Sunday, June 21, 2009


The Bozza We Knew

These days, when Mark Bosnich isn't defending current Socceroo stars from media calumny, he is appearing in the NSW Premier League for Sydney Olympic. In fact, he is the local competition's most high-profile acquisition of recent years, by some distance.

Bosnich played his latest home game for Olympic at Belmore this afternoon, as the Greek-backed club gained its first win in the league since April, against Penrith-Nepean United. It was a good opportunity to have a look at the on-field qualities of Bosnich circa 2009, and although there were many signs of decay, there was one moment of patent class...for which, read on.

He was never famed for his distribution, and it was this aspect of his game which apparently made him goalkeeper non grata at Manchester United. Sure enough, this evening, he did not impress with his accuracy, and his defenders were only too aware that expecting him to clear with his right foot was asking for trouble.

Less predictable was the fact that his communication with the backline was quite poor. No fewer than three times, there was confusion between Bosnich and the centre-half pairing of Mirko Jurilj and Michael Cindric, and twice it very nearly cost Olympic. True, the centre-halves were partly to blame for this, but a player of Bosnich's experience could have been expected to take charge a bit.

It's no secret that Bozza is, erm, "carrying a bit too much baggage". He admitted to a Sydney Olympic insider of my acquaintance that he needed to shed a good 12 kilos to be back to his professional best. Fair enough, but...didn't we hear much the same during his stint with the Mariners? If Bosnich does indeed intend to have another crack at Europe, he's pacing himself rather gently.

But enough criticism. Bosnich's trump card is, and has always been, his prodigious shot-stopping. My mind goes back to a 0-0 draw at the Bernabeu in 2000, in which Bosnich brilliantly repelled wave after wave of Real Madrid attacks, in perhaps his finest game for Manchester United. It was not enough to endear him to Sir Alex Ferguson on a long-term basis, but it showed just why he was so highly valued by so many in Europe.

From the Bernabeu to Belmore: the 80th minute, to be exact, with the score still at 2-2. A Penrith attack has forced the Olympic defence to crowd around the 18-yard area, and the ball reaches Paul Crisp, 25 yards from goal. He sends a cracker of a shot goalwards, and it's heading straight for the top corner. The Penrith players are getting ready to leap in celebration, until the Bosnich of old leaps to his right and makes a fantastic, breathtaking save.

Thirteen minutes later, Olympic score a last-minute winner at the other end. And their distinguished keeper, still one of the finest players Australia has produced, can afford a satisfied little smile.

Thanks Mike
doesn't seem like we'll hear too much more of Bozzas playing... More of the say something to get noticed on Foxtel...
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