The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of the A-League Grand Final

THE GOOD

To the Victory go the spoils! Melbourne Victory now have their third A-League title and did it in emphatic fashion against Sydney FC in one of the most one-sided finals seen over the 10 year journey of the league. Desperate for revenge for their 2010 defeat Victory had done their research and along with meticulous planning nullified any dangers Sydney FC had with the dangerous Marc Janko restricted to one header and Alex Brosque as well as the in-form Bernie Ibini making a cameo appearances at best. Normally in a game such as this and a sport with low scoring it takes big moments to win games. With Victory though it was also all about the small moments like the pressure applied to Sydney’s stars, that desperate lunge in a tackle or little pass that was just right from every player. There were no passengers in that Victory squad on Sunday.

Victory captain Mark Milligan, an original Sydney FC player, capped off a remarkable 12 months with a man of the match performance that earned him the Joe Marston Medal that complemented his star performance in the Asian Cup Final at the end of January. It was thanks to his stellar effort in the midfield where he managed to completely shadow Brosque and keep the important pairing of Dimitrijevic and Taveres very honest and unable to exert their usual influence which normally flows down to the rest of the team that earned Milligan the praise. A fantastic leader of this team and now a champion after missing out on the Sydney FC title in 2006 because of injury.

Speaking of leaders, Kevin Muscat now has to be respected and even admired as a coach. Many had their doubts when he was thrown in to the job after Ange Postecoglou’s shift to the Socceroos post with many still seeing him as a Neanderthal like hack from his playing days (me included). Yet his ability to sign the right players and bring the best out of some players deemed perhaps not worthy of a side the size of Victory reaped benefits. His ability to not rise to Graham Arnold’s bait (see bad) was also a sign of the maturity of Victory’s favourite son. The joy seen after the game showed his genuine love for this club and the boys he coaches was the sign of a man who had matured and found a new level that has left his shady past as player behind perhaps. He is the first player in the league to win as a player and a coach too which was something that Postecoglou did with South Melbourne in the NSL days.

While Archie’s sub near full time was more ceremonial than anything he now has a third winner’s medal being the only Victory player to be part of all three title winning sides. Hopefully this isn’t the end for Archie in Victory colours but it would be a fitting way to go out. Special praise must also be given to Leigh Broxham. The combative 27 year old has had a lot of critics over his time in the league but his utility role has been vital for the club this season as they dealt with long term injuries in the midfield and especially at the back which saw Broxham called upon to plug massive gaps. It was a nice touch for him to score the third goal was a wonderful counter strike that beat the Sydney keeper at his near post. Title number two for Broxham.

There’s also a heap of others to mention from the side that are fantastic stories. There’s the young keeper Lawrence Thomas who never put a foot (or glove) wrong in the few times he was required to step up. There’s Nick Ansell who along with Mattieu Delpierre overcame his injury concerns during the season and became a rock at the back which saw former captain Adrian Leijer move overseas for more game time. There’s also the Tunisian winger Fahid Ben Kaffalah who wasn’t quite at his dominating best in the Grand Final but was clearly the signing of the season and course there’s Besart Berisha who opened the scoring with a wonderfully skillful goal and now has title number three. Berisha’s season wasn’t the most prolific but he was a fantastic link in an impressive chain. The same can be said of the young Kiwi Kosta Barborouses who scored the second goal after a horrible clearance by the Sydney defender Petkovic and improved with his finishing as the season went on.

Away from the Grand Final it was great to see Nathan Burns win the Johnny Warren Medal last week. I’ve gone on enough times during the season about how he has rediscovered his mojo since moving to Phoenix that resulted in his return to the Socceroos and an Asian Cup title. While he could fit in to any of the major clubs let us hope that he keeps the faith Ernie Merrick and Phoenix and finishes what he started.

THE BAD

There was a winner of the Grand Final so there had to be a loser. To be frank, Sydney FC just didn’t show up. A lot of it was down to Victory’s fantastic tactics but the visitors didn’t rise above the physical tackles (and elbows if you’re Albanian), the intimidating atmosphere and deer in the headlights opening. They only had some 24% possession in the first part of the game showing Victory were on to them from the start with only two chances coming during the 90 minutes. One was from Brosque who shot straight at the keeper right on half time. Then with the clock ticking on the second half Janko had a free header but like Brosque hit it straight to the keeper.

” I won’t give Victory one day of credit for winning the competition. If we didn’t have four season ending injuries in Nov/Dec we would have won the league by 10 points.”

Graham Arnold.

As you can see above Arnold talked the talk all week reveling in his smash and grab style trying to antagonize his good friend and opposite number Muscat. Yet he was left nullified when his usual playmaker Taveres couldn’t control the midfield with their player of the season Dimitrijevic either unfit or completely overawed by the occasion which was very surprising and equally disappointing. Add to that there was the injury to the Senegalese defender Faty in the first half which meant a reshuffle and Sydney were up against it. Arnold was forced to show his hand early subbing on Shane Smeltz but the Kiwi couldn’t get in to the game despite his amazing record against the Victory and had his second runner up medal in a domestic Grand Final.

Along with the limp performance they couldn’t even sell out their allocation of tickets to the game (which had to be given back to the FFA) which was embarassing for a club that sees itself as the premier club of the competition next to Melbourne Victory. Saying all of this though they do seem to have finally some stability under the current CEO and coach and will be again next season.

Something is going on at Brisbane Roar and it can’t be for the best. With the Director of Football and Managing Director both leaving rumours abound of financial problems and the possibility of the FFA taking the licence off the owners Bakrie Group. This would add to the issues currently going on at almost half the other clubs in the league. The FFA have a lot of work to do in the offseason to sure up some clubs at risk and keep it all intact.

THE UGLY

While footage of Victory fans marching to the ground dressed with balaclavas and acting hard made them look like they should be on one of the sides during Northern Ireland’s ‘Troubles’ the general soccer/football-loving public that attended the game shouldn’t be tarred with the same brush by the usual suspects in the media. The tweet sent out by Channel 7 Melbourne on Monday (as above) asking viewers if they had seen any trouble before, during or after the game was something from a bygone era, patronising and completely unnecessary. While this attitude from the mainstream media was in abundance and some would say justified in the dark days of the end of the NSL and Soccer Australia it’s completely unecessary and draconian these days. Thankfully Victorian police reported no incidents on the day and many on twitter decided to take the piss with their responses to the Channel 7 tweet. Remember Channel 7 is being considered as the replacement of SBS for free to air coverage in coming years. The FFA should remember who tried burying the sport in the early 2000s.

In a major moment of ‘I can’t believe what I just saw’ Frank Lowy’s tumble off the presentation dias was thankfully not too serious in the end. The 84 year old lost his footing and fell off the platform when preparing to hand the team the A-League trophy. This of course was live on television with the Fox Sports producer quick enough to scan around the crowd with meaingless camera angles while Lowy was tended to as the celebrating crowd, the player and officials were in shock. It was pretty much the same tactic used when there is a streaker at a sporting event. Thankfully Lowy managed to get to his feet complete with a green grass stain streak through his grey hair to hand the trophy over to Milligan and the team. Tragedy averted but the youtube footage and graphic photos will last an age with the seriousness of the situation probably lost in meme’s and photoshopped images.

 

About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM Presenter. Glory Guerrillas Producer and Co-Host. Contributer to Football Nation Radio and Football West. Worships at the feet of the mighty Cats, Socceroos, Matildas, West Perth, Glory and Glasgow's Green and White most of the time.

Comments

  1. Thanks for the season’s summations. Always appreciated. Victory deserved their win. When Coe went down in NZ I was concerned but the defenders protected Thomas. Muscat’s a tool but has the silverware…much like Berisha. Great stadium created a terrific atmosphere. Soccer must now push on…get rid of the teenagers who reckon they’re tough as stalking mobs (saw a few at Hindmarsh in Dec) and encourage a celebration of the World Game. A-League is Div2 but still terrific- good coverage and viable trampoline for Aussie youngsters to Europe, another opp for oversears players looking to find a niche and a nice standard for good ex-Socceroos willing to commit for a couple of final seasons at home.

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