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Jan 12, 2007

Farina sings Velaphi's praises

Debutant goalkeeper Tando Velaphi did more than anyone to keep Queensland Roar in the chase for the A-League title in last night's dramatic 2-1 win over Melbourne Victory.

But it is Perth Glory that stands to be the long-term beneficiary.

Roar coach Frank Farina was full of praise for the 20-year-old Velaphi, who only had a single training session to familiarise himself with his new teammates after being signed on a one-game deal to replace the suspended Liam Reddy.

He made a string of spectacular saves to deny Adrian Caceres, Kevin Muscat, Archie Thompson and impressive Victory teenager Leigh Broxham, leaving the door open for Dario Vidosic to score an injury-time winner at the other end.

Farina predicts that Velaphi will be a first-choice keeper in the A-League as soon as next season, although it won't be in Queensland.

The Young Socceroos custodian flew back to Perth where he will be added to Ron Smith's Glory squad for the 2007-08 season.

With Jason Petkovic still in the early stages of recovery from a badly broken leg, the Glory's goalkeeping situation is up in the air, although stand-in Tommi Tomich has impressed this season.

"The first time I saw (Velaphi) was when he turned up at training," said Farina.

"But he came with big wraps from Fernando, our goalkeeping coach, and Tony Franken from the national team.

"He did himself a huge favour tonight in terms of his career - he was outstanding.

"Perth are signing him next season and they've got a fantastic acquisition ... it would be surprising if he's not their first-choice keeper next year."

If other results fall their way, the Roar could finish the home and away season as high as second if they beat Sydney at home next Saturday.

But such is the closeness of the pack behind runaway minor premier Melbourne that a loss could see Queensland miss the playoffs altogether.

"It puts us right back in there depending on what Newcastle, Adelaide and Sydney do on the weekend," said Farina.

"It's given us a real shot and the next home game against Sydney is another grand final for us."

The Roar will have to take on Sydney without suspended pair Josh McCloughan and Matt McKay who each picked up another yellow card last night.

The Victory will be able to welcome back key trio Grant Brebner, Adrian Leijer and Mark Byrnes for their final preliminary round clash away to much-improved Newcastle.

Melbourne secured the minor premiership several weeks ago, but has gone off the boil in recent weeks.

Last night's loss meant the Victory has only claimed five points from a possible 18 in its last six home matches.

"It was the lightning bolt we needed and we've got to learn from that because we can't have that many individuals, from our captain, to our strikers through to our defenders, we cannot have that many people down on their game," said Victory coach Ernie Merrick.

"I think it was a disjointed performance and there were eight players who were very flat today and that was my concern.

"It's up to each individual player to change."

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