Sunday, February 11, 2007


Preliminary Preview

It is fitting that the A-League’s three best sides remain in the competition.

Now it’s Adelaide against Newcastle for a Grand Final berth, and a place in the 2008 Asian Champions’ League.

Incidentally, a small point: have the A-League bosses made the right decision in reserving an ACL place for the Grand Final losers, rather than the second-placed side in the league, should the minor premiers also secure the “toilet seat”?

Personally, I don’t think so. If the side that gains second place in the league finishes streets ahead of the other finalists, it doesn’t seem fair to deprive it of participation in the ACL based on a few playoff games.

In this case, though, Adelaide were not well clear of the pack. And if the Jets win on Sunday, at least John Kosmina’s side can take comfort from the fact that they will be competing in Asia this year.

But back to the match.

It’s a very hard one to pick. Newcastle have the momentum, Adelaide have home advantage. Yet home advantage wasn’t much use to Adelaide last year, when they went down fairly meekly to the Mariners.

Jade North’s suspension, in my view, is a blessing in disguise. Although North has shown form in fits and starts this season, he is not at his best in central defence, as both Melbourne and Sydney have shown in recent months.

Paul Okon and Andrew Durante will now presumably undertake the central defensive responsibilities, with Steve Eagleton deservedly returning to the first eleven.

Mark Bridge and Stuart Musialik are reportedly carrying knocks from Olyroo exertions, but if such problems were likely to keep them out of the game, we would doubtless have heard more by now. Both players have been absolutely crucial to Newcastle’s fine run, and Gary van Egmond would be loath to leave either of them out.

As for Adelaide, Jason Spagnuolo is supposedly close to fit now…but we’ll see. He has looked much diminished in recent weeks, and up against one of the most mobile full-backs in the competition, he will have his work cut out. He is unlikely to start, which will probably mean Nathan Burns being pushed out to the left once more.

Another influential player in Greg Owens will surely play his part (if only as a substitute), but he looked somewhat match-shy against Melbourne. As Kosmina has pointed out, Owens has been out of full training for some time, and starting him against Newcastle would be a considerable risk.

I’m plumping for Newcastle. Their tails are up, their coach has been lauded from all quarters (and deservedly so, it must be said), and they have looked, if anything, the better footballing side of the two in the latter stage of the competition.

In any event, it should be a good one.

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I'm going for Newcastle, but it would be quite cruel for Adelaide to go out after Melbourne's arsed a win against them. Especially after Adelaide were dumped out of the final last season too. Oh well.
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