The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Round 19 of the A-League

THE GOOD

Like both other times this season this game was played we start with the Sydney derby and all the drama it delivered as promised. For the first time in a long time you knew that Sydney FC could be considered favourites against a Wanderers side just off the plane from Japan and missing their defensive talisman Matthew Spiranovic. We didn’t expect the Sky Blues up 3-0 after 24 minutes thanks to the inform Marc Janko and keystone cops defending from Wanderers though. We also definitely didn’t expect for Wanderers to come back from 3-0 down in equally amazing fashion considering their gun-shy attack all season.

It’s a stereotype that Graham Arnold’s sides are tough, hard on the eye, low scoring and unrelenting defensively yet while this team is very tough they have been scoring for fun of late both home and away. What Arnold would not be happy with of course was the way his in-form side let Wanderers back in to the match with two goals scored by the ‘fractured genius’ that is Kerem Bulut.

Bulut has serious talent but he also has had some serious issues over his short career. The striker was a Sydney FC and young Socceroos youth product before going to Turkey and then the Czech Republic (being an unused sub in a victorious Czech Cup Final) to further his career and distance himself from the more controversial side of his life. This controversial side included being arrested for gang related activities with an appearance in the Burwood Court to show for it. With some more interesting facial tattoos and a career stalling in Europe he returned to Wanderers a month or so ago raising some eyebrows considering his past and the geography of the club he returned to.

On the pitch though his debut for the club was nothing short of stunning. His simple finish at the far post following a squared ball from Rukavystya had Wanderers back within reach with his equaliser early in the second half coming from a lovely finish with a very over the top goal celebration in front of the RBB. As he celebrated, shirt off, with the fans behind the goal someone I watched the game with (very) dryly commented, “He’s probably shared a cell with half of those guys”. A great debut for Bulut but there’s a long way to go for this most fractured of talent.

This talk on the Asian Champions though detracts from Sydney FC’s efforts on the night. The Sky Blues didn’t completely capitulate after the equaliser and got back in to the game with some clever subs and changing tactics. One of those subs, Asian Cup winning youngster Terry Antonis, was the difference in the scoring a wonderful goal late on that was enough for the visitors as they held off Wanderers late charge and a sending off to be back in the hunt for top spot and remain the in-form team of the competition. Arnie has ridden injuries and poor form to now have the side purring again with Janko now clearly on top of the goalscoring table.

Another wonderful Sydney derby with passion, atmosphere and excitement that David Gallop will be able to sell to sponsors and tourists for a while yet. It’s just a shame some passion went over the top following the game (see Ugly)

-The master outwits the apprentice once again. In a salary cap restricted league most teams have beaten everyone else both home and away, yet some curses have remained throughout the first 10 seasons of the league. With Glory beating the Mariners in Gosford earlier this season there was one hoodoo left and that was Phoenix having never won in Melbourne against Victory.

Inspired by Archie Thompson’s 200th game and with top spot on the line Victory were quite fancied but while winless in three games Phoenix weren’t exactly struggling, they were just a touch unlucky. In another game that will be on the highlights reel at the end of the season both sides traded blows with Victory up 1-0 but then Phoenix were back in it near half time thanks to a wonderful free kick from one of the signings of the season, Roly Bonevacia. There was even a missed penalty from Berisha at 0-0 after Milligan had been taken down.

Still, this didn’t deter Victory as they went ahead again through the very much in-form Barborouses who was cutting Phoenix apart at times. This would finish off Phoenix wouldn’t it? Well, no. Bonevacia and his skill with the deadball saw Boxall head in one of the former’s crosses with 22 minutes to go. Thompson, a player seen as being like ‘a big puppy dog’ by Mr Harms on Offsiders that morning, was subbed on with the stage set for a heroic winner but it was Phoenix who scored the winner through Burns to break the curse and go up to equal second in what is now a tightly contested battle for the Top 5 positions.

It was no fluke from Phoenix and down to key subs made by former Victory boss Ernie Merrick bringing on the experienced firebrand Joel Griffiths while Muscat dawdled and made questionable decisions when 3-2 down including bringing on the defender Delpierre for midfielder Milligan. Muscat can be admired for playing some wonderful football at times but defensively they are still leaky with a keeper that wigs out and let’s in howlers more often than not.

This Saturday night against Glory is unbelievably important.

THE BAD

Speaking of Glory, they not only dropped more points with a costly seven minutes against the champions Brisbane but another side under the Glory banner managed to blow a chance for silverware.

This season is fast turning in to ‘almost but not quite’ for the side from the West. The senior side forgot to show up in Adelaide for the FFA Cup Final while their women’s side finished 10 points clear in the W-League before succumbing in the Grand Final to Canberra. Sure, they did get a trophy for finishing top but had to go and get one made because the FFA didn’t have silverware to give them. On Sunday it was time for the youth team to blow it on the final day of the season.

Glory’s kids had had a fantastic season and came in to the final game of the season equal top with Melbourne City. City played their final game earlier in the day and were held to a draw in Newcastle which meant if Glory beat Brisbane, at home, they would be champions for the first time. While it started off well with Oxborrow scoring Roar equalised then went ahead early in the second half after the home side had spurned chance after chance. The Roar held on and Glory were second, again.

This is disappointing for the club after a great season for their ‘magoos’ but what would be a bigger concern is if after leading for a majority of the season the senior team may end up fifth. With the table tightening up and other teams in better form than their good selves finishing out of the top 4 and not getting a home final would be disastrous. It’s still a long way off but with the side (along with United) losing momentum post Asian Cup it’s a very real possibility. Keogh cannot rediscover his touch on the pitch (rather than on the dance floor at an Adelaide nightclub) soon enough.

Congratulations to Melbourne City too by the way.

-United are another side that would have fans having kittens about their recent form. Missing many of their defenders in the game against the City last Friday the Reds were played off the pitch in the second half with the (for a little while at least) fit again josh Kennedy getting his first goal for the club.

The drop in form echoes their dip last year that saw the side end up finishing fifth and going down to the Mariners in the first week of the finals. While they are set up better for a tilt at the top two this season they need the Boogard-Malik combo back and have players that perhaps track back and help out. Gombau grins with that ‘Duke Nukem’ shaped head of his after any result exploring the positives but as has been said before they need to show some grit when it matters rather than playing the lovable clown. Like Victory they too had a chance to go on top over Glory over the weekend but blew it. Much like Victory and Glory their trip to Wellington this weekend is also pivotal.

THE UGLY

-While the atmosphere and action in the Sydney derby was a joy to behold the violence after the game was not. First there was the bizarre incident involving a Wanderers fan slapping young Sydney FC player Aaron Calver when he was walking from the stands down to the makeshift change rooms to celebrate with teammates following the match.

Then there was the very serious story of 20 or so alleged Western Sydney fans putting two Sydney FC fans in to hospital with broken bones and beating up another in the Parramatta CBD following the match. While this is still being investigated by Police, if true, it is an incident that will give the ones loving a good ‘soccer stereotype’ ammunition to stick the boot in and some would say justifiably so.

If this is all true does the FFA come down hard on the Wanderers with fines and possibly point deductions? Is it ignored like perhaps other governing bodies do in other codes when it comes to fights in or around venues? It was away from the ground but invariably linked. The Wanderers PR team and their fans need to tread carefully and not claim any kind of victim mentality by the press or whoever too. This is far too serious when people think that the thuggish behaviour by ultras is the norm just like the good things they do such as providing atmosphere, banners and colour to a Wanderers matches which is one of their great strengths.

Sydney FC fans cannot play innocent with all of this either with allegations of racist comments from fans following the match.

-Another soulless and limp F3 derby up the coast between the Jets and Mariners. While there was drama with the Jets being denied what looked like a goal it was a typical display by two teams who are rudderless this season. Perhaps the way they play at the moment that the FFA have them play each other every week so they only stink up one game out of the game each week instead of two.

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.

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