Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Pace in, Galekovic departs

Today we saw the arrival of one player and the departure of another at the Melbourne Victory. Victory signed 24 year old Preston Lions' defender Steven Pace as a replacement for the injured Daniel Piorkowski and to sure up our depleted defence. Leaving the club is goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic, who is on his way to league leaders Adelaide United as a replacement for the injured Daniel Beltrame. It is sad to see Galekovic depart (especially to Adelaide) but he was unlikely to get a start anytime soon with the form that Theoklitos is currently in. For a complete profile of our now former keeper, click here. Promising keeper, Mitchell Langerak now becomes the Victory's number two custodian.

Merrick has stated earlier in the week that any new signing would be unlikely to start the upcoming match against Central Coast. So does that mean Merrick has swallowed his pride and we will see the return of Ljubo Milicevic to the match day squad or will he maintain the cold shoulder and make do with a makeshift defence that will be already missing the services of Ryall (Young Socceroos duty) and Pantelidis (suspension). For the sake of the team, lets hope that at least of one of the two players will be in the squad or even the starting XI.

FFA judiciary is a joke

Today the Football Federation Australia Match Review Panel decided to give Melbourne Victory defender Steve Pantelidis an additional two match ban on top of the mandatory one match ban for receiving a red card that he received during Friday night's match against the Newcastle Jets. With the benefit of hindsight there is no doubt that Pantelidis probably deserved the red card for his actions but to add another two weeks to his suspension seems to be a bit heavy handed. Surely, the panel has some access to video footage which clearly shows the provocation that Pantelidis was under plus the fact that his elbow or upper arm clearly hits Griffiths in the upper chest area. Plus it should have been clear in any replay that Griffiths milked the incident for all it was worth.

When you consider this incident against another a number of others this year there seems to be some sort of double standard. Two examples spring to mind, first being the two footed challenge by Danny Tiatto off the ball on Richie Alagich that had the potential to break a leg. Tiatto for his efforts received an one match suspension along with a suspended sentence of one match. Surely a more dangerous or violent act than the Pantelidis' incident. The second example that comes to mind is the non-suspension of Joel Griffiths for striking a linesman. The
Football Federation Australia Match Review Panel hid behind the FIFA ruling that if a yellow card is issued then no further action can be taken. The only reason that Griffiths only received a yellow card was that our favourite referee at the moment, Matthew Breeze didn't have the balls to send him off. In any other code the striking of a referee or umpire is considered a serious offence and warrants lengthy suspensions.

It appears the FFA judiciary or Match Review Panel as it likes to be called, needs to set out clear guidelines for additional suspensions as there is a feeling of inconsistency and irregularity to its rulings and it is slowly turning into a bit of a joke. It is also my hope that the Victory administration appeals this decision and makes the Match Review Panel look even more sillier than it already does.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

An ill wind blows in Melbourne

There is nothing like a red card to get everybody out of their seat and on Friday night provided that opportunity in the Victory's 2-0 loss to the Newcastle Jets . It even raised the supporter groups on the third level out of their committed silent protest at their treatment by the Telstra Dome administration. That incident being a stray Steve Pantelidis' elbow supposedly to the face of Newcastle's Joel Griffiths (who is slowly becoming the most hated player outside of Newcastle). Griffiths' who went down as if shot (nothing new here) but as soon the red card was produced, was up and remonstrating with the Melbourne players. Replays clearly show Pantelidis' elbow connecting with the upper chest of Griffiths and not his face.

I'm currently reading the The Beautiful Game: A Journey Through Latin American Football where Argentinian Mauricio Taricco, an early import into the English game, who candidly talks about feigning injury to get someone sent off .
". . . If someone is really important in their team, I'll try to provoke him so that he retaliates and gets sent off. But that's an advantage that you can give the team because if you're playing against ten men, you've got an advantage. In Argentina it's accepted. If you get someone sent off, after the game the coach will see it as a good move."
I'm not saying Pantelidis is the most important player in the team but having a man advantage a distinct plus when holding onto an one goal lead. The incident which will obviously be hotly debated, took the wind out the sails of the Victory who were constantly on the attack until that point but not finding that killer finishing touch.

That probably was the real story of the night and should be discussed in more detail. The Victory dominated vast periods of the game possession-wise but were unable to find a way through the Jets' defence who were playing a competent counter attacking game away from home. For me, the reason for the inability to break down the defence was the inability of our wingers to draw players out of position and put in good crosses. Too often when given the chance, our wingers and particular Keenan, who had large amounts of the ball would cut back into the already crowded midfield when there was was an opportunity to take his man on and stretch the defence. Kemp, on the other wing was trying to take on the Jets but for me he never looks that confident on the ball.

The solution is not that difficult and its on our bench, his name is Caceres, a player who is not afraid to take on his man, can put in a decent cross and also possesses a decent shot as well. So Ernie, please put Caceres on from the start so we can get some decent width into our game. Its also my wish also to see Caceres and Hernandez have a decent spell of time together on the pitch as I believe it could be the making of key offensive combination. For me the better players on the night were Hernandez and Thompson, whom it appears are starting to gel as a partnership and are constantly on the look out for each other in the attacking third. Matthew Breeze, was in charge for the game, had a shocker and the boys MVFC Blog have discussed this in greater detail in their discussion of the game.

There was a lot of positives from Friday's nights game as well as a few negatives as already stated it will be interesting to see how the players and coaching react for next week's game against Central Coast at the Bluetongue Stadium. I will be most probably be down at the Charles Dickens Tavern watching the game.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

That's not football

That's how Arturo, with whom I watch most Victory games described tonight's performance. He was so angry after the game that he threatened not to go to next weekend's game against Newcastle. I would have to agree with him to a certain extent. After a first half where we threatened to tear apart the Glory with neat interchanges of passing and interplay, the second half was downright boring as we played with everyone behind the ball and played on the counter attack as we absorbed wave after wave of Glory attack. Thankfully the Glory weren't able to break through and we held onto our 2-1 half time lead. My own thought was Merrick may have been looking to conserve energy in lieu of the fact that we have only a five day turnaround until our next encounter and the conditions were quite stifling. But isn't that what substitutes are for. It may be turn out to be a stroke of genius with next weeks' result and performance being the judge.

To match the Jekyll and Hyde performance of the team, the crowd tonight was quite eerie due in part to the relative silence of the both supporter groups on the first and third levels at the "northern" end. They were, I believe staging a silent protest against the management of the Telstra Dome for not allowing the supporter groups on the third level to stand whilst chanting. Although it may have been difficult for them to maintain their silence after piece of great interplay between Hernandez and Thompson saw Hernandez slam the ball past Velaphi in the Glory goal to open his A-League scoring account. You could almost sense his relief and his confidence rise in the remaining minutes of the first half. Let's hope it continues to rise as we look a much better team when he is pulling the strings.

Injury concerns have again struck the Victory defence with Young Socceroo, Sebastian Ryall looking to have injured some part of his leg as he landed awkwardly after an aerial challenge late in the game. After the week's breakfast controversies let's hope that Milicevic and the powers that be can kiss and make up as his presence would be most welcome in the defensive part of the pitch.

Friday, 19 October 2007

The FA Cup: The Complete Story review

When I was younger the FA Cup provided one of the rare opportunities to watch football on television. I would either stay up and watch the game or wait the replay the next day. So when I saw The FA Cup: The Complete Story (Aurum Press, 2005) by Guy Lloyd and Nick Holt sitting on the shelves of a discount bookstore I just had to grab it.

The book gives a summary of every season of the competition from its beginnings in 1871 until 2005 final. It is a great reference guide for all those interested in this great competition. Its not necessary to read the book from start to finish as I did, as you can just open it to a page and find out what happened in that year. The summaries for each season range from one page to three or four pages. For me, what I found interesting were the teams that were winning the competition in its early days and how they now reside in the lower echelons of the English leagues, and teams that have won the competition consistently over its many years. Overall, the book is well written with the general text being interspersed with interesting and odd facts about players which helps break up some of the monotony of the text. It is a must read for all fans of the English game.

One blog, two locations

Victory In Melbourne is now also able to be viewed at http://www.oleole.com/blogs/victory-in-melbourne. The reason for this is that OleOle are having a contest for bloggers to go to the 2007 FIFA Club World Championships. All I need is lots of votes, so please go over and check it out and vote for me (you can only vote once) and even enter yourself. I apologise for the shameless plug.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

The first loss is always the hardest

I don't particularly like it when my team loses, I guess nobody does unless your name is Cecilia. I also don't like it when we lose to Adelaide, its something about them, maybe it stems from the John Kosmina days. So as you may have guessed the loss last night to Adelaide didn't go down too well. In fact I don't think it went down well with all the people in the rather packed Charles Dickens Tavern who were watching the game as well. I decided to give the 'Dickens' a go after a rather poor effort from the Royal Melbourne Hotel for the Sydney game last weekend. I didn't manage to drag anyone along, not for want of trying so I decided I would just hang out with the hundred or so other Victory fans. I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the venue and definitely will back there in the future. The place rocked when the only goal for Victory hit the back of the net.

Pure and simply, last night we were simply outplayed by Adelaide. We were outplayed by a team that wanted it more than we did. We may offer excuses that we were missing key players, but Adelaide were also not at full strength. We did miss the influence of both Muscat and Brebner, who are both so good at breaking up the play. Their replacement Milicevic, who was making his return form injury simply wasn't up for it. He is a central defender, not a central midfielder. The jury is still out for me on Milicevic, I am yet to be convinced of his value. The decision to play Kemp in the midfield was also a mistake and for many fans he is bearing the brunt of their frustrations. The only positive for me last night was the play of Hernandez, who is finally showing us what he is worth with some great passes and control in the midfield. he just wasn't getting the support from his teammates. Otherwise if was a forgettable performance from the team.

It was our first loss for the season (coincidentally we lost our first match last season against Adelaide in Round 8 - I hope that's an omen) and therefore not the the end of the world. Lessons must be learned and sometimes they are hard to take, but if we can take something from this loss we will be all the better for it. Bring on Perth next week I say and plenty of goals.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Two in a row

Last night, it was another trip to the Royal Melbourne Hotel to watch the Melbourne Victory take on arch rivals, Sydney. This time I managed to drag along my football suffering girlfriend. It was a good turnout that saw the Victory triumph 1-0. The match had all the hallmarks of a clasico, yellow cards, red cards, controversy and a late winner. And how the patrons cheered when Allsopp put the ball in the back of the net. It got a slightly greater response than that that greeted the dismissal of Corica. It is always good to beat Sydney, especially on their own turf. One of these days I will head north to see this classic clash.

But for many the main talking point of the night will be the refereeing performance of one Mark Shields, the best referee we have in this country. Unfortunately last night, he had a shocker. He managed to hand out eight yellow cards and one red card. His sending off of Corica for his studs up challenge to Pantelidis' thigh might have been harsh, but it was appropriate. For the most part a lot of the cards were for innocuous challenges and backchat and were unnecessary. This resulted in a very stop-start game that wasn't all that pleasing on the eye. This week it was the referee having an impact on the quality of the game and to a lesser extent the players. The Football Tragic also gives us his thoughts on the game.

Pre-game injury concerns to Broxham and Piorkowski were well founded and saw the return of Hernandez to the starting line-up. Unfortunately there was no start for Caceres, who again proved his worth by providing the great cross for Allsopp to slot home. What does he have to do to get a starting spot? But it was promising to see that Merrick had a number of attacking options on the bench in both Caceres and Patafta. And it was good to see them get some decent game time, especially Patafta. Hernandez probably had his best game of the season and he started to show his worth in the heart of midfield with some excellent distribution. It will be interesting to see how Merrick handles the situation of not having both Broxham (Olyroos duty) and Brebner (suspension due to four yellow cards). I would love to see both Hernandez and Caceres on the pitch together as I think they could really feed of each other well.

The quality of play is slowly improving and will be interesting to see how things shape up against Adelaide next week again away from home. Another win would be most welcome.

Friday, 5 October 2007

A classic weekend

This weekend looms as a classic couple of days in terms of football. Not only does the Victory take on SydneyFC on Saturday night, but one of my other favourite teams Boca Juniors takes on River Plate or "las gallinas" in the superclásico in Buenos Aires on Sunday afternoon (early Monday our time). I would like to think that the clash between Melbourne and Sydney would someday reach the hype of the superclásico. I always look forward to these clashes as both teams see the importance of getting one over other, much like Boca and River. It is always very satisfying to triumph over Sydney. It is probably satisfying than beating any other team in the A-League (except maybe for Adelaide). Much to the chagrin of our northern neighbours over the first two seasons we have had the better of them in head to head competition with three wins to Melbourne, one win to Sydney and two draws. Who could forget the first season encounter when a packed Olympic Park was delirous as the Victory put five past the eventual champions. We never miss the chance to remind them It will be interesting to see how this game pans out and whether our number of wins can be doubled. Will Merrick bite the bullet and drop Brebner to the bench and replace him with Hernandez so he can go head to head with Juninho in the midfield? Probably not, as one thinks that Merrick as a soft spot for his fellow Scotsman. It would be great to see us play more fluent attacking football and outplay our opposition. Fellow Victory supporter and blogger, Cecilia has branded a lot of players as hackers and would like to see the creative players of the league more protected and I would have to agree. We should be encouraging the skill based players such as Burns, Juninho and Hernandez to shine and crack down on those mistimed tackles and deliberate fouling.

A quick word about the superclasico. This season it will be played at the Estadio Monumental, home of River Plate. Boca have not won the superclasico in four encounters, although there have been three draws in there. It will be Boca's best chance as they currently sit in second position on the table and River in tenth. I was in Buenos Aires for the superclásico in April 2006 It was a great experience and sets the whole city abuzz. Unfortunately I couldn't get tickets (our friends did and stood in the La Doce section fearing for their safety) but did manage to go to a small restaurant to watch the game with mostly Boca fans. Here's hoping Boca can finally rack up a win against the old enemy and it would be even more satisfying to come in the Estadio Monumental. In fact, here's hoping that both teams can win their respective superclásicos in the home of the enemy.

¡Dale Victory!
¡Dale Boca!