Friday, March 14, 2008


The Front Foot

The learned Pippinu does not post all that often on his blog, but his lengthy, well-considered pieces are always worth a read. Yesterday, he made some just and insightful observations on Adelaide's somewhat ugly victory over the Pohang Steelers. In complementary vein, here are some musings on Wednesday's other Asian Champions League encounter with an Australian flavour - Melbourne Victory's impressive victory over Chunnam.

Overall, it was an excellent team performance from Merrick's men. Although they gave some signs of being out of season - a few heavy first touches, a drop-off in energy levels in the second half, and one horrible pass-to-the-opposition from Archie Thompson - they were the better side in almost every department. Matthew Kemp showed how well he can play when used in his ideal position, and Billy Celeski gave every indication that he has been a worthwhile acquisition.

But it was Melbourne's overall strategy that made the best impression.

It seems ever clearer that the optimal way for Australian teams (both club and national) to approach matches in Asia is to take the initiative early. The Socceroos emphatically did this against Qatar in February; Sydney FC harassed last year's eventual ACL champions from the off in their home game last year, racing to an early two-goal lead.

The Asian Cup, too, was an interesting case in point. The languid nature of Australia's start against Oman immediately filled the Gulf side with confidence, while the Socceroos' opening thrusts in the quarter-final against Japan, a side which should have been full of confidence, served to put the pre-tournament favourites on the back foot for much of the first half.

It's becoming generally accepted (now that the initial triumphalism of our Asia move has worn off) that many of the better Asian nations are technically our equals or better; by pressing far up the pitch and imposing ourselves physically early in the piece, however, we have usually been able to dictate the game.

Melbourne Victory provided another example on Wednesday night. There was plenty to like about their first-half performance, including their excellent movement off the ball (a facet of their play that Tony Tannous has already commented on), but what struck me particularly was that they made sure to pressure the Koreans in defence immediately, with the result that the visiting side stood off Ernie Merrick's men for much of the half.

The Chunnam Dragons didn't breathe much fire in that first period at all. It didn't help that they started with the elusive Sandro Hiroshi on the bench, leaving one of Asia's less dazzling Brazilian expats to thrash around alone up front while Melbourne took over the midfield. They were constantly caught narrow in defence as well, allowing Melbourne to get in behind the back four dangerously often.

And, of course, there were plenty of panicky long balls from the away side's defence as these confident, physically imposing Australians descended on them.

It was only in the second half (until Roddy Vargas's goal) that Chunnam appeared to come into their own, but a lot of credit for this has to go to the Melbourne side for the way they approached the game. Their willingness to go onto the front foot from the outset ensured them not just five or ten minutes, but a full 45 minutes of dominance...a phenomenon we have seen in Asia several times now.

Ok first\ly the Victory vs Chunnam game

Yep Victory totally dominated, but to be honest i expected it, with the travel and different conditions..
And also, playing one lone striker up front was not the greatest idea..

Physically Victory outdid them, Asian teams seem to be very vunerable on set pieces..

As for the Adelaide game, well to be honest if Pohang couldve finished better, they wouldve won that game easy... Again set pieces had a huge going in our favour.

However, you all seem to be forgetting that we have not played the middle-eastern opponents... who are in some respects more physically able to deal with set pieces, honestly i dont want to put a dent on the Australian teams performance, but imagine if Adelaide played like that against Al-ittihad at their home....

wouldnt be pretty id venture to say
Just one thing to add

If Australia develops the technical side of its game more honestly we would be unstoppable and i dont mean in just Asia..
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