Guest blogger, the Reserve Keeper, runs his eye over the first 2 rounds of the A- League.
Two rounds into the 2013/2014 A-League season and the collective football community is smiling. With record opening round crowd figures of a touch over 100,000 across all games, the punters are certainly excited. There was also a record Melbourne derby crowd with over 45,000 at Etihad. The TV audience for the opening game between Sydney and Newcastle pulled an estimated average of 358,000 which is unsurprisingly also a record. FOX Sports via your favourite pay TV provider had exclusive rights to games in the past. Now SBS has rights to the Friday night games, expect more tune-ins, mainly to do with the uncanny fact that free trumps having to pay for something, every time.
The football itself has been entertaining. Sydney FC looked the goods against Newcastle Jets knocking in two goals. As expected Mr Del Piero was the player creating the most for the Sky Blues, scoring the first and setting up the second goal. In game 2 against the Roar, Sydney were systematically dismantled and looked like low-vis traffic cones. Del Piero went off injured not long into the game and things went downhill from there in a 4-0 loss.
Highlights from that game were all from the orange team: attacking in numbers; large patches of possession; finding gaps everywhere and getting forward quickly to goal. The damage could have been worse if not for a little too much samba in the step of Henrique trying to walk it in a could of times. The one bad note was the first half injury to Berisha, who was looking sharp and scored the equaliser in the 2-1 win over Wellington the week before.
Someone predicted a bottom finish for Wellington this year. After the first two rounds this looks doubtful, but they also started strong last year and collapsed. Part of Carlos Hernandez contract must state that he can only eat through a straw, because the guy looked fitter than he ever did at Victory. With half the starting lineup out with International duty, they showed spirit against the Roar and even more so against the Wanderers away. After going behind early, they fought back to earn a 1-1 draw with both keepers working hard.
There was a big and vocal crowd ‘out west’, which must be a delight to play in front of. Western Sydney really could have taken all 3 points in this game but for the previously mentioned glovework, as well as some woodwork getting in the way. The Wanderers look like goal-scorers this year with Tomi Juric looking sharp. He nabbed the equaliser in what wasn’t really a fantastic 1-1 draw away at Central Coast in round 1.
Central Coast only had four of last season’s grand finalists on the park. While the overall team is still decent, it doesn’t appear to have the spark of yesteryear. Mitchell Duke finished with a nicely taken goal in that game with plenty of assistance from new signing Marcos Flores. Flores looks comfortable in the middle for the Mariners and got on the scoresheet twice against the Heart, albeit from two penalties.
David Williams scored the first two goals in this game. One from picking up some scraps Justin Pasfield dropped and followed with a neat finish from Ramsey’s cross. While seeming to rely on the counter attack, Heart appear to be a decent squad who came to play. Old Leeds United boys with new shirts, Kewell and Kisnorbo, drive the team with pure tenacity. Golgol Mebrahtu isn’t just a cool name, he is a handy player, although he could have done better in the side’s 0-0 draw with the Victory. Despite rounding the keeper, he lacked composure to finish.
The Melbourne derby was entertaining but ended scoreless. There were six yellow cards handed out, so no love lost between the two sides. Victory’s constant pressure and snappy passing wasn’t quite enough to get by, as there was a lack of potency up front. Against Adelaide the groundsman at Coopers Stadium must have told the Victory boys that the net was new and didn’t want it to wear out, so please don’t touch it. Connor Pain and Archie Thompson must have wanted the ball on a gold platter, not a silver one when their chances came. Despite a bootload of goal-scoring chances and a quality squad, the game that should have finished 6-0 ended in a 2-2 draw, with some crazy refereeing decisions going in favour of Adelaide.
Looking at it from the Red’s perspective, this was a game they let slip. After two goes at it, new recruit Cirio found the net before Jeronimo Neumann added the second. Despite only costing $100k in fantasy football, Awer Mabil was a standout for the Reds. The football Adelaide are playing is certainly an improvement on last year and will be good to watch it go further. The week before, it took a bit of effort but they beat the Glory 3-1. Jeronimo nabbed two goals and Fabio Ferreira also got on the scoresheet. A great result considering they finished the game with nine men.
Ryo Nagai was the sole contributor to the scoreline in that game with a nicely placed header. There wasn’t much else of note in that game which Perth can take as a positive. There wasn’t a great deal happening for them against the Jets either, other than the family affair of the Edwards brothers being on the park together with dad coaching on the sidelines. While they don’t look bad, Perth just aren’t doing much at present. The Jets brigade looked sharper than the week before.
They were a few cans of WD-40 from being a well-oiled machine against Sydney. Obviously this squad is still a work in progress, with plenty of young talent on the books but no-one really putting their hand up. The high point is new boy Jacob Burns looks pretty handy and will be their strength going forward this season. Birighitti has done pretty well in goal so far, although that may be down to putting off strikers with the reflected light from his hair gel.
With the now confirmed departure of coach Ange Postecoglou from Victory to the national team coaching role, it is yet to be seen who will take over. Friday night’s Victory vs Roar game will be his farewell match and should be a cracker.