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Post by Lee on Mon Oct 20, 2014 3:09 pm

From The Guardian

A-League: what we learned in round two

Pitch invasions; a resplendent Adelaide Oval; same old Melbourne City; a Phoenix surprise; record crowds

The Sydney derby The Sydney derby was a fiery, thrilling game.

Intensity and a pitch invasion at the Sydney derby

For a rivalry that is just seven games young, the Sydney derby has generated an enormous amount of attention. It’s the type of fixture that makes the football evangelicals go weak at the knees and dare to dream of a glorious future. But to be frank, so far it has been much ado about nothing; perhaps more of an artificially inseminated rivalry than something that rises authentically from the land. See for example the manufactured ‘stand-off’ between the players before kick-off. While the Wanderers attracted plenty of ex-Sydney FC players (and fans?), and Brendon Santalab’s whimsical linguistic games with Ali Abbas last season got people revved up, there hasn’t really been a classic match to kick-start the occasion. Until Saturday night, that is. Both teams were far from their best, and the match was more of a scrap than an exhibition of champagne football, but it was still the match of the round. There was some questionable refereeing, calamitous goalkeeping, a straight red card for Vitor Saba after a tackle that was almost as bad as his haircut, and an epic comeback for the home side crowned by a late winner for Sydney FC’s returning hero, Alex Brosque. The spontaneous pitch invasion by the Cove showed just how much the result meant to the Sydney FC fans, and how much nicer it is when a rivalry is allowed to develop organically.

A new City

Apparently, the second Melbourne team played their ‘first’ game at AAMI Park over the weekend. I realise that Heart were incredibly forgettable as a football club, but all this talk of starting afresh seems a little silly. Sure, the members feel aggrieved that their commitment is now being airbrushed from history, but hey, Heart were meant to appeal to the unaligned NSL fans, so they’d be used to that. But listen here, Abu Dhabi, I didn’t want to watch Melbourne Heart for all those years anyway, and now you’re saying it all counted for nothing? Well. That really rankles. I’ll never get those Friday nights back. Mercifully, David Villa makes me forget my problems, and if he continues this run of form, I suspect he will for any of the remaining disillusioned Heart supporters. For the second time in two weeks, Villa equalised to save City. It’s amazing to think that this time last season Michael Mifsud was leading the line. Villa might only be here for 10 games, but perhaps more than anything, he has changed the perception of the club formerly known as Melbourne Heart.

Stalemate at Adelaide Oval

The Adelaide Oval The Adelaide Oval was a fine sight on Friday evening. Photograph: Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images

At least the ground looked pretty. The sightlines for spectators at Adelaide Oval might not be great for football, but the place was resplendent on Friday evening for the cross-border clash between Adelaide United and Melbourne Victory. With 33,000 fans packed into the ground, the only shame was that the game was so uneventful. Few expected it to be such a sluggish affair, especially as both sides usually play enterprising, attacking football. Indeed it took until the final 10 minutes for the game to come alive. Sergio Cirio’s goal in the 85th minute was terrific: a clever run, a sublime first touch and a well-placed shot brought the house down. Josep Gombau was his usual upbeat self in the post-match press conference, but he’ll be filthy at the lax marking for Melbourne’s equaliser. With a record crowd for football in Adelaide, it was a pity that the Reds couldn’t finish off their fiercest rivals.

Return of the Mack

It just had to be Michael McGlinchey. The little midfielder, who transferred from Central Coast Mariners to Wellington in the off-season in highly controversial circumstances, scored one and played a part in the second goal as Wellington came from behind to win in Gosford. McGlinchey was once a fan favourite at Central Coast, having won a premiership and a grand final during his five season stint with the Mariners, but he was booed by the home fans throughout the match on Saturday afternoon. Mariners coach Phil Moss was diplomatic after the game, saying McGlinchey “gave great service for the club”, but Central Coast’s loss is certainly Wellington’s gain. He’s scored two goals in as many games, and his backheel to open up space for the second goal was beautiful. Alongside Roly Bonevacia, Albert Riera and Alex Gorrin in midfield, Wellington may surprise a few teams this season.

A record breaking weekend

The best news of the weekend was the record number of spectators. There were three blockbuster games: Adelaide and Melbourne Victory always pulls a good crowd, the Sydney derby packed in 41,213 people – a record regular-season crowd for any code at Allianz Stadium – while Melbourne City played their first game at home since the rebrand. In total, 106,082 people attended across the five games over the weekend, which is a higher aggregate than the previous record of 100,998 in round one last season. According to FFA’s sexy stats man Andrew Howe, that’s a massive boost from this time 20 years ago in the NSL – almost a 400% increase.

The only shame is that the benchmark of the NSL, Perth Glory, still struggle to draw the crowds of the old days. Some say the increase of the price of tickets at NIB Stadium have had an impact out west, others believe it is the natural consequence of Perth no longer being a big fish in a small pond. But Perth have made the best possible start with a fantastic comeback win over champions Brisbane Roar in the last game of the round. Impressively, new signing Andy Keogh has scored a couple of goals in the FFA Cup, as well as four goals in two games in the A-League (I’m giving him that second goal that went in off a deflection – as he said, “if you don’t shoot you don’t score.”) Despite the stragglers in Perth and Central Coast, who both drew fewer than 10,000 fans to their home games, there are positive signs just two rounds into the league’s 10 season.


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