Sunday, February 24, 2008


Sorry End

Congratulations to Gary van Egmond and the Newcastle Jets.

On the balance of play they were the better side this evening, although it's probably fair to say that both teams were playing well below their best.

Spare a thought, if you will, for Tony Vidmar. An outstanding servant of Australian football, who played superbly throughout the two legs of the crucial Uruguay tie in 2005, missed the World Cup itself through a tragic mischance, and turned in a fine performance for the first hour of tonight's game, ended his career on the ultimate low note. He deserves plenty of sympathetic hugs and pats on the back tonight.

It looked as if Newcastle just might pay for their failure to capitalise on their complete dominance of the opening half-hour. Although they controlled the midfield unchallenged and managed to open the Mariners up on their left flank, young Song Jin-Hyung, despite his excellence in tight spaces, was unable to deliver a telling final ball. It was surprising, too, that van Egmond continued to put his faith in Song's dead-ball prowess, when his delivery from set-pieces was ordinary throughout the first half.

The Mariners were a sorry sight in that opening period; Mile Jedinak for once failed to take command in the midfield, and the forwards were starved of service from the flanks as well, with the two wide men, Kwasnik and Owens, plainly out of form.

Yet the pendulum gradually began to swing, the Mariners started to latch on to some juicy second balls around the Jets' eighteen-yard area, and one got the feeling that all Newcastle's smart, pleasing interplay in midfield would be to no avail.

In the end, ironically, the Mariners conceded in just the way the Jets have often looked likely to: by trying to dribble around an attacker at the back in order to maintain the momentum. This time, it ended in disaster. A fine finish by Mark Bridge, though, partly making up for his otherwise disappointing season.

The introduction of Tom Pondeljak and Andre Gumprecht had its inevitable effect, but as against Queensland in the preliminary final, Jade North and Andrew Durante proved impressively resolute in the face of the many balls in to the strikers. Durante, for my money, was Newcastle's man of the match.

And the embarrassing chaos at the close? Above all, it was an apt comment on the general standard of refereeing this season, which has been nothing short of abysmal. Mark Shield, in fairness, had done fairly well up to that point (although, like his colleagues this season, he was too lenient on some of the early challenges). It was a clear penalty, and the Mariners had a just grievance. But perhaps it was karma for Newcastle, after the ludicrous penalty awarded against them in the final minutes of the preliminary final.

It was a sorry end to the season in some ways, but perhaps a fitting one; overall, this has not been a season to cherish from an on-field point of view, although the growth of the league in other respects has been wonderful to see.

Here's to a much more entertaining fourth instalment of the competition.

Good read mate, obviously Newcastle deserved to win but that frisca at the end wasn't needed.

Though you do get used to it as this is around the 50th time this season that this kind of thing has happened.
I felt for Vidmar.

I hope Vukovoc is shown leniency.
It was a Grand Final and only the officials appeared to miss the penalty and he didn't really assualt Shields at all. He did aapologise later when he realised the sins of his ways.

Typical grand final. Close but not great football. Jets attempted to play football so I am glad they won.

If we get get all coaches playing possession, passing football the skill levels will rise.
...I hope Vukovoc is shown leniency.
It was a Grand Final and only the officials appeared to miss the penalty and he didn't really assualt Shields at all. He did aapologise later when he realised the sins of his ways....

All I can say is that if Vukovic is given a substantial ban, I'll be writing a very angry piece on the FFA's pathetic inconsistency, with reference to the Joel Griffiths "Groingate" incident in Round 7.
hi mike,

what are your thoughts on our current set up, with the premier`s plate, and the championship trophy?

we have a grand final. that is the aussie way. but most countries we look to in football have leagues.

so i find myself still trying to figure out how i feel about our brave new a-league world ... is the champion really the team of the year?

this is all based on gut feeling. last year, melbourne nailed it, ran the league and won the play-offs at the end. this year, you`ve got one team that was the best throughout the regular season
(and dropped off), and another that came good towards the end.

so for me, this year doesn`t feel like it had a conclusive finish. kinda like having 2 or 3 world champions in boxing.

Hi Clayton,

I don't have a problem with the finals series to be honest. Australians are used to it, they almost expect it in fact, and it keeps the season alive a bit given that there are no real "external" (i.e. UEFA Cup/Libertadores-type things) prizes for anything beyond 1st/2nd, and no relegation scrap to keep the other side of the table interesting.

The simple first-past-the-post league decision isn't really a worldwide norm, TBH. It's only in Europe that it's almost a matter of course.
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