A League Review: Melbourne Victory feeling Kruse's absence, Mariners help Nix back into form
Hello A-League fans, it's Monday, so it's time for the good, bad and ugly from the weekend.
Gone in 60 seconds? Nah
Melbourne Victory's 4-1 loss at home to Sydney FC on Saturday night mirrored their finals chances. Anthony Caceres and Adam Le Fondre put distance between Sydney and the home side within moments of each other, but Victory's control of the match was relinquished long before the 64th minute. Meanwhile, Melbourne Victory's chances of playing finals football this season were effectively ended. One could argue, however, that was already the case once Robbie Kruse succumbed to another injury in February, against Melbourne City.
Without Kruse's movement off the ball as a reference point, Victory have looked completely lost in possession. All this, while the sugar hit of Carlos Salvachua's instalment as head coach wears off on the squad. No surprise, really, that Marco Rojas' fifth minute opener on Saturday -- along with his and Andrew Nabbout's goals against Adelaide the weekend prior -- came in the transitional phase of play.
The PnP Express has been delayed
On the subject of missing reference points crippling the ability of teams to play football, Adelaide suffered a second consecutive loss without Ben Halloran on Saturday. His sense of clarity out of possession has been critical, especially for an Adelaide side so heavily conditioned to play as quickly as possible under Gertjan Verbeek. In the words of Skepta, they broke the turn down button, so games have consequently had a natural complexion of stretched lines and openness throughout this season. Playing from box to box for significant portions of the match relinquishes control, but the inability to change tempo without Halloran has been distinct, both in Saturday's 5-1 loss to Western United and the weekend prior away to Melbourne Victory.
The sample size is small, granted, but in early phases of play against a set defence, George Blackwood has tended to stay on the touchline. As Riley McGree continually darts behind the defensive line, numbers in the middle dwindle, making that sort of run inconsequential in the event Adelaide do not win the second ball -- once it is sent up the pitch. Winning the second ball is an aspect of play the Reds are quite proficient at but such inertia, despite all the running they do, severs the chances of getting closer to goal and creating a substantial threat otherwise -- as obvious as that sounds.
Perth Glory, Melbourne City and our old friend risk
Goals change games, naturally, but for Perth Glory it is a particularly pertinent point. Sunday's 3-2 loss to Melbourne City was almost like a yin to the yang of how they defeated City 3-0 in December. This game was always going to be decided by who scored first, and this is down to a number of factors. For Melbourne City, there is a unique effect on how they can open a team up against a three-man defence that is set in its own half. The ascendancy was critical, however it came, because it creates momentum and builds pressure. Pressure creates panic, and panic creates mistakes. Luckily for Erick Mombaerts' side, the dead ball can be salvation for teams that do not function as effectively with the ball.
For Perth, however, the first goal in the match is crucial. There is a significant difference in effectiveness between Tony Popovic's side with something to defend and Tony Popovic's side needing to chase a game, because the score-line dictates whether they need the ball or not. Not once this A-League season have the Glory picked up the three points after conceding first, and come the postseason, this will be an important aspect.
Following Sydney FC's failure to defeat Jeonbuk in the AFC Champions League, Wellington Phoenix remaining within three points of second spot in the A-League -- with a game in hand over Melbourne City and equal goal difference -- is like salt in the wound. It would truly be fascinating to see this particular Wellington side in Asian competition, but it cannot happen. Them's the rules. Central Coast have gradually become the team to play others into form this season, but with the Phoenix now returned to a full complement of personnel, they have seen off a slight dip in form.
Their 3-1 win in Gosford on Sunday was the natural order of things. As ever, Matti Steinmann and Cameron Devlin remain at the base of what the Phoenix do well in attack, creating penetrative passing angles and consequent spaces for the likes of Ulises Davila and Reno Piscopo -- an important part of Liberato Cacace's opening goal. They *whispers* just might be Sydney's biggest contender.
And finally ... Brisbane vs. Western Sydney
The less said, the better.