Sunday, January 07, 2007
Not only have the New Zealand Knights bagged two wins on the trot, but they are playing some good football, and seem to have recovered their confidence.
New coach Ricki Herbert certainly appears to have hit upon a good formation. Neil Emblen and Alen Marcina complement each other superbly well up front, and their contributions deserve an extended mention.
Emblen, one of the Knights' most consistent players over their two-year existence, has been the utility player par excellence, the Knights' version of Philippe Cocu. Contributing manfully in defence towards the beginning of the season, he has looked the part up front in the last couple of games; scoring an impressive goal against Queensland, he also proved surprisingly adept at holding the ball up despite the attentions of a number of defenders.
Of all the Knights' British imports, Emblen has been far and away the best.
Alen Marcina has been a revelation in his brief stint in the A-League. The 27-year-old journeyman has shown ample pace, good positioning, and a pleasing willingness to run at the defence. Tonight, he ruthlessly exploited Jacob Timpano's lack of match fitness in the first half, dealing similarly with an out-of-sorts Iain Fyfe at times.
The other palpable success story of the Knights' season has been their excellent goalkeeper, Mark Paston. The hero of the home win over Queensland in November, Paston made a number of crucial saves against Sydney FC in this evening's game, and his positioning was consistently good.
Whether the New Zealand side can, or even should, remain in the A-League beyond 2006/07 is still far from certain. But under Ricki Herbert, they are making a very good case - on the field, at least.
Well done New Zealand. Its good to see the chorus for them to get booted has quietened down a bit.
Our movement off the ball is terrible, too, as it was last year. We haven't really been punished for it until last night.
...Well done New Zealand. Its good to see the chorus for them to get booted has quietened down a bit....
I'm still not sure if it's a good idea, long-term, for a NZ side to be in the league, but I'm pleased for their fans that they are playing a bit of decent football and getting results at last.