park
In the Melbourne Derby Tim Cahill scored a goal but courted controversy the following day when he revealed he breached integrity regulations. Given his skipper Bruno Fornaroli swore when getting a trophy recently it’s another ‘please explain’ from FFA HQ for the City Football Group-owned club. Plenty for Perth hinges on how much Diego Castro plays but Kenny Lowe’s team will not be happy with drama around Rhys Williams’ future at the club during the week. However they did win a great contest 3-2 between the two sides in round three.

Big game for: Goal droughts. As pointed out by Greg Prichard on The World Game website Bruno Fornaroli with no goals from open play in six weeks is officially on a goal-scoring drought

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: The level of irony in AAMI Park hosting the W-League’s TV match of the round this weekend after this in Gosford for Canberra United’s players is high. Clubs can’t be held accountable for this. The FFA shouldn’t schedule games at facilities which can’t match the standard for the men’s games (ie. more than two dressing rooms.) I’m not sure what is worse. Sub-standard ‘changing rooms’ or 2:30pm kick-offs in summer.

Melbourne Victory v Central Coast Mariners, Wednesday – AAMI Park
The ‘Kings of Melbourne’ after they won the Derby face a side they beat 2-0 last time they played so go in heavy favourites. Mitch Austin was a Mariner the last time these sides met in Victoria and he played a key role in a thrilling 3-3 encounter in Geelong before switching to the Victory in the off-season in a move which saw Connor Pain go the other way. Second-placed Melbourne are 11 points above Paul Okon’s side and Besart Berisha likes at scoring this time of year.

Big game for: Momentum, or stemming the tide. The Mariners start a horror draw which sees them play the top three teams between now and January 8 with only one of those games at home.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Seeing the proper records. I thought split A-League records which fail to mention National Soccer League marks were a thing of the past? Thank goodness for people like Andy Howe who provide us with the proper records including this corker comparing Besart Berisha’s run to 90 goals with some of the NSL’s top goal-scorers.

The betting bit – One serious one not
After two defeats in Newcastle recently and with the home side playing well Wellington ($3.00) are rightly outsiders but with competition for spots now on for the visitor’s with a new recruit and players coming back from injuries it’s the Phoenix here.

Record: 3/11
Profit: -$57.30 (ten units per investment)

This preview first appeared on From the sideline of sport

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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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