The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of the A-League Semi Finals

THE GOOD

– Melbourne Victory were the first side in to big one on the weekend and did it in spectacular fashion in front of a spectacular crowd. The 50,000 or so mainly Victory backing fans were salivating as the table topping side decimated a timid and unlucky (see ugly) City in the first half with the second goal a rather booming technical finish from Kosta Barbarouses. The 3-0 mauling was topped off with a goal from who else but Archie Thompson with cameos off the bench in his later years like a guest appearance from Bill Lawry or the late Richie Beanud on the channel 9 cricket commentary in recent years. I say that because Archie still had it, was a welcome bit of nostaglia for fans and could dictate his own terms.

It was a show of force from Muscat’s men with the side now firing on all cyclinders and primed for the business end of the season after slip ups (like most teams) during the season. One blessing in disguise may well be the injury to the sometimes mediocre at best keeper Nathan Coe a couple of weeks ago. His replacement, the 23 year old Lawrence Thomas, made a couple of wonderful saves during the game that perhaps Coe may not have got to going on some of his howlers this season. Considering they also had experienced journeyman Michael Turnbull to consider for selection in goal as well it seems they got it right trusting Thomas.

– Victory’s opponents will be the same team they faced in their last GF, Sydney FC. Graham Arnold will be in his third grand final in four seasons as a coach and is decicive as he is consistent. Sydney FC rode their luck in the first half at times against an as per usual wasteful Adelaide United but making chances count and spectacular finishing got them through. Like Victory this side seems to have also been trained like a race horse to peak just at the right time with 9 wins out of their last 11 games. Fringe Socceroo Bernie Ibini has also hit form at the right scoring in the past four games with not a dull goal and Alex Brosque has been seen as someone heading for the long yard of retirement but is still as important as ever with his back heel goal a major highlight.

– With both of these powerful wins on the weekend it shows the best two teams are in the big one. While some of us perhaps wanted an underdog such as Phoenix or United to make the final to have a bit of romance and interest this final sees the power broker sides with many intriguing subplots. Of course the last time both teams made the Grand Final was in 2010 with Sydney FC winning their second title at Etihad in a tense penalty shootout with Muscat missing a penalty. There’s the fact that Sydney FC haven’t lost a game away from home all season and the three draws between the sides during the year which included the two 3-3 draws that featured amatuer hour from the referee to further add spice. Then there’s the potential powderkeg of a Victory side featuring Besart Berisha and coached by Kevin Muscat. Berisha has managed to avoid a red card all season after being known for his batshit mental red mist just as much as his goalscoring at Brisbane Roar but now seems an almost zen like figure. Sydney FC aren’t a team full of angels either of course with Seb Ryall’s theatrical thuggery raising the ire of Victory fans last time they met and their Serbian midfielders a mix of sublime skill and blatant skullduggery.

It will hopefully be a final for the ages. Let’s hope the referee chosen Jarred Gillet doesn’t decide to make it about himself. If you do get angry at the man in the black on Sunday afternoon just remember that for his day job he teaches kids with cerebral palsy to walk so a bit of perspective might be needed at times.

THE BAD

– While it is the dream matchup it isn’t the dream venue. AAMI Park will cram in 30,000 or so Victory members, travelling Sydney FC fans and prawn sandwich munching corporate stooges for the Grand Final with Etihad booked out and to quote Richard Hinds it will be like a royal wedding in a registry office. With the AFL not backing down and the FFA not being media savvy once more the spat would have some shit flinging scribes going the ‘code war’ angle in the press to try and work on the chips on the shoulders of both sides of the divide between the sports.

The FFA dawdled on booking the venue and missed out so they miss out on extra profits…well, not all of the extra profits. The ticket price has jumped some $70 for Premium tickets ($125 to $195), $30 for category B ($90 to $120) and $14 for Category C tickets ($55 to $70). Added to this tickets are already up on eBay and gumtree for $500 as I write this so there’s a profit to be had by the FFA and scalpers alike. Despite this the FFA will still lose around $1 million by not having the match on at a larger venue. If there’s one positive it is that the crowd will be passionate, not football tourists per se and will create at atmosphere that will be second to none in a venue designed brilliantly for events such as these.

– There were of course two losers from the weekend’s semi finals. One of those losers was Adelaide United who again miss out on a maiden A-League title. While they have the FFA Cup, made it further in the finals than the last two seasons and now have a foot in the Asian Champions League their lack of a defence and ability to make chances count cost them. Cirio was put through just after Ibini’s opener but was denied and then there was a fantastic free kick tipped over by the young Victory keeper Thomas.

Coach Josep Gombau wants new players on every line and they’ll need it with Bruce Djite having a horrible second half of the season leaving them blunt up front and the brutal yet effective Nigel Boogard now off to his native Newcastle leaving them even more exposed at the back. There were plenty of positive for the Reds this season but more is needed to go that extra step.

THE UGLY

– Staying with United for now, allegations of abuse aimed towards young star Awer Mabil by Sydney FC’s serb import Nikola Petkovic ensured Saturday night’s semi final ended in controversy. Mabil and Petkovic had spats all through the game but Mabil claims at the end of the match comments were made about himself and his mother. While it should be investigated the fact Mabil and teammates went to the press to speak about it rather than going through the official channels shows flaws in the FFA’s handling of players when allegations are made. The allegations that Iraqi international Ali Abbas was referred to as a terrorist by a Wanderers playing during a derby last season descended in to farce thanks to the FFA not having a clear directive for such events like other sports.

– City were the other team to go down in the semi finals and while they weren’t the best on Friday night the key injuries went a long way in killing any chance they had. First the pacy winger David Williams broke down near half time which was a massive blow chasing a game that had been broken open by two first half Victory goals. What was really cruel though was losing key playmaker Aaron Mooy and impressive French winger Harro Novillo both to injury within minutes of each other early in the second half that killed the game as a contest.

It was an unlucky end to a season that promised much but failed to deliver on many levels. Superstar David Villa ran for the exit after only a few games, veteran Damien Duff was very impressive but then broke down with injury before heading back to Ireland while their marquee man Robert Koren missed the first half of the season due to injury and never really hit peak form with the exception of a hattrick against whipping boys Newcastle. The list will be slashed and burned in many ways and they need to work on who to get from overseas with the money and contacts they have. Then there were also the crowds that flocked to games initially but then sunk back down to the levels seen during the Heart days when it wasn’t quite like watching Manchester City down under. It’s been a failure as a season under the City moniker but still worth persisting with.

 

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. Peter Fuller says

    Dennis,
    Thank you for this measured summary of the semi-finals and preview of the GF. if anything, you’ve been too generous to my City. The two early goals were a fair reflection of the fact that Victory turned up ready to fire. Each of them were a product of careless marking reminiscent of the worst of the Heart days , and City haven’t shaken off that dreadful Heart characteristic, profligate squanderers of chances in attack, and sucker goals conceded.
    Certainly the very slight chance that we could pinch a goal back and make a contest of the last half hour was destroyed by Thomas’ excellence in goal and by the injuries, especially to Mooy and Novillo.
    However, it was a great occasion and while City have a lot of work to do both squad construction, fitness levels (there seems to be a dreadful pattern of injuries – not sure how that compares with other clubs) and onfield consistency, this year’s progress gives me grounds for cautious optimism.
    It should be a great match on Sunday, and I’ll be happy to watch it on the box.
    Thanks again, you’ve been useful in demystifying the game to this aged soccer novice.

  2. Dennis Gedling says

    Thanks Peter. I had to go back and flick through the game as Geelong’s pantsing of Collingwood was far more personal for me. With the exception of Novillo their overseas signings were all largely disasters (Villa) or bad luck (Duff). Jaliens is, what, 38 so he’ll need to be pensioned off. City have the contacts and the money and need to use them. Hell of a game this Sunday. I just want to see an entertaining game and I guess it would be nice is Shane Smeltz finally got a winners medal after years of scoring for fun.

  3. Well done, Dennis. I thought you might have said something about the off field nonsense at both games. We do have some people determined to ruin the occasion for others and while heavy handed policing and stewarding can be an issue, flares and dropping/throwing bottles from upper decks on fans below, has to cease.

    Janjetovic, not Thomas saved from Cirio. Sorry, just a picky point.

    On Villa in your comment, I’m afraid City was not set up to use his talents either by the coach or by his fellow players. He spent too much time in space waiting for cross field balls that never came. When he did get them he scored. I don’t blame him entirely for the lack of infield success while he was there. Whether he engineered his quick departure I don’t know. I must ask the City folk.

    It is really good to have your posts with something to learn and something to argue with in every one. Keep it up, mate.

  4. Dennis Gedling says

    Thanks Ray and you’re right re: The keeper I don’t know why I put that down. Rushing again. I heard about what happened at the Victory game. It was described as ‘kids being let loose without a supervisor’ but I didn’t know enough about it to include it.

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