A-League 1,000: The Olyroos Edition


1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on Round 14 of the A-League which starts in Geelong and finishes in Wellington but will be missing a host of Olyroo representatives.


Central Coast Mariners v Melbourne Victory, Friday – Central Coast Stadium 

After a controversial win, the Mariners will look to continue their resurgence but they will do so without Roy O’Donovan after the head-butt enthusiast got an eight-game ban for his ‘lean in’ on Manny Muscat after the Wellington defender flung a forearm at him and is now missing two weeks himself. With Anthony Caceres and Nick Fitzgerald looking to have played their last games for the Mariners, how the team continue to improve with new combinations will be key to how Tony Walmsley’s side go in Victoria. Jake McGing performed well in his defensive midfield role last Thursday, and he will be key in stopping any Victory raids. Melbourne are also facing plenty of team changes with five players called up for the Olyroos’ Rio 2016 Qualifying tournament, two of which (Jason Geria and Thomas Deng) started in the 1-0 triumph over Newcastle last weekend, but Gui Finkler is expected to return. Kevin Muscat must get more out of his wingers who have been disappointing in recent weeks.


Big game for: The Mariners key wingers. Fabio Ferreira and Mitch Austin caused problems for Wellington last time out, and the influence they have or otherwise against the Victory will go along way to seeing if they can go two from two.


The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Seeing what happens in the coming weeks with Caceres and Fitzgerald. The higher profile duo of the Mariners’ quintet banished to train on their own last week would be handy pick-ups for other sides but maybe not immediate starters. The ostracisation of Anthony Kalik is a worry for a player who was much heralded when signed as a 15 year-old to a three-year deal in August of 2013.


Sydney FC v Newcastle, Saturday – ANZ Stadium

Newcastle take their goalless run to Sydney Olympic Park after seeing Melbourne edge them at Hunter Stadium, when Fahid Ben Khalfallah netted with 19 minutes to go. Scott Miller has cash to spend in the transfer window and has an import spot free now, but who he can attract to a side on a winless run like the Jets are is problematic. Sydney should probably have been ahead by a few and not down 1-0 at the break against Melbourne City after spurning a host of chances. However, Graham Arnold will be annoyed they didn’t get all three points after Shane Smeltz missed late on. As we noted last week, the Kiwi international needs goals if he wants more game time soon and he has the perfect chance over the coming weeks with Alex Brosque to miss more time. One player set to come back into the Sydney team is Ali Abbas. The Iraqi international will likely replace Alex Gersbach who, along-with Andrew Hoole and Brandon O’Neill, will be in Qatar with the Olyroos.


Big game for: David Carney. The former Sydney player is back for the Jets and his ability to conjure something from an innocuous-looking run will be useful for the visitors here especially if Leonardo does return as planned.


The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: A decent crowd. In an odd decision, this game (along with a prior W-League fixture) is at ANZ Stadium for no real reason. In recent years, teams like the Wanderers have foregone the chance to use the venue for the continent’s biggest club game, but this oddly-placed Round 14 game is hardly a marquee fixture. Will these two teams meet at Magic Park next time?


Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships v Western Sydney Wanderers, Saturday – AAMI Park

Playmaker Aaron Mooy was a surprise absence against Sydney FC for John van’t Schip’s side, who also missed fellow Socceroos Ivan Franjic as well as Erik Paartalu, but they snuck away with a point in a game that whilst they did lead in, probably didn’t deserve to win. The Wanderers were held scoreless for the first time since Round 3 in one of those games that falls into the ‘how did that finish 0-0?’ category, after a rollocking affair on Friday night against Adelaide. This time last year, the Wanderers were starting to work through their fixture pile-up but in a complete reversal of fortunes they don’t even have players featuring for the Olyroos, so are one of the few clubs this weekend at full strength. Melbourne on the other hand will be missing one of their most improved players in Stefan Mauk who is away with the Olyroos.


Big game for: Andrew Redmayne. The former Melbourne Heart ‘keeper has been arguably the most improved A-League player this season. His commitment to stop Bruce Djite early in the game against Adelaide displayed a level of confidence we rarely saw from him at his three previous A-League clubs. He may need to pull off something similar here to help the visitors get some points here.


The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Returning from injury. In a surprise move, Michael Zullo was injected into the game against Sydney, while van’t Schip made early tactical changes which saw A-League rookie Ali Eyigun replaced by the Socceroo. One would expect Zullo to probably start this weekend.


Perth Glory v Adelaide United, Saturday – nib Stadium

Adelaide travel west after the exciting draw in Sydney against the Wanderers and have plenty of time to rest any niggles. The Reds could feel hard done by after missing out on a penalty shout last weekend in Parramatta, but they weren’t the only A-League side to have the call go the wrong way in the 18 yard-box in a rough round for the officials. Kenny Lowe’s side looked better at times, but still lack the ability to put together a strong 90 minutes, and Michael Thwaite has had to do a lot of work stopping opposition sides running through the middle. That said, Perth did have ten shots on target last weekend so it wasn’t all bad, and that was with only 30 per cent possession. Given striker Andy Keogh is set for his second coming in Perth this weekend after Guyon Fernandez got the chop if the Glory get ten chances in this game the Irishman might score two or three.


Big game for: Hagi Gligor. The goal-scorer who came on for a tired Thwaite showed a bit of spark and combined well with Diego Castro for his goal. Maybe he gets more than 20 minutes in the coming weeks.


The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Seeing how Perth respond down the flanks. Josh Risdon and Marc Warren didn’t make many forays forward last weekend in their 2-1 loss to Brisbane, and as a result their forwards were very compressed in attack limiting their chances.



Wellington Phoenix v Brisbane Roar, Sunday – Westpac Stadium

Back at home, but without marquee playmaker Roly Bonevacia amongst others, the Phoenix are in desperate need of a win. After another multiple-goal loss, the defence needs to be shored up for the locals, but the return of Albert Reira should help them going forward. However, Ernie Merrick is still missing Ben Sigmund and now has Muscat suspended. Wellington’s absences are somewhat offset by Brisbane missing Brandon Borello, James Donachie, and Jamie Maclaren on Olyroo duty, but their ‘was an import now an Aussie’ Henrique provides great impact and key Roar players like Thomas Broich and Corona are available, which could prove the difference here. Wellington will be fielding a very inexperienced line-up which isn’t ideal given their recent form.


Big game for: Anyone else except Roy Krishna up front. With the Fijian injured twice in recent weeks, first a finger then an ankle, the Phoenix will need the likes of Blake Powell and other fringe players to step up and fill the scoring void.


The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Seeing how long Henrique can play. The slippery fish struggles to go 90 minutes, but will John Aloisi start him here due to the lack of attackers and see how long the 30 year-old goes, or does he elevate Jean Carlos Solorzano in place of Borello and/or Maclaren?


The betting bit – One serious one not:

After going with Wellington we are going against them here. Brisbane cop the home side at a good time given their injuries and suspension. Even allowing for Brisbane’s missing Olyroos reps the $2.05 is appealing into a ‘Why does it always rain on me?’ banner at ANZ Stadium.


Record: 7/13


Profit: 21.95 units (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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