The Good, The Bad & The Ugly of Round 4 of the A-League (and Champions League..)

THE GOOD

-Where else can we start but with the Wanderers amazing achievement. By the time this comes up on the almanac there would have already been days of guffawing over the achievement. Sydney Airport was packed for their return too with the reaction to their appearance like something from a movie about a not so distant future where John Lennon and George Harrison come back from the dead and join the coaching staff with the other former Beatles. I will say that I did see Tony Popovic as the A-League’s answer to Ross Lyon. I make that comparison because they a) have a heavily regimented defensive game plan that’s water tight and b) that system never seems to quite get their side over the line in the big one. It’s safe to say that Popovic is now no longer Ross Lyon. It will also be a travesty of three-penalties-that-should’ve-been-given-and-weren’t like proportions if he doesn’t get Asian coach of the year.

It was by no means a strong victory over the two legs though. The chances that Al Hilal had in the match were similar to something like what Australia had against Iran in November 1997. Just like us in 1997 we were wondering: just how was the match lost?  Well, that can be answered in the bad section perhaps. Covic’s performance was also worthy of Schwarzer in 2005 and other heroic efforts in many Australia sporting teams across many codes when pushed to the limits miles from home. His player of the tournament award was more than deserved with the now 39 year old finally getting credit he deserves for a solid career both here and overseas.

You cannot help but admire this side from the West for their achievement, with a team of rejects and with a salary cap which no other clubs in the competition except Australia has had forced upon them. History will show this win as a massive watershed in the sport in this country, even if it is lost on many for the moment. The game being early in the morning didn’t help with this perhaps. It also shows other A-League sides that if you respect and embrace the competition like they have you can make giant inroads. Not all A-League clubs and fans who have entered the competition have embraced it as much as they should. The very successful Victory and Roar sides are two such examples.

 

-Sydney FC continued on their merry way on the weekend but special mention to Terry Antonis who scored a wonderful goal to open the scoring in the first half. The 20 year old was linked with a move to Italy and has been touted as a potential star which was dismissed as the usual hype bestowed on the Sydney FC players by the Sydneycentric press. It seems with his and his teams start to the season being so strong that he may in fact be worthy of the smoke being carefully blown up his backside. Also praise to Graham Arnold with his mind games about ‘knowing all of the Mariners secrets’ working a treat, having his normally unflappable former side second guess themselves all through the match on Sunday. In weeks though, after games against United and Victory, we’ll know where Sydney sit.

 

-Sydney FC’s opponents this weekend in what is the clearly match of the round is Adelaide United who were again irrepressible in their win over the hapless Melbourne City. Even when 1-0 down United weren’t the poorest team out there with (another) goal of the season candidate coming with the multitude of passes that ended up with the very in-form Bruce Djite heading the ball home with brute force. If he stays this fit he should be our #9 for the Asian Cup and beyond if the Wanderers hero Juric doesn’t turn out even better. The boy may have seemingly finally arrived after showing years of potential.
The Spanish winger Cirio and journeyman Tarek Elrich are both in wonderful form and also so it will interesting to see how they go against Arnold’s space restricting Sydney.

 

-Also just a quick mention to Victory who despite playing 120 minutes and copping injuries to key players in Perth managed to make a previously dangerous looking Phoenix look second rate at AAMI Park. No Berisha or Delpierre didn’t seem to harm them. Neither did a half fit Thompson or Carl Valeri having a bad dose of the shits during the match. They’re a fantastic team.

 

THE BAD

-As America’s Cup-esque as the Wanderers win was, the refereeing performance in the game cannot be ignored. Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura can probably be remembered for his horror call in the opening match of the 2014 World Cup that had those who saw the sport as a little ‘soft’ smug with satisfaction over Neymar’s dive being rewarded a penalty. Whether he was still spooked by that call and the backlash or just wanted to let a lot more go in this game is up for debate, but two and maybe even three penalty claims should’ve been given and it’s as simple as that. No wonder the local players and officials were upset but we’ll get to that in ugly.

 

-You always think the Central Coast Mariners are going to do a Geelong and keep powering on season after season through good recruiting and an insular us-against-them attitude but their reputation seems to be waning under Phil Moss. At present there only seems to be one avenue to goal (the young and unconfident Mitch Duke) with a squad reliant on ageing players or ones with a sick note stapled to their forehead (see Brent Griffiths). Replacing old reliable winners like Sterjovski with AIS or NSWPL talent such as the out of his depth Sim also shows either a lack of direction or finances for the club. The culture of the Mariners has been the best next to Victory since the A-League began, with only 3 coaches over that time, which is far less than any other of the original clubs that swap gaffers like they would socks. They’ll need to nurture this to continue to be a competitive and relevant team in a rapidly improving league as this culture created in Gosford has sustained the club despite it’s many off field perils, with four grand finals and the loyal support of the greater Gosford community.

 

THE UGLY

-And, yes, we go to Riyadh again and the toys being well and truly thrown from the pram by the Al Hilal striker Nasser Al-Shamari and friends following the match. As funny as it was to some seeing that his spit was the first shot on target he had all night, the resulting melee of sorts completely cheapened the aftermath of the biggest club match in the continent. Will anything happen to him? Well, with the powerbase of the AFC well and truly entrenched in the Middle East, then probably not. Let’s just hope Al-Shamari makes the Saudi squad for the Asian Cup in a couple of months. A tournament is always better when there’s a mutually loathed bad boy involved. Spiranovic really should’ve made comment on their tactics following the match that incited the attack but to retaliate like that was truly awful.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LRchJq_0Hlc

I almost forgot about the lasers too. The laser show specifically designed for Ante Covic was almost like a Pink Floyd gig circa 1968. All it needed was Syd Barrett to be the fourth official and Richard Wright as a ball boy. One problem many Australian sides have had when playing in this tournament away from home is with actions such as these all over the continent. The Asian clubs haven’t been reigned in as much as the European and South American clubs have in recent times in terms of crowd behavior towards away fans which has to improve. Even only a couple of years ago many of the Chinese fans watching a match against the Roar in Beijing made monkey noises whenever Henrique went near the ball. The presentation from the AFC officials on Sunday morning was also similar to John Howard’s petulant job following the 2003 Rugby World Cup Final. Al Hilal also somehow won the fair play award for the tournament too. More reasons why the Wanderers achievement is remarkable. All of these events that happened early Sunday both good, bad and ugly will add to the legend of the win as it goes further in to the past.

 

-The Jets are finally heading home after an awful four weeks. The reason why they’ve been like gypsys wandering the lands is because their home ground was being re-turfed for the Asian Cup in January. While the work was well overdue with the pitch sometimes resembling the Somme this meant trips to the home of their arch rivals in Gosford, Melbourne for Villa’s first match and a double trip to the longest possible destinations in Wellington and Perth to open the season. For a side struggling to build a decent squad and with questions over what will happen with the licence it was an ugly start to the season.

 

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. Masterful summary of a great week for the round ball game in Oz. Wanderers one of the most committed team efforts in recent history.
    Loved your Pink Floyd analogy. Great stuff. Thanks Dennis.
    Go Glory.

  2. Vaughan Menlove says

    Always a good article Dennis. Look forward to them every week. Great stuff about the Wanderers

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Dennis and yes while the wanderers had more than there share of luck it was a amazing achievement and Simon Hill comparing it to the Americas cup win in 83 is a fare analogy . Adelaide United coming back from a goal down interstate and win again is a good effort also will be interesting how the heat affects , Adelaide and Sydney tonight

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