World Football Columns » Australian A-League We're fans. It's our game, so we write about it. Wed, 28 Nov 2012 19:13:54 +0000 en hourly 1 World Football Columns » Australian A-League The Oz Files: Have The Phoenix Already Risen From The Ashes Of The Serepisos Regime? Tue, 18 Oct 2011 02:57:15 +0000 Tom Pollock Continue reading »]]> ____________________________________________________________________________

Will the Wellington Phoenix soar this season? Or are their wings far too battered and weak to lift them to finals football?

After a  preseason on the brink of financial ruin, before new owners finally took control of the club, the Phoenix are now facing a fresh crisis.  Their playing stocks are already running low. Injuries and suspension to key players mean that their already brittle squad is on the verge of crumbling after only two fixtures.  Without an urgent injection of talent, the Phoenix may have a tough time putting together a squad of fifteen players.

Amazingly, their results on the pitch aren’t what you’d expect of a team which barely has enough players to start a match.

The group of New Zealand businessmen who have assumed ownership of the club following former owner Tony Serepisos’ public battle with debt simply haven’t had the time to properly replenish the squad before the opening round of matches. Serepisos was struggling to overcome what was alleged to be in the region of Au$200m in losses.  By the time that the new consortium stepped in, it was too late to address the departure of so many quality players, including Jade North, Dylan MacAllistar, Marco Rojas and Troy Hearfield.

It wasn’t until two weeks before their opening match against Gold Coast United, at Skilled Park, that Wellington began assembling what looked to be a competitive squad. The new group of owners, led by Rob Morrison, funded manager Ricki Herbert’s recruitment of former Perth Glory defender Brent Griffiths, Cameron Lindsay from the Blackburn Rovers youth academy, Alex Smith (who was discarded by Gold Coast before playing a game), and ex-Nix Nick Ward. Ironically, Ward had moved to Greek side Iraklis, but his new club was nabbed for transfer forgery, leading the attacking mid, who has also featured for Melbourne Victory, to make a swift return to New Zealand.

Although the Phoenix breathed a huge sigh of relief at getting as many bodies in the door as they did at the last moment, many people, including myself, tipped them to really struggle early while the new players bedded in. Add in the news that fresh signing Lucas Pantelis had been ruled out for the season and it was tempting to completely write them off.

The performance against United, however, proved the doubters wrong, as Wellington almost resturned home with three points. Chris Greenacre netted just over a quarter of an hour into the game and the Nix held their slender advantage until well into second-half injury time, wherein United’s James Brown felt so good (you knew that he would) as to unleash a 25-yard wonder-strike to salvage a draw.

Given their situation, it’s difficult to look at the result as two points dropped.  A draw away from home is by no means a poor result and could even be considered a cause for celebration for the threadbare side. The Phoenix, however, kept their party hats tucked away at the very back of the drawer, as Paul Ifill strained his groin and was forced off.  Worse, Vince Lia and Dani Sánchez were also unable to play out the full ninety minutes.

Ricki Herbert’s squad selection for the second round match against Newcastle Jets was getting easier by the minute.  In fact, the team could virtually pick itself, with just fifteen fit players.  News that marquee man Ifill had been deemed fit enough to line up eased many fans’ worries, but the decision to play him backfired spectacularly.  The Barbadian reinjured his groin and had to be replaced by Daniel with just a quarter-hour gone.

His teammates could have let out some choice expletives and collectively kicked themselves as their star man limped off the park. Instead, they kicked it into another gear with Tim Brown putting the Phoenix on the scoreboard a mere three minutes later. Daniel doubled the lead on the hour mark and then the Kiwis held on for dear life as both Brown and Nick Ward received their marching orders in the final half hour.  Luckily for Wellington, Ward’s suspension was overturned on appeal, leaving him free to play next week against Perth.

Herbert has indicated that he will ask to dip into the new owners wage pool before the A-League transfer window closes at the end of October.  So, there is a very strong chance that one or two new players (at least) will be brought in. The added depth could turn Wellington into finals contenders as their early results have defied their off field troubles. With a manager of Herbert’s quality and the addition of fresh, healthy talent, it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see the ‘Nix sneaking into the top six before season’s end.

]]> 0 Beware of Greeks Causing Rifts tompoll Beware of Greeks Causing Rifts Wellington_Phoenix_FC-logo The Oz Files: Will 2011-12 Be A Perfect Ten For The A-League? Sat, 08 Oct 2011 01:26:06 +0000 Tom Pollock Continue reading »]]> ___________________________________________________________________________

It’s all about to begin; after what has felt like an eternity, the A-League gets underway this Saturday. Never before has this level of excitement towards a new season of the round ball game been felt by football fans Down Under. Following two seasons plagued by poor crowds and financial troubles, there is a general expectation that this new edition of the competition will move the game in a positive direction, helped especially by the return of  two prodigal sons.

The game in Australia is steadily growing in popularity as the standard of play increases. Season six continued this trend, thanks largely to the Brisbane Roar.  The Side from the Queensland capital stunned the league, setting a new record for the number of games without defeat as they swept the Minor (top of the table) and Major (Grand Final winner) Premierships.  With traditional powers Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory making bold off-season moves, the seventh edition of the A-League promises to once again raise the bar.

While the Roar dominated last season, this season should be a closer competition.  Their talismanic leader, Matt McKay, is now at Rangers, earning the move to Scotland on the back of his A-League and Socceroos heroics. Frontman, Jean Carlos Solorzano has also departed, for rivals Melbourne Victory, and, while Brisbane has recruited well, they may not pack their former punch.

As far as new signings go, it’s nigh on impossible for any Aussie side to match the signings of Harry Kewell and Brett Emerton by Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC, respectively. The two Socceroos’ impact on the domestic game is already showing with strong crowds at friendlies involving the clubs, not to mention a larger media presence.

A championship would be the icing on the cake for Emerton, who is happy enough just to have escape what looks to be a woeful premier League Season for Blackburn Rovers.  Meanwhile, Kewell has jumped off the sinking ship of the Turkish Super Lig, which is taking on water rapidly, thanks to a massive match-fixing scandal.  The duo will play out their careers in Australia and, in the process, bring a much needed boost to the game. Kewell and Emerton face off for the first time in the season’s opening round at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne — not Manchester! — this weekend.

While Kewell and Emerton are undoubtedly the headline signings, there are other newcomers who are expected to improve the quality of A-League play. Adelaide United have signed Socceroo Dario Vidosic from FC Nurnberg, while Tiago Calvano has also made the long trip from Germany, signing with Newcastle Jets from Fortuna Dusseldorf.  Perth Glory have brought in midfielder Liam Miller from Hibernian, former Blackburn Rovers striker Maceo Rigters will represent Gold Coast United and Tony Warner, an experienced goalie who as been at Liverpool and Fulham, has joined Wellington Phoenix.

There is one transfer, however, that has raised more eyebrows, especially amongst the Melbourne Victory community, than others, and that’s Melbourne Heart’s capture of Brazilian playmaker Fred. The midfielder, a premiership player at Victory and a former fan favourite has not only joined the Heart from MLS club DC United, but has been handed the captaincy. This move has started rumours that former captain Simon Colosimo is attempting to force a move away from the club with – surprise, surprise – Melbourne Victory actively seeking his signature.

The drama doesn’t end there, with the league rivaling popular soap Neighbours for nail-biting cliff-hangers, stunning betrayals, the writing out of key characters and last minute rescues.

The Wellington Phoenix were, for a while, looking to be in a bit of trouble. Under the ownership of Tony Serepisos, who had fallen into hundreds of millions of dollars of debt, the Phoenix were struggling to keep enough players to meet the minimum requirements set by the Football Federation of Australia (FFA.   The club was rescued in a take-over orchestrated by a group of local businessmen.   Following the coup, the club made a last minute dash in the market, signing a handful of players, but leading many to speculate that the Kiwis will struggle early, while the new line-up gels.

Yet, the Phoenix haven’t quite wrapped up the award for Most Dysfunctional Off-Season. The Newcastle Jets sacked manager Branko Culina last Tuesday in a move that shocked everyone who follows Australian football. Jets owner Nathan Tinkler is said to be furious that Branko signed his son and Socceroo midfielder Jason, on a lucrative contract, despite being aware of his injury troubles. Jason has been ruled out for this season and possibly longer, raising fears at the Jets that he may never play a game in the three years he is contracted to the club. Newcastle is also in the process of looking at ways of canceling Jason’s contract without being forced to pay it out.  Nothing like a bit of nepotism to get the blood boiling.

One has to wonder if the action on the pitch can compete with the off-the-field antics, but the opening match between the Sky Blues and Victory, starring Emerton and Kewell, has the potential to keep the fans riveted.  The pair make their marquee clubs favourites to dominate the competition.  Yet, one player doesn’t make a side, as we all know.  So don’t be surprised if another side claims the Minor Premiership.

Brisbane Roar, despite being somewhat weaker than last season, still have the league’s best manager, in Ange Postecoglou, and will be a force to be reckoned with. The Central Coast Mariners will be desperate to go one better while last years runners-up, Adelaide, have also recruited well and could launch a considerable title challenge.

Melbourne Heart are the great unknown.  Heading into their second season, it’s tough to say whether or not they will be in the finals, with one or two big moves still rumoured to be in the offing. Perth Glory and Gold Coast have enough quality to end up in the finals, although will have to play more consistent football than they have in the past in order to do so. Unfortunately, due to their dramatic build-ups to the season, Wellington and Newcastle must be considered favourites to finish bottom of the table.

Having said that, don’t be surprised if one of the favourites flop and one of the underdogs rise, such is the nature of the A-League.

Whatever happens, the 2011/12 A-League season promises to be entertaining both on and off the pitch. If you haven’t paid much attention to Australian football in the past, now would be the ideal time to change that, it’s going to be a cracker!

]]> 6 2011-12 A-League Promotional Poster tompoll 2011-12 A-League Promotional Poster A-League Crystal Ball
The Oz Files: The Matildas & A-League Close Season News Thu, 21 Jul 2011 18:03:41 +0000 Tom Pollock Continue reading »]]> _____________________________________________________________________________

And Don’t Call Me Sheila

The A-League may be in the middle of an incredibly long off-season but fans of Australian football have had plenty of action to help them cope. The Australian women’s team, the Matildas, delighted fans back home by progressing out of their World Cup group, while in the men’s game, it’s been a busy period of change.

The Matildas managed to show glimpses of their potential in Germany. A spirited 1-0 loss to 2007 finalists Brazil set the tournament off on a good note, as many expected the Lady Selecao to easily overcome the Aussies. A 3-2 win against Equatorial Guinea followed by another great performance, a 2-1 victory over Norway, ensured Australia booked a place in the quarter finals for the second tournament in a row.

Coming up against a formidable Swedish side, Australia had an awful start, conceding two goals in the opening 16 minutes. The Matildas didn’t give up, though.  A brilliant strike from Ellyse Perry, just before the half time whistle, restored hope that a semifinal place was still within reach. Alas, a Swedish goal seven minutes into the second half buried the Aussie girls and, disappointingly, that was the end of the road.

Having now made two quarter finals in a row, Australia will look to emulate Japan’s success and push for further progress four years from now in Canada.

Does This Colour Make Me Look Fat?

Talk about breaking stereotypes!  While the women have been playing football, the men have been concerned with fashion. Athletic outfitter Reebok’s exclusive contract to supply A-League uniforms has concluded, leaving individual clubs free to choose their own apparel maker.

Adidas will now supply Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC while other brands like Hummel and ISC are examples of the new logos to be seen on A-League shirts. Expect some flashy new kits to be unveiled between now and kick off in October.

Comings and Goings

In terms of playing staff, there have also been some notable changes. Marcos Flores, the Johnny Warren medalist for player of the season last year has left for China while Kosta Barbarouses, an integral part of Brisbane’s title winning side will share part of the trip, as he is bound for Russia. Melbourne Victory’s Robbie Kruse has joined Fortuna Dusseldorf in Germany’s Bundesliga 2, while Central Coast starlet, Mustafa Amini has signed a contract with top flight champions Borussia Dortmund that will see him play with the Mariners for another season, before following Kruse to Germany.

The mass of departures has been offset somewhat by some big signings, most notably Adelaide’s capture of Socceroo Dario Vidosic. Vidosic, who has played in the A-League for Brisbane, spent the last few years in Germany. His return will certainly be a boost for the league.  Sydney FC have been active, signing Melbourne Heart defender Michael Beauchamp, former Perth Glory defender Jamie Coyne and Dutchman Pascal Bosschaart, from ADO Den Haag.

The biggest transfer news involves two Australians who have previously played for Liverpool. Dean Bouzanis, once described by Rafa Benitez as “the best keeper in the world for his age” tweeted that he had signed with Melbourne Victory. It does seem, however, that this was a case of premature tweeting as the club never confirmed anything. The latest news suggests that a disappointed Bouzanis is headed back to England to try to arrange a deal with a Championship side.

Harry Kewell is the other player heavily linked with a return home. The injury-prone winger-cum-striker is apparently a target for both Sydney and Melbourne Victory. A plethora of stories and rumours suggest he has agreed terms with both clubs but wants a cut of the away gate from the league, too.  As the saga drags on, fans are becoming increasingly aware that they shouldn’t get their hopes up until they see Kewell sporting an A-League kit.

Hey, Somebody Brought a Ball!

Believe it or not, there have actually been a few football matches played amidst all the transfer drama. Scottish giants, Celtic, recently concluded their continental tour with a 1-0 win over Melbourne Victory before a sell-out crowd. They had previously beaten Perth, 2-0, and suffered a 1-0 loss to Central Coast, a result seemingly the fault of the Mariners’ latest signing, jet lag.

Overall, the Celtic tour was considered a success and hopefully isn’t the end of big names visiting the golden shores of Australia.  Leave it to yours truly, though, to be camped out in Caledonia while one half of the Old Firm is running rampant Down Under!

Better Late Than Never!

Normally, the season would be kicking off in under a month’s time. The FFA, however, decided to adjust the fixture list in order to avoid clashes with the AFL and NRL final series, so kick off in the first game of the season will now take place on the 8th of October. If the past few months are anything to go by, there should be plenty of activity in the interim.

]]> 0 Matilda's Camp tompoll Matilda's Camp Womens World Cup A-League Kewell's Conundrum celtic ball
The Oz Files: Lucky Brisbane Clinch A-League Title Mon, 14 Mar 2011 20:05:06 +0000 Tom Pollock Continue reading »]]> It’s official, the Brisbane Roar are the best side in the country. Throughout the season they have been the benchmark side, an unbeatable team that slipped up just once on the way to winning the title. The loss to Melbourne Victory back in September stands as they only time they have failed to at least draw a game. Yesterday, however, in the season decider,the Roar almost slipped up again.

Suncorp Stadium was packed with orange-clad Roar fans, prompting the television commentator to describe the scene as a “giant jar of marmalade.”  Yet, despite the overwhelming support, Brisbane almost lost their unbeaten streak at the worst time. The raging hot favourites seemed to struggle under the pressure that the streak, the fans and the media had placed upon them.

The Central Coast Mariners, rank outsiders, had the better of the play in the early stages, placing the home side under the pump. The first 45 minutes were owned by the Mariners, however they couldn’t convert that pressure into a much needed opening goal and allowed Brisbane to begin working their way back into the contest.

Torrential rain greeted the players as the whistle sounded to begin the second half. The rain also brought a change in the Mariners fortunes. Brisbane soon found some momentum and began testing the stout Central Coast defence. Goalkeeper, Matt Ryan, fresh from winning the Young Player of the Year award was up to the task, though. The youngster pulled off some remarkable saves in the final 45 minutes to ensure the contest didn’t end in normal time.

The Roar's Kostas Barbarouses and CC Mariner Oliver Bozanic battle for the ball.

Even without a deciding goal, football fans in the stadium and those watching the game from home were treated to some of the best action Australian football has to offer. The end to end style of the game, combined with the numerous chances and impressive saves, thrilled viewers who could hardly find time to take their eyes off the contest. Both sides had been on top at various stages of the match and, while each deserved a share of the trophy, only one side could be crowned the champions and the contest raged on.

As extra time began, the atmosphere inside Suncorp became electric. Dressed in their team’s colours and in full voice, 50,000 Roar fans created an image and sound that wouldn’t be out-of-place in Europe. As the first goal became even more critical, Brisbane fans willed their side on in the battle to score. Yet, it was the Mariners who broke the deadlock, sending a small but loud following from Gosford into raptures.

A 95th minute corner was whipped into the box by Michael McGlinchey, the ball pinballing from head to head before falling to Adam Kwasnik, the hero from the Preliminary Final against Gold Coast,. He forced the ball over the line, handing the Mariners a surprise lead.

Worse for the Roar, eight minutes later Central Coast put themselves up 2-0. Kwasnik broke through the Roar defence and tried to knock the ball past advancing Brisbane ‘keeper Michael Theoklitos. Theoklitos blocked the shot but Kwasnik regained possession, maintaining his composure as he passed the ball to Oliver Bozanic for a simple tap-in, despite the best efforts of Matt McKay.

Brisbane were shell-shocked and now faced the very real possibility that their stellar season was to end in a Grand Final defeat. The second half of extra time began and with every minute that ticked by, the Mariners moved closer to sealing their first title.

Just when the result looked to be a foregone conclusion, Brisbane’s Brazilian striker, Henrique popped up to give the Roar the smallest chance of staging a remarkable comeback. On 117 minutes, his well-placed shot beat Matt Ryan and offered the Brisbane supporters hope that they might still have a shot at forcing penalties.

Still, with just one minute to go, the score still read 2-1 and the Mariners could almost fell the trophy in their hands. Only 60 seconds away from one of the biggest upsets in Australian sport, up stepped Erik Paartalu. The Brisbane midfielder managed to get his head to a corner to break Mariners hearts. The stadium was shaking with noise as Roar fans greeted Paartalu’s last gasp equaliser. Penalties would now decide the champion of Australian football for the second year in a row.

Erik Paartalu wears the fruits of victory, the A-League Trophy.

Roar goalkeeper Michael Theoklitos was the hero of the shoot-out, saving Daniel McBreen and Pedj Bojic’s efforts to complete Brisbane’s unlikely comeback. Brisbane players celebrated and Central Coast players collapsed under the weight of sheer disappointment.

Brisbane will now look to consolidate their victory and continue to dominate Australian football next season while the Central Coast will hope they can bounce back from the devastating result and challenge once again. It must be noted that this was the third Grand Final the Mariners have made in just six A-League seasons. Despite this, they are yet to be crowned football kings of the country.

The finale was a fitting way to end the 2010/11 A-League season. The game will be forever remembered as one of the greatest this country has ever seen.  It certainly showed why the A-League and Australian football in general are on the rise.

]]> 0 Paartalu Grand Final celebration tompoll A-League Barbarouses, Kostas Oliver Bozanic Paartalu, Roar's Grand Final Hero
The Oz Files: A-League Grand Final Preview Wed, 09 Mar 2011 18:31:17 +0000 Tom Pollock Continue reading »]]> The Central Coast Mariners have secured the final spot in this year’s A-League Grand Final thanks to their 1-0 win over Gold Coast United. The Mariners now progress to their third Grand Final, a record shared with Melbourne Victory. Unlike Melbourne, Central Coast are yet to win, having lost to Sydney and Newcastle in their previous two attempts and will be keen to make it a case of third time lucky.

The Gosford club had the better of Gold Coast for the majority of their Preliminary Final but as the final whistle crept closer, extra time and penalties looked to be on the cards. The Mariners missed some golden opportunities, most notably in the 69th minute when Patrick  Zwaanswijk’s header failed to hit the back of the net. Central Coast fans didn’t have to wait much longer for another great chance. In the 75th minute, Michael McGlinchey’s blocked shot fell to Adam Kwasnik who kept his cool and finished, sending the Central Coast faithful into raptures.

Australian football fans now turn their attention towards this weekend’s decider on Saturday, 4 pm local and 6 am GMT, at Suncorp Stadium, the Brisbane Roar’s fortress. The Roar haven’t lost at home all season, so the Mariners will need to produce a stellar performance if they are to break their championship duck and deny the Roar their first A-League title. Central Coast produced such a performance last week in the second leg of the top two play-off between the two clubs. After going down 2-0 at home, many expected the Mariners to travel to Suncorp and get blown away by the rampant Brisbane team. However, the opposite occurred. Two goals in a minute saw the visitors take a surprise lead and at half time, it looked like the Roar’s unbeaten streak was approaching its end. Yet, Brisbane fought back furiously and won the right to host the Grand Final, levelling the game.

If Central Coast fail to tie up Thomas Broich, their trip to Brisbane will have been in vain.

The key to victory in the Grand Final for the Mariners lies in shutting down Brisbane’s strike force. Thomas Broich, Kosta Barbarouses and Jean Carlos Solorzano are all in hot form, helping their side hit 58 league goals in the home and away season, a new A-League record. The Brisbane club was the only side to have two players inside the top five strikers with Barbarouses and Solorzano scoring 11 for the season. If the Central Coast defence doesn’t nullify the threat, then expect to see Broich working his magic in the attacking third of the pitch to assist the Roar’s two strike men.

It is difficult to bet against the Roar as they have been the standouts all year and, of the two finalists, seem more deserving for the fluid style of play they have brought to the competition. The 2-2 draw with the Mariners served as a wake up call for Ange Postecoglou’s men.  They now know they have to play well if they are to secure the title. On the other hand, Central Coast appear the most likely side to upset Brisbane, setting up a thrilling final.

My money is on the Roar. Postecoglou has created the new force of Australian football and thoroughly deserves the title as a reward for all his hard work.

Prediction: Brisbane 3 – 1 Central Coast

Player Awards

The past week has also seen the FFA Player Awards night. Adelaide United’s Marcos Flores was awarded the Johnny Warren Medal as player of the year. Flores has shown incredible form for Adelaide and provided the creative spark in midfield, setting up numerous goals with his amazing vision and passing skills.

Another Adelaide player, Sergio van Dijk, won the Reebok Golden Boot as top scorer.  Van Dijk’s 16 goals during the regular season helped the South Australian club finish third on the ladder. It was van Dijk’s first season with United after moving from the Brisbane Roar at the start of the year.  It has to be cold comfort for van Dijk to take the award while watching his former mates in the Grand Final.  Conversely, the Roar’s achievements this year seem all the more impressive, given that they let the league’s top scorer get away.

Of the next five awards, four went to Brisbane. Michael Theoklitos was voted goalkeeper of the year after an impressive season. Postecoglou won coach of the year while Erik Paartalu was awarded goal of the year, robbing Alex Terra who was widely expected to win the award for his stunning Wayne Rooney-esque bicycle kick. The Roar also pulled in the fair play award.

Finally, Central Coast’s goalkeeper Matt Ryan was named as the NAB Young Player of the Year.

Enjoy the Grand Final!

]]> 0 2011 A-League Grand Final Preview tompoll A-League Broich, v wellington
The Oz Files: A-League Playoff Thrillers Wed, 02 Mar 2011 19:00:30 +0000 Tom Pollock Continue reading »]]> A-League Playoffs

There were just two games in the A-League this weekend but both were of the highest order. Fans of Aussie football were treated to nine goals across the two matches. On Saturday, the second leg of the top-two playoff between Brisbane and Central Coast almost resulted in the Roar’s unbeaten streak coming to an end. However, they fought back from 0-2 down to level the second leg at 2 and win on aggregate 4-2. On Sunday, the elimination final between Adelaide and Gold Coast ended in a surprising 3-2 victory to the Queenslanders. We are now left with just three teams and two games to decide the 2011 A-League champion.

The Brisbane Roar secured their spot as hosts of the Grand Final final through their 2-2 draw with the Mariners. After winning the first leg away from home 2-0, many expected the Queensland outfit to waltz into the season decider with ease. The Mariners had other ideas, though, and almost spoiled the party for their hosts. A large, pro-Brisbane crowd of over 25,000 was silenced just five minutes from half-time when the Mariners registered two goals within sixty seconds.

First, Daniel McBreen’s shot from an extremely tight angle was parried by Roar goalie Michael Theoklitos but remarkably bounced into the goal after deflecting off Matt Smith. Then, some great passing between Patricio Perez and Oliver Bozanic enabled Perez to curl a shot past a helpless Theoklitos. In just one half, the Mariners had levelled a tie from which they had been counted out and suddenly looked the more likely side to win the hosting duties in the final.

After the restart, Brisbane regrouped but it wasn’t until the 63rd minute that they struck back through Thomas Broich. The German star kept his composure and coolly slipped the ball into the net with the outside of his foot. The goal restored the Roar’s aggregate lead, 3-2, although it still looked as though the Mariners might become the first side to defeat the Roar since Melbourne Victory took all three points from them in September. While that would have been a Pyrrhic victory for the Mariners, with just minutes remaining, the score still read 2-1. Finally, Henrique combined well with Massimo Murdocca to register the equaliser.

While the defeat over 180 minutes sent Central Coast down an alternate path to the Grand Final, Pedj Bojic foolishly reacted to the frustration of seeing Coast’s near victory snatched away.  His red card will rule him out of next week’s Preliminary Final against Gold Coast.

The Robina club kept their season alive with a stunning 3-2 win over Adelaide United. Gold Coast showed a lot of fighting spirit and will need even more in their do-or-die clash with the mariners on Saturday.   Shane Smeltz gave the Queenslanders the lead in the 38th minute with a majestic strike. Adelaide fought back in the second half and took a 2-1 lead thanks to goals from striker Sergio van Dijk and rising star Matthew Leckie. However, just minutes later, the score was level at 2, when Bruce Djite found the back of the net. With less than a quarter-hour remaining and a penalty shootout looming, Smeltz stepped up to break Adelaide hearts. Joel Porter was felled in the box by Nigel Boogaard and the resultant penalty was coolly dispatched by the Kiwi, who would have to be considered one of the players of the match.



Rojas kisses off the generous Phoenix fans.

It appears that New Zealand starlet Marco Rojas has quit the Wellington Phoenix to join Melbourne Victory. The 19-year-old has apparently signed a two-year deal with the Victory, infuriating the Phoenix supporters who literally launched Rojas’ career. Rojas signed his first professional contract with the Kiwi club after being awarded a scholarship funded mostly by the Nix’s fan club, Yellow Fever.

The FFA have decided to turn of the North Queensland Fury‘s life support, forcing the club to close its doors for good. The game’s governing body, who had to assume ownership of the Fury, felt the financial risk outweighed the potential benefits and have decided it is in their best interests to dissolve the foundering club after just two seasons in the A-League. A heartbroken Fury squad must now find new clubs to play for as their contracts will expire at the month’s end. The general feeling in Australia following the announcement is one of disappointment, with many believing the FFA could have done more to help the club, now the second team in the A-League’s short history to fail, following the demise of the New Zealand Knights.

On the Weekend

Central Coast Mariners host Gold Coast United at Gosford in the Preliminary Final. The winner earns one final crack at upsetting the seemingly Invincible Roar, a week later at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium. If the rest of the playoff action has been any indication, both teams will go all out for their chance to topple the league leaders.


]]> 0 Roar to Grand Final tompoll A-League Rojas, Marco Wellington Phoenix
The Oz Files: The A-League Finals Tue, 22 Feb 2011 09:30:42 +0000 Tom Pollock Continue reading »]]> Just four sides now remain in contention for the 2011 A-League title following the first round of elimination matches last weekend.

Adelaide United triumphed 1-0 over the Wellington Phoenix, sending the Kiwis back across the Tasman empty-handed . Adelaide can consider themselves a little lucky to be progressing to the next stage, considering the visitors had the better of the play for most of the game. However, Wellington’s failure to convert their dominance into goals proved to be a telling factor as Travis Dodd’s 70th minute brace was enough to send the perennial underachiever through. The win came as a huge relief to Adelaide, who came into the game with less than ideal preparation after hearing  that Paul Reid was ready to quit the club because his request to join Sydney on loan for the Sky Blue’s Asian Cup campaign was rejected. Reid has since met with manager Rini Coolen and club officials and is set to rejoin his team mates as they prepare for this weekend’s game.

Up north, Gold Coast United dealt Melbourne Victory their first finals defeat in normal time, thanks to Dino Djulbic’s stoppage time winner. The 1-0 win ensured United avoided a repeat of last season, where they earned a home final in the first week of matches but were eliminated by the Newcastle Jets on penalties in front of their own fans. The scoreline was a true reflection of the game as both sides struggled to get on top of each other. The Victory might feel they deserved more after creating numerous scoring opportunities.  However, wayward shooting ensured their finals run ended at the first hurdle. Melbourne can now turn their attention to the upcoming Asian Champions League campaign, which they kick off in a week and a half against Jeju United of South Korea.

The two United’s, Adelaide and Gold Coast, now face each other in a play-off with the winner keeping their A-League title dreams alive for at least another week. Adelaide hold the home advantage, although the Gold Coast are a strong side and will be just as hungry for the chance to face the loser of the Brisbane Roar/ Central Coast tie.

The first leg of that match up was contested on Saturday night, with the Roar, expectedly, getting the result. Kosta Barbarouses and Matt McKay found the net for Brisbane and ensured the Queenslanders impressive unbeaten streak was extended to 26 games. Their 2-0 victory away from home means it is almost a certainty that they will progress straight to the Grand Final as hosts. The Mariners remain hopeful of overturning the result in the return leg but Brisbane’s stellar record at home doesn’t hold much promise for the visitors.

♦   ◊   ♦


Sydney FC have been busy in the past week, taking full advantage of the lax rules in the AFC by recruiting two players on loan from rival A-League clubs for their upcoming Asian Champions League foray. The Sky Blues have added North Queensland Fury striker David Williams and Wellington Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante to their roster. The Durnate deal was sealed in just a matter of hours and won’t be the last if Sydney have their way. Perth Glory veteran Jamie Coyne is expected to join the club, as are Melbourne Heart defender Dean Heffernan and the Newcastle Jets’ Adam d’Apuzzo . The players will return to their clubs for the start of the next A-League season.

Wellington Phoenix attacking midfielder Diego Walsh has decided to return to Miami in America following an unsuccessful stint with the New Zealand club. Walsh originally signed with Adelaide United back in 2006, from Miami FC, and quickly built a reputation as one of the top players in the A-League. He then moved on to the Phoenix in 2009 but failed to fit in and became unhappy.  Following the ‘Nix’s loss to his former club  last weekend, Diego decided enough was enough and quit the club to reunite with his family, which remained in the US.

Next Week
The Roar host the Mariners is the second leg of their top two play off on Saturday night. On Sunday, the Battle of the United’s will take place with the winner to take on the loser of the Roar/ Mariners, which, as stated, is looking very much like being Central Coast.

]]> 1 Gold Coast United v Melbourne Victory 2011 1st rd final tompoll A-League
The Oz Files: A-League Finalists Decided, Jets Crash, Phoenix Soar Tue, 15 Feb 2011 09:50:31 +0000 Tom Pollock Continue reading »]]> With the conclusion of the regular season this weekend, the line up for the first week of the finals has been decided and boy, are football fans in for a treat. This season has been the best in the A-League’s short history with a new pace-setter, in the Brisbane Roar, playing an attractive brand of football.  There have been plenty of surprise results and a play-off race which went down to the wire. The 2011 play-offs will not disappoint followers of the Australian league and have the potential to win over more supporters from all around the world.

The two-legged tie between the Roar and second placed Central Coast Mariners will decide who gains the right to host a home Grand Final. While the winner will await an opponent to decide the A-League champion, the loser will face the ultimate victor of a series of one-offs between the other four play-off contenders. The first game between the Mariners and the Roar takes place this Saturday night at Bluetongue Stadium in Gosford.

Third placed Adelaide United will host the Wellington Phoenix on Friday night in the first elimination final. The Phoenix secured their place thanks to a 3-1 win over cellar-dweller North Queensland Fury, while rival contender Newcastle Jets crashed to a 0-1 loss against Central Coast. Wellington will be definite underdogs, having to travel to Adelaide from New Zealand and play in the rather hostile conditions of Hindmarsh Stadium. However, the Phoenix will be buoyed by the result of the last meeting between these sides. The Kiwis managed to snatch a 1-0 win at the Hindmarsh. Chris Greenachre’s brace was enough for the ‘Nix to upset the Reds.

Make believe became reality for the Phoenix when they claimed the final playoff spot on the final day of the regular season.

The winner of the Adelaide/Wellington final will play the winner of the weekend’s other elimination final between Gold Coast United and Melbourne Victory. The past week has been filled with uncertainty as to where this game will be played after question marks were raised about the safety of United’s Skilled Park surface. It does appear as though the game will be held at United’s home ground, as originally planned, much to the relief  of the Gold Coast faithful. Victory triumphed when last these two outfits faced up at AAMI Park in late January. A Danny Allsopp double secured Melbourne a valuable three points.

Roar Secure W-League Title

The Brisbane Roar’s mens side has taken the league by storm and is widely tipped to win the Grand Final in March this year, should they make it. A favourable result in that game will mean Brisbaneites can celebrate not just one but two domestic titles thanks to the Roar’s win in last weekend’s W-League grand final. Travelling to New South Wales to take on the highly favoured and defending champion Sydney FC seemed a huge task but the Roar were gallant and managed a 2-1 upset. Goals to Tameka Butt and Lisa De Vanna handed the Roar their second title in three years.  Now, if the guys can only follow the girls’ example…

Individual Honours

Perth Glory captain Jacob Burns has won the club’s Best and Fairest by eight votes. Burns managed to record the maximum three votes from seven games and finished with a total of 28. Melbourne Victory bound goalkeeper Tando Velaphi finished second. Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler won the Bobby Despotovski award as the leading scorer with nine strikes.

The PFA Awards Night was held last Monday with the team, coach and referee of the season announced. Just three clubs had players in the team of the season with the Brisbane Roar unsurprisingly leading the way with seven.  Adelaide contributed three and Melbourne Victory’s Robbie Kruse also made it. Matt McKay was voted captain of the side. Roar manager Ange Postecoglou was voted Coach of the Year while Matthew Breeze was voted Referee of the Year. Also recognised was Mark Viduka who was awarded the Alex Tobin medal, the most prestigious award the PFA has to offer. Only Viduka, Johnny Warren, Joe Marston and Craig Johnston have received the honour, which recognises significant contribution to Australian football.

Next Week

Be sure not to miss the first leg of the top two play off between the Mariners and the Roar. Brisbane may have dominated the 30-match regular season but a two-legged tie is a kangaroo of a different colour.  The opening away leg will go a long way to establishing whether the Roar really are the team to beat.



]]> 0 Roar v Mariners tompoll A-League Wellington Phoenix A-League Finals Opening Round
The Oz Files: The King Is Dead, Long Live The King — Sydney Fall, Brisbane Roar Tue, 08 Feb 2011 07:10:00 +0000 Tom Pollock Continue reading »]]> This week saw the Brisbane Roar officially crowned the premiers of the 2010/11 A-League season. Adelaide’s shock loss to the Wellington Phoenix and the Central Coast Mariners draw with Melbourne Heart means the title of best team during the regular season goes to the impressive Roar for the first time. The dominant Brisbane outfit joins Adelaide, Melbourne Victory, the Mariners and Sydney FC as the only sides to clinch top spot on the ladder by season’s end.

The Roar’s turn around under Ange Postecoglou has been quite remarkable. By the end of the 2009/10 season, the Roar languished in 9th spot, one from the bottom. This triggered a massive overhaul of the club, with Postecoglou being brought in to replace former Socceroo boss Frank Farina. Postecoglou immediately got to work, releasing many of Brisbane’ stars, including Craig Moore who was in contention for a spot in the national side at the time. He also recruited well and the end result was a new look Brisbane side ready to line up for the 2010/11 season. Many sceptics were unsure of the Roar’s ability to challenge for the title considering many of the players were new and had very little time to gel. Some unimpressive 0-0 draws and a 0-3 loss to  Melbourne Victory meant it looked like it was going to be a long season ahead, however, following the loss to the Victory, the Roar struck a vein of incredibly good form.

That game in Melbourne was the last time Brisbane dropped all three points to an opponent. In the games since, they have taken at least one point from every game to announce themselves as the best side in the country. With the finals series due to start in a week and a half, the Roar look likely to enter the play-off as the most feared and dangerous team, a side everyone will want to avoid.

Sydney FC’s season from hell ends

Reigning champion, Sydney FC have failed to make the finals series this season. After defeating the Victory in last season’s Grand Final, in Melbourne, the Sky Blues have had a dismal season that now sees them out of contention for a final spot. A number of star players from last seasons campaign have left the club in the interim, including John Aloisi, Karol Kisel, Craig Bolton and captain Steve Corica.

Coach Viteslav Lavicka worked hard to fill the gaping holes in the squad but it was to no avail. The signings of Nick Carle, Scott Jameison and Liam Reddy were expected to keep Sydney at the top of Australian Football but that hasn’t been the case and, following their 1 goal draw with Newcastle, it is now impossible for the Sky Blues to climb from 9th to 6th.

On the bright side, they’ll be able to direct all their attention to the upcoming Asian Champions League campaign.

Melbourne Victory secure Finals spot

Last years runners-up Melbourne Victory, almost suffered the same fate as the no longer defending champions. yet, with just one game remaining, the Victory are now guaranteed Finals football, following their 2-0 wins over Gold Coast last Sunday and Newcastle mid-week. Danny Allsopp saw that his club lived up to their name against the Gold Coast, while Tom Pondeljiak and Robbie Kruse, in his first game back after the Asian Cup, found the net against Newcastle Jets. The Victory will journey to either Adelaide or the Gold Coast for their elimination final depending on which way results fall in the final week of play. As a lower seed, they’re faced with a four match route to the title but they’ve traveled down that path already and will be prepared.  It bears remembering that the Victory are the only side to defeat the Roar this season, making theirs an interesting Grand Final pairing, should it come to pass.

The sixth spot is still not set but Wellington need only a draw in one of their two remaining matches to dispatch Newcastle Jets, who are clinging to hope by their fingernails.


News has come out that Pierre Littbarski will replace Steve McLaren at the helm of Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga. Littbarski guided Sydney FC to the inaugural A-League title in the 2005/06 season, when Dwight Yorke took the league by storm. His appointment is perhaps a sign that the A-League is starting to have a bigger influence on world football.

Karol Kisel was in hot form for Sydney FC last season as they claimed both the minor and major premierships. His stellar season attracted Sparta Prague, who snapped up his services. Rumours have started to emerge that following Sydney’s disappointing season, Kisel is on the verge of returning to the club and helping them back up the table in the 2011/12 season.

Reto Vanni, currently with FC Basel in Switzerland, has announced he is interested in a move to Australia. It is said four A-League clubs are interested in gaining Vanni’s signature, with Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Heart believed to be leading the race for the former Swiss U/21′s services.

Next Week

In the final week of matches, Central Coast have the opportunity to cement second spot on the ladder and end Newcastle’s Finals aspirations should they win their clash with the Jets on the 13th of February.

]]> 0 Roar clinch tompoll A-League A-League Table, Oz Files King A-League Full Fixture List 8-13 Feb
The Oz Files: Socceroos Heartbreak Tue, 01 Feb 2011 20:09:08 +0000 Tom Pollock Continue reading »]]> Asian Cup

Final: Australia 0-1 Japan

The Socceroos’ Asian Cup campaign has ended in heartbreak thanks to a fine strike in the 109th minute by Tadanari Lee. The momentary lapse in concentration by the Aussie defence gifted the trophy to Japan who secured their fourth title. It could be argued that Australia had the better of the Blue Samurai for the majority of the match. Had we been able to capitalise on some good chances, the Australian players would have been welcomed home as continental champions.

Harry Kewell had the best chance to seal the title, when, in the 70th minute he found himself one-on-one with Japanese ‘keeper Eiji Kawashima. Kewell controlled the ball, shifted it onto his favoured side as football fans in Australia held their collective breath. Who would bet against Kewell’s magical left boot burying the ball in the back of the net? Kawashima though, was ready and pulled off a fine save with his legs, denying Kewell the chance to be Australia’s hero.

With no goals registered in the 90 minutes, extra time was required to separate the sides. Melbourne Victory youngster, Robbie Kruse, had the best chance to finish the game after coming on as a substitute. His header would have found the net but for another fine save by Kawashima. The keeper was Japan’s stand out player, keeping his side in the game on a number of occasions.

Lee’s impressive winner sealed the victory for Japan. Unmarked in the box due to some poor defending by Dave Carney, Lee volleyed Yuto Nagamoto’s cross with venom and precision, giving Mark Schwarzer no chance of saving the shot. The strike sent Japanese fans into raptures and with just 10 minutes remaining, gave the Socceroos very little chance of forcing a penalty shoot-out.

The referee’s final whistle was greeted by joyous celebrations by Japan and devastation by Australia. The Socceroos must now turn their attentions to the Brazil 2014 qualification campaign and the 2015 Asian Cup which Australia is to host. They will no doubt be hungry to avenge this loss in front of stadiums filled with Aussie supporters.


North Queensland Fury 0-3 Melbourne Victory

With the Fury on life-support, a win was expected of the Victory and they delivered in fine style. Danny Allsopp found the net for the away side to continue his fine run of form since returning to the club. Mate Dugandzic also found his name on the score sheet with two goals in quick succession mid way through the second half.

Brisbane Roar 2-0 Wellington Phoenix

A James Meyer double in the final 10 minutes enabled the Roar to see off finals contender Wellington in the Roar’s first outing since the Queensland flood disaster. The Roar equalled the record of the longest undefeated streak in Australian football thanks to this result, their 22nd game without a loss.

Brisbane Roar 2-1 Melbourne Heart

Brisbane are simply unbeatable. having now taken points in 23 consecutive matches, they have taken the record for Australia’s longest undefeated steak, an honour previously held by NSL club APIA Leichhardt, who set the mark in 1986-87.   James Meyer again found the net, enjoying an impressive run of form since debuting two weeks ago. His strike, plus a fine goal by Jean Carlos Solorzano, enabled the hosts to see off Melbourne Heart, who, like the Phoenix are vying for a play-off spot. The win secures the Roar the Minor Premiership (best record in the regular season).

Perth Glory 0-2 Sydney FC

Sydney supporters were able to cling to hopes of a title defence, thanks to an early goal by marquee man Nicky Carle and a second half match killer from Bruno Carazine. The defending champions haven’t produced the same form they exhibited last season and, as a result, their finals chances hang by a thread.  They must take at least 7 points from their last 3 contests but, even so, should any one of the three clubs immediately above them reach 39 points, the champions will be eliminated from contention.  The rosary beads are becoming well-worn in Sydney.

Adelaide United 1-2 Central Coast Mariners

The Mariners triumphed in the A-League’s match of the round. The 2-1 victory wasn’t a true reflection of the Mariners dominance as Adelaide’s consolation goal came late, through captain Travis Dodd. Central Coast were the best side on the day, taking a deserved lead thanks to goals by Patricio Perez and Josh Rose. The victory cements the Mariners in second place with just three games to play.

Wellington Phoenix 1-0 Newcastle Jets

The Phoenix recorded a much needed win as they fight for a place in the finals.  Victory was secured by Dylan McAllister and enabled the New Zealanders to move into sixth place on the ladder.  The Jets must now prepare for a crucial game against Melbourne Victory on Wednesday that could make or break their season.  Their four games remaining is the most of any A-League club but they must take points.

Melbourne Victory 2-0 Gold Coast United

Two spectacular goals by Danny Allsopp handed Melbourne the three points at a critical stage of the season. The win gives the Victory a firm grip on fifth spot but they still need a win and a draw in their final two contests to assure themselves of a play-off position. Gold Coast must now regroup for their next match against third-placed Adelaide.

A rather embarrassing blunder by the Perth Glory has tarnished the departure of club legend Jamie Harnwell. An advertisement for their game against the Gold Coast on Sunday read, “Join Us As We Farewell A Legend” and was displayed on the club’s website an hour before Harnwell was to discuss his future with the club. Embarrassed, the Glory veteran has insisted the decision to retire was entirely his and that he wasn’t pushed out the door.

Ljubo Milicevic has turned down a contract offer from Swiss side FC Basel which currently has the services of former Socceroo Scott Chipperfield. Milicevic, a former Newcastle player, quit the Jets in order to pursue a career overseas. It is believed he is considering a more lucrative offer from an Asian club.

In more bad news for the North Queensland Fury, striker Chris Payne has been ruled out for the remainder of the season thanks to a lateral meniscus injury. Payne has already signed to play for Newcastle next season so this injury means he has surely played his last game for the struggling Fury who are in a battle to stay alive due to financial troubles.

Next Week

Essential viewing: Melbourne Heart vs Central Coast Mariners

The Mariners are coming into this clash on the back of their impressive win over Adelaide United and will seek to build on their fine form as the play-offs approach. The clash is more important for the home side, Melbourne Heart, as a loss would put a serious dent in their own bid for a post-season berth, in their inaugural season. Kick-off is at 8pm on Friday the 4th February.

]]> 1 Japan Asian Cup Champs 2011 Oz Files 2 Feb tompoll Oz Ball A-League Playoff Picture 1 A-League Full Fixture List 2-6 February 2011
The Oz Files: A Record-Breaking Week In Australia Tue, 25 Jan 2011 19:24:27 +0000 Tom Pollock Continue reading »]]> Australian football has seen all sorts of new records set in a memorable week. The Socceroos have progressed to the Asian Cup semi-finals for the first time after eliminating Iraq in the 118th minute. Back in the A-League, Adelaide United recorded the highest score in the league’s history, along with its largest margin of victory, demolishing the North Queensland Fury 8-1. Other records that were broken in the week included: the most goals scored in a single A-League weekend and the highest attendance across all the matches of the week, when 73,751 people strolled through the turnstiles.   The record-breaking trend may not stop there, either, as Melbourne Victory await what could be the longest suspension the league has imposed, after captain Kevin Muscat’s malicious tackle on Melbourne Heart youngster Adrian Zahra.


Match of the Round: Adelaide United 8-1 North Queensland Fury

The most one-sided game of football in the A-League’s history could signal the end of the road for the Fury who are struggling to stay alive, both on the pitch and off it. Financial troubles and poor management have resulted in the club staggering on its last legs in desperate need of help. The situation is obviously affecting the players who showed very little fight in this contest.

A decent crowd of almost 11,000 attended Hindmarsh Stadium to watch the demolition derby. Hat tricks to Marcos Flores and Sergio van Dijk were the highlights from the game with Iain Ramsey and want away captain Travis Dodd also getting their names on the score sheet to complete the rout. The only consolation for the Fury was Panagiotis Nikas’ rather impressive goal.

The loss leaves the North Queenslanders with very little hope of climbing off the bottom of the ladder as their goal difference has taken a hammering. It now remains to be seen whether they will be able to front up for next season as the club goes into crisis mode. Adelaide, on the other hand, are preparing for a tilt at the play-offs, which begin in less than a month.

Other Matches

Perth Glory 1-2 Central Coast

An action packed 20 minute period at the start of this game determined the result. The Mariners registered two goals in as many minutes through Daniel McBreen and Matt Simon to leave the hosts stunned. Just three minutes after the second goal, Simon could have made it 3-0 when he stepped up to take a penalty. However, Glory’s Tando Velaphi saved the shot and kept his side in the contest. Just when the crowd thought they’d seen it all, Jamie Harnwell got his marching orders for a nasty elbow to Simon.  Down a man, the Glory put up a fight, with Todd Howarth scoring for the home side. It wasn’t enough for Perth though, despite their best efforts they couldn’t find an equaliser and dropped the three points.

Melbourne Heart 1-1 Gold Coast United

The point Heart salvaged from the game was enough to take the final play-off spot however, the Melburnians would view this as a missed opportunity to have cemented themselves in the position. Brazilian Alex Terra scored in the 17th minute and Heart was ascendant, although it was the Gold Coast who scored next, through Bruce Djite, five minutes from half time. Heart goalkeeper Graig Bolton pulled off three remarkable saves in the dying stages of the game to deny United the three points.

Melbourne Victory 2-2 Melbourne Heart

Victory should feel very lucky with this result as Heart deserved the three points. Victory went up 2-0 early in the match thanks to a Danny Allsopp header and a spectacular Beckham-style free kick by Carlos Hernandez. The Heart however, clawed their way back into the contest thanks to a John Aloisi double. The game was marred by Kevin Muscat’s horrific tackle on Heart’s prodigy Adrian Zahra.

Muscat’s badly mis-timed tackle which up-ended Zahra and seriously injured his knee, has ruled out the heart winger for an extended period.

Gold Coast United 5-1 Newcastle Jets

Another one-sided affair saw another impressive hat trick. Former Socceroo Bruce Djite’s three goal haul ensured United fans, who attended the ‘free’ game (instead of paying for a ticket fans were asked to donate to the flood appeal) left the ground happy. Shane Smeltz also managed to find the back of the net while Adama Traore kicked things off in style, scoring in the 10th minute. Much like the battered Fury, Newcastle did find a consolation goal, theirs through Chinese import Zhang Shuo.

Wellington Phoenix 4-0 Perth Glory

The Phoenix helped their chances of qualifying for the finals by thumping the Glory at Westpac stadium. An own goal by Perth keeper Tando Velaphi, in the 10th minute, got things rolling.  The ‘Nix then saw Dylan MacAllister, Vince Lia and Chris Greenacre add goals in the second half. Wellington are now well placed to climb above Melbourne Heart should they win on Wednesday at SunCorp Stadium against stuttering top side Brisbane Roar, suddenly more human with captain Matt McKay on Asian Cup duty.

Central Coast 2-2 Sydney FC

After taking a point from their stunning clash with Brisbane last week, the Mariners were involved in another thriller this week. Two goals in 10 minutes by Sydney youngster Dimitri Petratos gave the visitors a dream start.  However, the Mariners showed some determination, resulting in second half goals to Patricio Perez and Matt Simon. The draw enabled Central Coast to hang on to second spot on the ladder while the second half lapse saw Sydney eliminated from A-League finals contention.

Asian Cup

Australia 1-0 Iraq

The match was a repeat of the 2007 quarter-final however this time the result went Australia’s way. Veteran Harry Kewell ensured the Socceroos didn’t have to negotiate a penalty shootout in their bid for a spot in the semi-finals, scoring in the 118th minute. The Socceroos now face a clash with Uzbekistan for a place in the Asian Cup final.

(You’ll have to forgive the announcer’s somewhat unenthusiastic goal call)


Melbourne Victory fans may have seen the last of their captain, this season, after his disgraceful tackle in the Melbourne derby. The minimum ban he faces is four matches.  However, it is expected the disciplinary panel will add more games onto that, which could rule Muscat out for the rest of the regular season and the playoffs. Many believed this would be the 37 year old’s final season and, if the severe ban is handed down, then Muscat may have played his last game.

Less than a year after being named Best and Fairest winner for the 2009/10 season, Perth Glory defender Andy Todd has left the club in order to move back to England. It is believed he is seeking a  new club to play for after enjoying his time in Australia and will no doubt attract plenty of attention. Perth have lost Todd, striker Michael Baird, goalkeeper Aleks Vrteski and midfielder Andrija Jukic while announcing they have signed Wellington keeper Danny Vukovic and Melbourne Victory winger Evan Berger.

Gold Coast owner Clive Palmer has thanked fans for their generosity after the game against the Newcastle Jets raised over $30,000 for flood victims. Palmer threw the gates open and asked fans to donate money to the Queensland Premier’s Flood Appeal instead of buying a ticket to the match. The money combined with donated toys will greatly aid flood victims as they attempt to rebuild their lives.

Next week

Essential viewing: Adelaide United v Central Coast>>>>>Saturday evening (Oz), Saturday AM (UK)

The winner of this game will take second spot on the ladder at a critical stage of the season. It will be interesting to see which team prevails and could be an early indication of who is most likely to challenge the Brisbane Roar for the A-League title.

]]> 0 Muscat, Kevin v Heart tompoll A-League fixture list 26-30 January
The Oz Files: Coast Mariners and Brisbane Roar Share Points In a Thriller Tue, 18 Jan 2011 02:20:30 +0000 Tom Pollock Continue reading »]]> It’s all happening in Australian football. Week 23 of the A-League gave us plenty of great games and great goals. The Socceroos set their Asian Cup campaign off on a good note while if you read my previous article, you’d have seen the great lengths Australian players and clubs are going too to help Queensland’s flood victims.


Match of the Round: Central Coast 3-3 Brisbane Roar

The Brisbane Roar came into this game riding the back of a 20 game unbeaten streak and were determined to make it 21. However, they would have been forgiven had they not salvaged a draw in this contest considering many of the traveling squad had friends, family and even team mates who were affected by Queensland’s floods.

The Roar struck first, taking the lead in under 25 minutes, thanks to a brace by Erik Paartalu. The Mariners responded well and equalised, through Adam Kwasnik in the 37th minute. The 1-1 scoreline at halftime set up what was to be a thrilling second half.

Coast's Joshua Rose is brought down in the box by Milan Susak.

The Mariners had a dream start to the second period, when Matt Simon did well to get on the end of a Patricio Perez free kick, handing his side the lead. The Roar, not to be outdone, were persistent and drew even for the second time in the match, this time through Thomas Broich. Jean Carlos Solorzano’s inch perfect pass through the Mariners defence enabled Broich to open his body and blast it into the back of the net.

Central Coast looked to have been handed the game, however, when Milan Susak brought down Joshua Rose in the penalty box and, in the process, picked up his second yellow card. Perez who set up the second goal stepped up and put away the penalty to give the Mariners the lead with only 15 minutes to play.

The Roar’s fighting spirit shone through though and a brilliant strike by debutant James Meyer game saw the scores even once more. Meyer, who came on for Erik Paartalu, took three touches, one to control the ball, one to set up the shot and the third a brilliant right footed drive that sailed into the back of the net.

The final stages of the game were tense as the result could still have gone either way. The 3-3 result was a fitting one and enabled the Mariners to climb above Adelaide into second place.

Other Matches

Gold Coast United 4-0 North Queensland Fury
North Queensland Fury appears to be staggering on its last legs and results like this won’t help at all. The embattled club had no chance against a strong Gold Coast side that welcomed striker Shane Smeltz back into the line up for his first appearance for the club since re-signing last week. Smeltz didn’t let United fans down, scoring two goals and setting up another. Bruce Djite and Chris Harold also found the net in a dominant display.

Perth Glory 1-1 Melbourne Heart

Both these clubs will be happy they didn’t lose, although Perth will be particularly disappointed they couldn’t hold on and win this one. The Glory took the lead in the 34th minute thanks to stand-in captain Todd Howarth. Perth were then denied what they believed was a goal after Scott Neville’s flick on from a Jamie Harnwell header appeared to have crossed the goal line. The match referee Gerard Parsons and his sideline assistant disagreed and play went on. It proved to be a crucial moment in the game as less than 10 minutes later Heart’s Brazilian striker Alex Terra connected with a wonderful bicycle kick to even up the scores.

Sydney FC 1-1 Melbourne Victory

A rematch of last seasons Grand Final promised to be a good game, as any match between these two sides is hotly contested. Sydney had the better of Victory in the early stages but could not convert their dominance into a goal. After numerous chances for both sides in the first half went wanting, it remained scoreless at the main break. It wasn’t until the 52nd minute that Danny Allsopp scored the first goal of the match and his second stint at the club. Victory’s inexperienced defence, missing regulars Kevin Muscat and Adrian Leijer, appeared to be holding together well until Juho Makela arrived in the box unmarked and finished easily in injury time to salvage a point for the home side.

Newcastle Jets 0-2 Central Coast

The Central Coast’s win here cemented their spot just behind the Roar in second place. Matt Simon’s 14th minute strike and John Hutchinson’s coup de grâce, three minutes from time, was enough for the Mariners to see off the Jets who were desperate to get at least a point from this contest. The Jets are fighting it out with both Melbourne sides and the Wellington Phoenix for a spot in the finals.

Brisbane Roar – Wellington Phoenix: Postponed due to flooding

Asian Cup

Tim Cahill continues heading both the Socceroos and the Quuensland aid effort in the right direction.

Game 2: Australia 1-1 South Korea

This was the big one for Australia, a match against South Korea in the group stages was always going to be tough. The Koreans came into the game fresh from a 2-1 win over Bahrain and had a good start to this match. They were the most impressive team in the first half and deservedly took the lead on 24 minutes through Koo Ja-Cheol, after some poor defending by the Aussies. Australia regrouped and swung the momentum in their favour in the second half. Harry Kewell’s shot was deflected out for a corner. The resulting cross found Tim Cahill, whose header floated towards the back post, landing on the chest of Lucas Neill who found himself facing away from goal.  He intelligently lobbed the ball back towards the 6 yard box, enabling Mile Jedinak to climb and head home.The result means Australia needs just a draw with Bahrain to progress to the knockout stage.


The highest bid for “The Tim Cahill” experience in aid of Queensland’s flood victims stands at $600,200. Bids of $999,999 and $980,100 were withdrawn during the week. The winning bidder will receive two business class tickets to England to watch Cahill play, from his private box at Goodison Park, as well as an invitation to a training session, an Everton shirt signed by the entire side and a pair of Cahill’s boots. All of the money will go to the Queensland Premier’s Flood Appeal.

Sad news came out this week that the Queensland floods may end up claiming the North Queensland Fury as a victim. The Queensland government was pumping money into the embattled club hoping to keep it alive for at least one more season, while investors are located. However, with a substantial clean up bill expected in the wake of the floods, the money may be withdrawn and put towards the recovery effort, meaning the Fury’s future looks very grim.

Reading’s Aussie goalkeeper Adam Federici has penned a new two-year deal that will keep him at the club until 2013. Up and coming defender Shane Lowry, who was signed by Aston Villa, was sent out on loan to Sheffield United until the end of the season, where he made his debut for the Blades just a day later.

Finally, Gold Coast United has again bolstered their squad ahead of the A-League finals, signing German Peter Perchtold and Korean Sung-kil Kim. Perchtold has made senior appearances for German clubs FC Nuremberg and Stuttgart, while the 27-year-old Kim is a midfielder who previously played for Busan Kyotong.

Next Week

Essential viewing: The Melbourne derby between the Victory and the Heart should be a cracking match. Both sides have recorded a win over each other so far this season so this one is considered to be the decider, giving one set of fans the bragging rights until next season. Kick off is at 7pm local time on Saturday, the 22nd.

See you next week!

]]> 0 Socceroos tompoll Mariners_Roar-420x0 Cahill, Tim Socceroo headman Full Fixture List Oz 2
Australian Football Community Rallies Behind Flood Victims Fri, 14 Jan 2011 23:48:13 +0000 Tom Pollock Continue reading »]]> The flood crisis in Queensland is the worst Australia has seen for a long time.  The floods have been devastating, inundating homes and taking lives. Thousands of people have been forced to move into evacuation centres indefinitely and are in desperate need of help.

Times like these bring out the best in people and support has arrived from a wide variety of places. The Australian football community has been particularly helpful, doing all they can to help lift people back onto their feet. There have been many examples of  clubs and players providing assistance to flood victims.

Everton star Tim Cahill has single-handedly raised over a quarter of a million dollars in an auction for a once in a lifetime opportunity. Cahill will fly two fans to watch him play for Everton. The highest bidder heads over to England in business class, receives the opportunity to watch a Premier League game in Cahill’s private box at Goodison Park and an invitation to attend an Everton training session. On top of that, they will be given an Everton jersey signed by the entire squad and a pair of Cahill’s boots. The auction has seen over 160 bids and at the time of writing, the highest bid stands at AUD$265,000. If you have the cash to spare and want to make a bid for this amazing prize here is the link to the auction. Bidding closes on the 21st of January.

After scoring against India in the Socceroos opening Asian Cup match, Cahill urged people to donate to the Flood Relief, pretending to use a phone as he celebrated with David Carney. He repeated the gesture after scoring again in the second half.

Cahill’s Socceroo team mates are also doing their bit, training shirts from the final session before the clash with South Korea will be auctioned off with all proceeds going to the flood victims.

In the A-League, Gold Coast United Chairman Clive Palmer has thrown the gates open to his side’s clash with Newcastle Jets, asking fans to make a donation of any size to the flood appeal instead of buying a match ticket. The game which takes place next Saturday will be entirely free to attend however it does have the potential to raise a substantial amount of money.

As with the ball, Tim Cahill knows how to put his heart in the right place.

Sydney FC will wear special shirts in the highly anticipated clash with Melbourne Victory this weekend. The phone number for the Queensland Premier’s Flood Relief Fund will be printed on the back. In addition to that, players Alex Brosque, Mark Brigde and Terry Antsonis will roam around outside the Sydney Football Stadium collecting donations from fans as they approach the venue.

Perth Glory owner Tony Sage has announced $2 from every ticket sold for the Glory’s clash with Melbourne Heart will go to the Relief Fund while Glory youth players will wander around the stadium collecting donations much like the Sydney stars.

The sports’ governing body in Australia, the FFA has pledged $100,000 to the Premier’s Appeal while also announcing the Socceroos and all the clubs from the A-League and the National Youth League will wear black armbands as a mark of respect for the people who lost their lives in the tragedy. The clubs in the women’s league will also be a part of the gesture.

The M1 derby in February between the Brisbane Roar and Gold Coast United will be dedicated to the flood victims and will be another source of fundraising used by the FFA. More details on this game will come out in the future.

Football is a powerful thing, it draws people together in times of need and has the ability to bring a smile to people’s faces. The football family in Australia has been outstanding in rushing to the aid of Queensland, making it that little bit easier for people who have encountered such hardship.

If you would like to donate money to the Flood Appeal, visit this website:

Thank you!

]]> 0 Queensland Flood tompoll Oz Ball Socceroos Training Session In Bahrain
The Oz Files: Adelaide United Shake Off The Melbourne Monkey Tue, 11 Jan 2011 03:10:26 +0000 Tom Pollock Continue reading »]]> January is a hectic month in the A-League with a ton of matches. The race for the last remaining playoff positions is on and all games are being hotly contested. January also means transfers, giving A-League clubs the opportunity to sign the talent they need to bolster their chances of winning the title.

On top of that, the Socceroos have opened their Asian Cup campaign with a resounding 4-0 victory over India, courtesy of a brace from Everton star Tim Cahill. We’ll see how the group develops over the week, though.  For now, we’ll just focus on the domestic scene.

Match of the Round:
Melbourne Victory 1-4 Adelaide United

Adelaide United well and truly ended their hoodoo against the Victory, emphatically beating the home side 4-1. Goals to Sergio van Dijk (2), Marcos Flores and Fabian Barbiero ensured United ended their 10 game losing streak against Melbourne, a terrible run that stretched back to October 2007. Melbourne were poor, Ricardinho and Danny Allsopp failed to impose themselves up front as Adelaide’s stopper Mark Birighitti was forced to make just one save for the 90 minutes.

Sergio van Dijk enjoys turning the tables on Melbourne.

Flores gave the visiting side a dream start, scoring in the 12th minute with a sweet strike that left Victory keeper Michael Petkovic no chance. Van Dijk made it 2-0 ten minutes into the second half, hitting quite possible the best free kick in A-League’s history. From 30 yards his shot curved through the Victory wall and easily beat Petkovic. Barbiero put the game beyond doubt in the 74th minute, with his first touch of the game after coming on as a substitute.  Right place, right time. United fans went into party mode when an error by Rodrigo Vargas gifted van Dijk his second. A hopeful long ball should have been dealt with but the defender allowed the ball to bounce over him, whereupon a streaking van Dijk pounced.

Mate Dugandzic’s consolation goal came just seconds before the final whistle and did little to quell Adelaide’s celebrations. The Reds can now say they have found some of their best form and will take a lot of confidence into their clash with North Queensland Fury at Hindmarsh Stadium. On the other hand, Victory must now try to lift for their game against Sydney FC. If Melbourne continues to perform as they did in this one, then a place in the finals series will have to be dismissed; they simply were not good enough.

Other matches:
Sydney FC 2-0 Gold Coast United

Another hoodoo was broken in this match. Dimitri Petratos and Juho Makela found the net for the Sky Blues, enabling their side to record their first win over the Gold Coast since United entered the league in 2009. Securing the three points keeps Sydney’s finals hopes alive.

Brisbane Roar 1-1 Perth Glory

Ladder leaders Brisbane Roar were held to a surprise draw by a Perth team who sit second from bottom. The Glory were given very little chance heading into this clash but surprised many when they took the lead in the 31st minute thanks to Mile Sterjovski. Mitch Nichols saved the home sides blushes in the 62 minute, heading home the equaliser.

North Queensland Fury 1-3 Newcastle Jets

The Jets helped their finals chances with a win over last placed Fury. Newcastle ended a four game losing streak in style, scoring two goals in the opening 16 minutes, before ending the contest with a third in the 70th minute. The Fury’s goal, too little too late, came in injury time. The win keeps the Jets in the post-season race, while the Fury still sit rock bottom, three points behind Perth.

Central Coast Mariners 1-0 Wellington Phoenix

The Mariners victory helped them secure their spot in the top three. A goal to Michael McGlinchey four minutes from half time was enough to separate the sides. Wellington now sit one spot outside the finals, a single point behind 6th placed Melbourne Heart.

Sergio van Dijk’s double against Melbourne Victory sees him take a three goal lead at the top of the goal scoring charts. Van Dijk has found the net an impressive 13 times this season. Victory’s Robbie Kruse, who is away on Asian Cup duty, sits equal second along with Brisbane Roar duo Jean Carlos Solorzano and Kosta Barbarouses.  The three forwards have all hit 10 goals.

New Zealand international Shane Smeltz has returned to Gold Coast United. The striker who left the club at the end of last season to play for Genclerberligi in Turkey, was frustrated at his lack of game time. His return could not have come at a better time for United, as Brazilian attacking midfielder Robson could miss the rest of the season after injuring his hamstring in the clash with Sydney.

Perth Glory director of football Dave Mitchell has admitted his club will be scouting the Asian Cup for players. The Glory apparently have their eye on Indian striker Sunil Chhetri who has a contract with MLS side Kansas City Wizards.

Next week:
Essential viewing: The Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC fixture shapes as the match of the round. This clash is one of the most fiery in the A-League and is eagerly watched by the Australian football community. Be sure to catch it on Saturday 15th January.

]]> 0 Barbiero, Fabian Adelaide United tompoll Van Dijk, Sergio Adelaide United A-League Fixture List 9-1-11
Hyundai A-League: The Unique Football League Sun, 26 Dec 2010 04:48:22 +0000 Tom Pollock Continue reading »]]> For Australian sport, 2005 was a landmark year.  The new Hyundai A-League was launched, promising to ignite Australian interest in football, a game which traditionally played second fiddle to the likes of Aussie Rules, cricket and both forms of rugby. It replaced the old National Soccer League (NSL) which had fallen from grace thanks to the loss of a TV contract with the Seven Network. The loss of this contract resulted in a dramatic loss of sponsorship and following the 2003/04 season the competition went into exile.

The NSL had been the premier Australian football competition for 27 years, although it never gained mainstream acceptance. Clubs came and left, the format was tinkered with time and time again and ethnic tensions made it difficult for the league to establish itself as a competition for all Australians to enjoy, as it so desperately wanted.  The continuity of clubs was never certain.  Teams such as Mooroolbark, Collingwood Warriors and Canterbury-Marrickvale lasted no more than two seasons, while Blacktown City was in and out of the league three times in one decade.

The format of the league was also never settled.

In the beginning, a finals series was played but teams gained more pride from winning the league, so the series was scrapped after seven years. In 1984, a conference system was introduced which saw the competition split into two groups. Teams from New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory played in the Northern Conference while teams from Victoria, South Australia and, interestingly, Queensland were grouped into the Southern Conference. The winners of each conference would play off in a two-legged final at the end of the season. This system proved to be unpopular and after two seasons the league became a single division competition again.

In 1990, the league changed from a winter to summer schedule to avoid competition with the other football codes.

Dwight Yorke celebrates, after his Sydney FC win the first A-League Grand Final and hoist perhaps the most unusual trophy in football.

This change also prompted the then governing body, Soccer Australia, to attempt to remove ethnic ties to clubs, which frequently led to tension and drove neutral fans away from games. Ethnic flags were banned from games while clubs changed their names and logos to become more fan friendly.  New clubs were introduced with hopes of spicing up the competition, however, most of them failed to make an impact. The only club that was a hit was the Perth Glory, who won the final two NSL championships and was eventually accepted into the A-League. This neutering of cultural identities was the NSL’s last shot at entering the Australian sporting mainstream

In 2004, after staggering on weak legs for some time, the NSL finally collapsed.  When Seven Network decided not to renew its broadcasting deal with the league, the remainder of its sponsors soon followed suit.  The league’s failure prompted a major overhaul of the Australian football system.

Soccer Australia was replaced by the Football Federation Australia (FFA), in an effort to make the game familiar as football rather than soccer.  The A-League was developed as the new national competition, promising to be a competition that anyone could enjoy. Eight teams lined up for the first season in 2005, including Perth Glory and Adelaide United, the only teams unchanged from their NSL existence. The Newcastle Jets and  Brisbane Roar were born out of the old Newcastle United and Brisbane Lions NSL sides, respectively, while Melbourne Victory, Sydney FC, New Zealand Knights and Central Coast Mariners were all new clubs.

The format of the league was, and still is, nothing like your traditional European football league. Teams play each other three times over the season. In the current 11 team competition, six teams make the finals series. The top two teams clash in a two-legged play off with the winner going straight to the Grand Final as hosts, not just in name but on their own ground. The other four teams play knockout football until one team remains. That team faces the loser from the top two, with the winner going to the Grand Final.  Still with me?  Maybe the graphic, below, of last year’s play-off will help.

This format means any of the six teams can become the eventual champion, though no team from outside the top two has yet managed to go all the way.

Sydney FC won the inaugural title with help from Dwight Yorke, formerly of Manchester United fame, who topped the goal scoring charts. Crowds were decent and the competition was healthy, with none of the ethnic tensions that had crippled the NSL.  The trophy, a uniquely shaped ring, which is a hybrid of the traditional cups and shields found in other leagues, was the victor in an intensely competitive contest, held by the FFA, to design the A-League’s championship prize.  D3 Design, the firm which produced the winning entry, was inspired by the laurel wreath originally awarded to ancient Olympic champions.

Season two saw a boost in crowd numbers, thanks largely to the Socceroos qualification for the 2006 World Cup in Germany, the nation’s first real achievement in the sport in over 30 years.  The sophomore campaign also saw the A-League gain its first major TV rights deal, pay TV company Fox Sports signed a $120 million/7 year deal.  It was a controversial move for a fledgling league looking to crack an established market, considering that the PPV set-up would only provide viewing access to proven fans already sold on the product.

Robbie Fowler has made an impact in the A-League but backroom issues have hindered his rising to the heights which Dwight Yorke reached with Sydney.

In the ensuing years, the A-League has seen one club fail, the New Zealand Knights, while the Wellington Phoenix, North Queensland Fury, Gold Coast United and Melbourne Heart have all joined the competition. The addition of the Heart has made football much more popular in Melbourne thanks to the Heart-Victory derby, while Queensland’s three teams have also attracted large turn-outs on derby days.

Robbie Fowler has become the biggest name to venture to Australia, originally playing for North Queensland before moving to Perth to play for the Glory. Other big name players who have joined Australian clubs include Dwight Yorke, Francis Jeffers and the well-travelled Scotsman, Charlie Miller.

In recent years, falling crowds have led to financial troubles for some clubs.  That and the failed Australian World Cup bid have threatened to undo the FFA’s hard work in setting up a top class Australian league. Despite the empty seats and backroom difficulties, the competition on the pitch remains top-notch, with the current 2010/11 season shaping up as the most exciting in the A-League’s short history.

If the FFA is able to secure the future of competition, ensuring no more clubs go out of business and boosting crowd figures, then the Hyundai A-League may one day grow into the most watched competition in the country. Hopefully, we will be able to entice some of our top internationals, like Tim Cahill, Harry Kewell and Mark Schwarzer into coming home while they still have some matches in them, possibly bringing a few top foreign players with them, to try their hand in a truly unique football league.

]]> 3 A-League Grand Final 09-10 tompoll A-League Playoff Format Fowler, Robbie A-League
Have Melbourne Victory Permanently Ceded Their A-League Throne To Brisbane Roar? Sun, 19 Dec 2010 20:04:10 +0000 Tom Pollock Continue reading »]]> Melbourne Victory, for so long, have been the power club of Australian football. The 2006-7 and 2008-9 champion have been the most consistent club since the inception of the A-League, in 2005. Memories of a disappointing first season when Victory were the worst Australian club in the league were quickly erased in the second season. The Big V swept the league off its feet, powering to the Grand Final where it demolished rivals Adelaide United 6-0. Melbourne was at it again in the 2008/09 season, again defeating Adelaide in the Grand Final, this time 1-0. The win ensured Victory became the first dual champion of Australian football. The club set another record the following season, becoming the first team to make consecutive Grand Finals, going down to bitter rivals Sydney FC in a penalty shoot-out.

Melbourne are also the most supported team, consistently managing to top the attendance statistics. In fact, there has been only one season when Victory didn’t have the highest average attendance and this occurred in the first year when Sydney finished on top. Since then, Melbourne has had an average attendance of over 20,000/match every year, a remarkable figure considering most other teams are lucky to break 10,000.

For Merrick's Victory, it's twilight time.

The key to Melbourne’s success lies in its stability. Coach Ernie Merrick is the only foundation manager still holding onto his job. Kevin Muscat has captained the club since day one, while Archie Thompson has been the focal point in attack for just as long. Players have joined and left the club, the core however, has remained largely unchanged. Roddy Vargas, Leigh Broxham and Adrian Leijer all joined the club within its first year.  Leijer did, however, have a two-year stint at Fulham from 2007-2009, before returning a more accomplished player. Merrick’s scouting ability meant players of the quality of Fred, Joe Keenan, Sutee Suksomkit and current midfield talisman Carlos Hernandez have been brought in from overseas. Such attention to detail adds up and Victory was the club to which all others aspired.

However, this season has seen a power shift. The ageing Victory squad is no longer the force it used to be. Kevin Muscat is approaching retirement. Players such as Vargas, Brebner and Tom Pondeljak, who hit the winning goal in the 2009 final, are all on the wrong side of 30 and Thompson, still finding his feet following a serious knee injury, isn’t as potent as in previous years. The two outstanding players for the Victory this season are defender Leijer and forward Robbie Kruse, who is in top form. He has hit 10 goals and has been attracting attention from Europe. However, two players don’t a team make.  This week, Melbourne barely managed to string a rare pair of wins together, something that once came easily and often to them.

While Victory’s influence has faded, a new power has arisen during the 2010 A-League season.  The Brisbane Roar have taken all before them, racing to the top of the league and opening a 10 point lead over the rest of the competition. Their loss to Melbourne Victory is the only blemish on an otherwise amazing season for the Roar, who remain undefeated at their home ground, Suncorp Stadium. Manager Ange Postecoglou, who took over the club in late 2009, has moulded his side into an (almost) unbeatable force which is taking the standard of A-League play to new levels.

Thomas Broich is becoming the face of the league.

Postecoglou initiated a massive overhaul of the club, clearing out no less than 11 players, including Roar’s 09-10 top scorer Sergio van Dijk. Promising youngsters, Adam Sarota, Tommy Oar and Michael Zullo left the club together to pursue their European careers with FC Utrecht, while Liam Reddy was allowed to leave for Sydney. With room to build, Postecoglou brought in some influential new signings which have breathed surprising life into the formerly second to bottom side.

Securing the services of goalkeeper Michael Theoklitos, of the 2009 Victory championship side, has provided the defence with a solid foundation. Former Socceroo Shane Stefanutto’s signing, from North Queensland Fury, further strengthened the back line. The midfield was bolstered by the signings of Rocco Visconte and Erik Paartalu, from Scottish clubs Hearts, and Greenock Morton, while the job of replacing van Dijk, up front, was given to Kosta Barbarouses, formally of the Wellington Phoenix.

Yet, the biggest signing of Postecoglou’s reign so far would have to be Thomas Broich. The former German U/21 representative moved from the Bundesliga’s FC Nuremburg to the Roar on a free transfer.  Since arriving, he has led the Brisbane midfield in emphatic fashion.  Players of Broich’s quality have rarely been seen on an A-League pitch and his willingness to relocate over such a distance only says good things about the league’s global standing.  Hopefully, more will follow in the near future.

The $64,000 question is whether the current Brisbane side is a step ahead of the championship winning Victory sides of old?

The short-term answer is not yet but they definitely have the squad and support to get there.

]]> 9 roar v victory tompoll Ernie Merrick, Melbourne Victory boich, thomas, brisbane