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Oct 26, 2010

A-League Tops and Flops

Something had to give in A-League Round 11 as the winless Sydney FC travelled to face Perth Glory, who were on a five-match losing streak.

The two sides have featured heavily among the Flops recently but it was Sydney who joined the Tops circle, inflicting Glory's sixth straight defeat. Elsewhere, the status quo remained as frontrunners Adelaide and Brisbane both registered impressive wins to open a further gap on the chasing pack. And Gold Coast managed another 0-0 draw at Melbourne Heart while three teams put their feet up with the weekend bye.

TOP TEAM

Sydney and Brisbane both had dominant wins and Melbourne Heart did everything but score against Gold Coast but, all round, Adelaide United put in the best performance of the weekend. Adelaide hosted a Wellington Phoenix team determined to end their awful away record on Friday night and, for the first half hour, it was all the visitors at Hindmarsh. But United weathered the storm and eventually blitzed Phoenix with three rapid-fire goals in the second half.

It wasn't a brilliant 90-minute performance, but it showcased all that is good about the league leaders: the defiance of Eugene Galekovic and his defenders when under pressure, the inevitable imposition of class from Marcos Flores, Lucas Pantelis and Sergio van Dijk, and their strength in depth with the match-turning impact of Travis Dodd off the bench.

FLOP TEAM

Perth Glory deserve this award perhaps more than any other team in any other week this season. There will inevitably be talk this week of Sydney FC having finally turned the corner after their 3-0 win in the west, but they simply ran into an opponent who are more out of sorts than they are.

Glory have changed coach from Dave Mitchell to Ian Ferguson but the team hasn't enjoyed the traditional honeymoon period under the new boss. Instead, things appear to be getting worse. Glory's basic skill execution bordered on embarrassing at times but it was the apparent lack of effort and pride in the shirt that drove supporters to jeer their own men and flock out of NiB Stadium well before the final whistle. A promising start to the season has turned into a nightmare and based on Sunday's showing that elusive victory doesn't look like arriving soon.

TOP PLAYER

Despite having only four games on the weekend, there were plenty of candidates for the individual award, from Gold Coast keeper Glen Moss to Sydney striker Bruno Cazarine and many in between. But Brisbane Roar attacking lynchpin Thomas Broich has been building up credit with Tops and Flops all season and, after avoiding recognition thus far, it's time he cashed it in. The German has been central to Roar's eye-catching method of play this term and he was at his best in the 2-1 win over Melbourne Victory. His delivery into the box is unrivalled in the A-League and it led to the first goal through a corner.

In general play he combines a graceful touch with energetic running to make him as close to the complete package for an attacking midfielder as we currently have on these shores.

FLOP PLAYER

Gold Coast full-back John Curtis had a torrid time trying to deal with Melbourne Heart's left-side attack in the scoreless draw at AAMI Park. To be fair to Curtis, Miron Bleiberg's flexible formation lacked a permanent right midfielder ahead of Curtis, so he was often trying to mark two players when Heart left back Aziz Behich joined winger Rutger Worm in attack.

Even so, Curtis allowed Worm far too much room and had his centre-backs and goalkeeper to thank for defusing the constant flow of crosses coming in from his side. He was caught upfield or out of position too many times for someone of his experience in the English Premier League. As a new import to the A-League, we'll give him the benefit of the doubt for now, but he could be a target for rival teams in future on Saturday's evidence.

TOP COACH

Sydney FC boss Vitezslav Lavicka said he would defy his fear of heights and climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge when his team won a game, but had they not beaten inept Perth on Sunday, he may have wanted to jump off it instead. Still, you can only beat what's in front of you, and Lavicka deserves some credit for finally getting Sydney off the mark (plus he's been a Flop enough times to have earned a taste of the Top life).

Lavicka finally made the changes Sydney have been begging for, switching to a 4-2-3-1 and mixing up his selections. The new formation gave the Sky Blues the natural width they'd lacked in their diamond 4-4-2. Bruno Cazarine thrived in a more suitable target man role and the reinstalled Hayden Foxe performed strongly as the 'boss' Sydney have been lacking at the back.

FLOP COACH

Brisbane are looking untouchable at Suncorp Stadium but Ernie Merrick didn't help Victory's chances of an upset with his tactical selections. Merrick's back three worked a treat against Sydney's narrow, two-striker attack last week, but it didn't match well at all against Roar's three-pronged frontline.

Kevin Muscat had his best game of the season taking care of Reinaldo but Roddy Vargas and Adrian Leijer were then either left marking no one, meaning Brisbane had an overload elsewhere, or they were too exposed when Roar broke in wide areas. Merrick ditched Mate Dugandzic for Leigh Broxham in the first half but it was a reactionary move and he could have done with Dugandzic coming off the bench later on. Newcastle's 4-2-3-1 stifled Roar far more effectively than anyone else who has gone to Brisbane and it's a surprise more coaches aren't taking a leaf out of Branko Culina's book.

Goal of the Week

We like something a little different at Tops and Flops and Luke DeVere's carving run from central defence that ended up with Jean Carlos Solorzano giving Brisbane three points was just that. It's not often you see a young centre back carry the ball out his own half, skin defenders as good as Kevin Muscat and Roddy Vargas and drive into the opposition box. The scrappy end to the move didn't take away from the quality of its creation.

Save of the Week

Mark Paston beat a competitive field with his lightning-quick stretch to deny Paul Reid minutes before Adelaide smashed three goals into his net.

Best of the Rest

North Queensland Fury caused a splash this week with the announcement that former Socceroo and current A-League pundit Mark Bosnich would be training their team in the absence of their suspended regular coaches next week. The move has divided opinion, with some thinking it undermines the A-League's credibility to have an amateur on the touchline for one game.

Fury coach Franz Straka will no doubt be calling all the shots from the stands so the presence of 'Bozza' in his usual seat should not be considered any more than a marketing stunt. At a time when the A-League is crying out for some cheap publicity, Fury should be commended for trying to turn a bad situation into a positive having had both their coaches banned, as should Bosnich for doing his bit to generate some hype.

Challenging Fury for 'Gimmick of the Week' was Perth Glory's Robbie Fowler-led attempted recruitment of Wayne Rooney. The tongue-in-cheek story became world news and culminated in serial joker Naum Sekulovski wearing a Rooney mask to a press conference announcing his signing for $45 trillion.

Worst of the Rest

Brisbane Roar's win was marred by some homophobic chanting from a minority of supporters directed at former striker Robbie Kruse. Victory striker Kruse didn't cover himself in glory by celebrating his superb goal by running in front of him former fans pointing at his name. There's no point arguing about who upset who first - both parties were wrong in this case. There's certainly no room for that brand of insult at any time, but there's also no excuse for Kruse's tasteless celebration considering these supporters adored him before he left for Victory of his own accord.

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