Almanac Soccer – A-League 1,000: The Homes Edition


1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on round three of the A-League which starts in Melbourne and finishes on Sunday at what will be a new A-League venue – Spotless Stadium in the Sydney Olympic Park precinct.

Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships v Perth Glory, Friday – AAMI Park
After a dominant derby win which saw Tim Cahill get the headlines the Socceroo is at home for the first time this season as John van’t Schip’s team face an unbeaten, but not impressive to date, Perth. Johnathan Howcroft outlined in The Guardian how influential Neil Kilkenny is to the light blue midfield and Perth will need to improve on their last two games to dominate the midfield. Perth will need to shore up their defence but the absence of Shane Lowry could make things tricky here for Kenny Lowe’s side.

Big game for: Goals. The hosts scored nine times against Perth last season in their three fixtures (1W 1D 1L) with Bruno Fornaroli netting on four occasions so action seems assured here which is good for both teams’ first free-to-air contest of the season.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Missing Adam Taggart (who will again be absent this weekend) saw Perth need some theatrics to set up goals in their win over Wellington. But do they get those calls away from home?

Central Coast Mariners v Brisbane Roar, Saturday – Central Coast Stadium
Perhaps Canberra Olympic coach Frank Cachia helped to console the Mariners’ mentor Paul Okon after both sides played well but didn’t get handball calls go their way in the last week against Sydney FC. Off the pitch, and after they were humbled by the Jets, Brisbane didn’t add to their squad before deadline day, leaving them with two vacant visa spots and no wins to start to season. On the pitch their defence was undone by clever interplay in the Jets midfield on multiple occasions but given the Mariners were humbled by Sydney FC facing John Aloisi’s side is, at least for them, perhaps not the worst opponent to play this weekend.

Big game for: The Mariners starting eleven getting to the second half. Be it tactical or injuries having to make changes at the break in consecutive games isn’t helpful for team cohesion.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Corey Brown will want to improve after he was exposed at times, especially for the first Jets goal on Sunday. Once Connor O’Toole returns from the AFC Under 19 Championship (aka Under 20 World Cup qualifying tournament) Brown, himself a youth international could be on the outer.

Adelaide United v Melbourne Victory, Saturday – Beer Sauce Burger Stadium
Both the last two grand finals winners are seeking their first triumph of the season and Adelaide stay home after a highly-charged defeat at the hands of the Wanderers. Guillermo Amor’s team have had all week to stew after Friday night’s defeat and given the game is played between the ears (anywhere between 50 and 90% depending who you talk to) they are either living certainties or will be vanquished before they walk out at Hindmarsh. Kevin Muscat’s team had little to write home about from the Derby bar Marco Rojas’ return.

Big game for: Trusting what they can do. Even though Adelaide are yet to win they have scored in each game so that’s a start.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: A rejuvenated recruit. The Victory added the only significant signing on A-League deadline day on Wednesday with former Bundesliga winger Maxi Beister joining their ranks (but the 26 year-old is unlikely to feature here.) Hampered by injuries in his career the attacker’s signature could be a huge coup for the Victory.

Wellington Phoenix v Sydney FC, Sunday – Westpac Stadium
Sydney FC failed to beat Wellington at all last season (1L 2D) so the Phoenix have something to look to the recent past which shows they are a chance here despite Sydney’s goal-scoring feats on the last fortnight. However Wellington must bury their chances. Defender Marco Rossi, strikers Roy Krishna and Kosta Barbarouses should have done better with chances in Perth and similar profligacy will be punished by Graham Arnold’s side. Arnold would have noted the fouls Wellington conceded, even if some were unwarranted, against the Glory and would have alerted the likes of Brandon O’Neill to this.

Big game for: Goal-scoring expectations. Sydney’s eight goals to open the season is an A-League record but let’s remember who they were playing. Sydney have scored 13 goals now against CCM in their last four games so the four goals is only just above average.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Gui Finkler getting a free kick on target. After driving some over the bar or into the wall the former Victory man needs more pinpoint accuracy in his shots from the dead ball situation.

Western Sydney Wanderers v Newcastle Jets, Sunday – Spotless Stadium
At what will be their primary foster home for the next few years the Wanderers host the Jets, who despite injuries and pre-season turmoil, have been a delight to watch in the opening two rounds. Aside from 20 minutes in Adelaide the Wanderers have failed to look like the side from last season’s grand final. Tony Popovic is set to hand the captaincy to Dimas Delgado with the Spaniard taking over from the departed Nikolai Topor-Stanley.

Big game for: Game two of Labinot Haliti’s return. A sliver of time off the bench against Brisbane was one of the many positives for the Novocastrians as Haliti returned from an ACL injury and with attacking depth coach Mark Jones has many positives no matter the result here.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Some humility. Brendan Santalab knew he had done the wrong thing when he collected James Holland on Friday night and not getting sent off. The Wanderers forward went on to the pivotal role in the come-back win and afterwards simply apologised to Holland for his rash challenge. All of that happened except the last part, instead of apologising Santalab gave it the ‘that’s football’. His fellow professional deserved more.

The betting bit – One serious one not
Not trusting our eyes are seeing Newcastle in round one cost us when we discarded them for an as yet unproven Wellington (at least this season). Important lesson (re) learned if a side plays well and doesn’t win if they are at home next week trust that. Adelaide did well last week at home and get the nod here ($2.35) into a ‘new home’ tifo on Sunday evening at ‘temporary Wanderland.’

Record: 0/2
Profit: -20 (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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