Thursday, July 13, 2006
I refer, of course, to the Vodafone Premier League preliminary final between Sydney United and Bankstown Lions. (I hear there was a match played in Berlin a few hours later with some similar characteristics - I'll have to check the details of that one some time.)
Sydney United did superbly well to get back into the game after being hit with a double blow - a Bankstown goal and the harsh dismissal of Mason Palmieri - early in the second half. In the end it took an elementary error from Peter Vassilis to allow them to equalise, but in truth, they had always looked likely to conjure something up, even with ten men.
Now they face a Blacktown City Demons side enjoying an enviable run this season. So far, they have collected the Continental Tyres Cup, the Johnny Warren Cup (defeating United in the final), and the league minor premiership.
Blacktown are a team with few big names, even by state league standards; their star performer has been the A-League bound Tolgay Ozbey, but from what I've seen of them this season, they are a team in the true sense. Fit, pugnacious and tactically well-organised, they will present a formidable hurdle to Sydney United.
Having watched United's last two games, I feel they may not have quite enough to challenge Blacktown, to whom they lost twice in the league, in the final on July 16. Currently they are using a young strikeforce of Ben Vidaic and Luka Glavas, both talented young strikers but a little short on strength. In the first half, despite plenty of service, they found it hard to hold the ball up.
United playmaker Lisandro Berbis, another youngster, is a player of considerable promise. However, he still appears somewhat raw, not to mention prone to the odd rash challenge. Behind him is the resourceful Mile Jedinak, easily United's best player of the finals series so far. Strong in the air and in the tackle, he was largely responsible for United's domination of the first half on Sunday.
The Croatian-backed club has another able midfielder in the right-sided Peter Markovic, astute in his movement off the ball, and especially quick to spot an opposition fullback out of position. The Demons will need to keep a close eye on him next Sunday.
The central defensive partnership of Ante Juric and Joe Vrkic is sturdy and experienced, but perhaps a little lacking in pace. United may well be vulnerable out wide as well; Shane Webb, Bankstown's best player on Sunday night, twice made a monkey of Todd Brodie on the United right; after one such incursion, Webb's cross resulted in the only Bankstown goal.
Despite all these reservations, Sydney United are an excellent side and should provide far more than token opposition for the all-conquering Demons. Sunday, July 16, Marconi Stadium, 3 p.m. If you're in the area, come along. It should be an intriguing afternoon's football.
Just a note that it's good to see you cover some local stuff. I'd like to do the same in Brisbane next season.
Meanwhile, I'm learning an enormous amount from yourself, James and Tony in particular. Thankyou!
It's always nice to get in some live football, even if the standard isn't quite the same. Managed to see a fair bit of the state league this season, mainly Syd. Olympic (who were pretty ordinary, although they had a fair few A-Leaguers in there at various times - Mark Bridge, Zenon Caravella, Tarek Elrich). And I intend to do the same next year!