Monday, December 31, 2012
Rage over Rogic red
The A-League Angle delves into the world of Australian football, analysing key talking points from the top-flight club competition Down Under.
Rage over Rogic red
Few topics have fuelled debate in the A-League this season more than Tom Rogic's send-off in the Central Coast Mariners' 1-0 loss to Sydney FC last week. For hours afterward, Rogic trended throughout the Twitterverse.
It begs the question: why?
Toward the conclusion of a tense and tiring match, Rogic was beaten to a loose ball by Sydney's Rhyan Grant but went through with his challenge with hefty force regardless. A talented player, in that particular moment, chose the wrong option and was punished for it. End of story.
Or is it? What has made tongues wag across the nation over a fairly straightforward - albeit highly unsavoury - piece of action, followed by a correct decision made by referee Peter Green?
The reason, surely, lies in Rogic's immense talent, odd as that may sound.
The viewing public don't want to see a player of Rogic's composure, technique and flair involved in studs-up challenges. It is rare that Australia produces a true ball-playing no. 10 such as this 20-year-old, and certainly football lovers appreciate that he is different in terms of his approach to the game than most midfielders. Supporters, then, cringe as he dives into a challenge as just any player would, partially sullying his reputation in the process.
Australia, so long devoid of players with unbridled creativity at club and national team levels, has created a craving for those of Rogic's ilk within the national psyche. The reaction to Green's decision to show red stirred emotions rooted in a desire to see attractive football played on pitches across the country.
Most comments seemed to defend Rogic, though not the challenge itself. Those thoughts were echoed by coach Graham Arnold the following day when he told Fox Sports it was "out of character", playing down any sentiments implying his maestro set out to injure Grant.
As a nation, Australia evidently remains anxious about any suggestion that our players do not possess skill or technical ability and rely purely on winning the physical battle. The mere thought that others may claim that about Rogic saw those fears bubble to the surface.
Regardless, the lesson will likely prove timely for Rogic and his Mariners team-mates. Still top-of-the-table after the defeat, Arnold can point to this frustrated performance for his relatively young side to grow heading toward the finals.
Sydney, meanwhile, will be hoping the much-needed win will spark their campaign back into life as they climbed off the bottom for the first time in six weeks.
Arnold's men will continue to be tested in the coming weeks, with Rogic subsequently suspended for three weeks, while captain John Hutchinson and leading goalscorer Daniel McBreen will also sit out the New Year's Eve clash with Perth Glory.
The Mariners could do worse than to look to A-League newcomers Western Sydney Wanderers in dealing with a stretched squad. Tony Popovic's depleted side travelled to Perth last week and looked good for all three points until a late Nick Ward volley salvaged a point for the home team.
Newcastle get Scrooged
At this time of year someone has to play the role of Ebenezer Scrooge.
Like the gruff anti-hero from Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol', it was difficult to see the spirit of the season shining through in the scintillating encounter between Melbourne Victory and Newcastle Jets last week.
In-form Victory striker Marco Rojas - cheekily hailed as 'Kiwi Messi' by fans - stole the show, bagging a brace of bombs in a 3-2 triumph which saw third-placed Melbourne make up ground on the league leaders.
But, to put it simply, Rojas' match-winner should never have counted. The ball played through, which ultimately fell into his path for a snap-volley, was aimed at Gui Finkler, who was standing in an offside position and therefore "gaining an advantage" as stipulated in Law 11 of FIFA's rulebook.
That's to take nothing away from Rojas, he can only play as the referee allows, and his first goal to open the scoring was also sublime. That set the scene for the Victory and Jets to throw everything at each other in a highly entertaining match in front of a packed crowd.
However, what should be addressed is the general sentiment in this situation of 'technically it shouldn't have been a goal, but it deserved to be the winner of such a great game'.
No. It was offside. The Jets can deservedly feel robbed of a competition point, which may prove crucial in such a tight competition as teams battle for a place in the finals.
It may have been a remarkable strike at the culmination of a wonderful game, but Rojas' strike should have been nothing more than a moment of trickery after the whistle had blown for offside.
Slow Heart rate
As the A-League moves into 2013, Melbourne Heart sit bottom of the table. An unenviable record, but one, unfortunately, deserved after a series of insipid displays this term.
Therein lies the problem for the Heart. Their results come not from a lack of ability, but their lethargic approach to matches seems to belie their greatest strength: speed.
Through the likes of David Williams, Aziz Behich, Michael Marrone and Golgol Mebrahtu, the Heart have some of the quickest wide men in the competition. Instead of hurting their opponents through swift counter-attacks or overloading in midfield before releasing a winger, John Aloisi's men appear intent on stringing passes together at the back far too often.
Of course there are times when putting a foot on the ball is required, but surely not to the detriment of the team's attack. That was evidenced in the Heart's 3-2 loss at Wellington Phoenix. In this battle of the A-League's most lethargic teams, there was a perfect opportunity for Melbourne to utilise their dynamism.
After taking an early 2-0 lead, though, the opposite occured. Rarely was a winger unleashed, with their penchant for playing across the back four taking precedence.
It is unclear where this sluggishness stems from, but Aloisi must hope former Socceroo Vince Grella can organise the troops to play to their strengths when he makes his debut in the coming days.
Brisbane, meanwhile, will hope their victory over Adelaide is the start of things to come in the New Year after enduring a topsy-turvy start to the season. The Roar return home to take on Wellington on the first day of 2013 in order to kick-start their title defence.
With a busy festive period almost at a close, the matches in the early part of January could be pivotal to each club's finals aspirations. Who will start the year with a bang? Which team will drop off the pace as the temperatures begin to soar in the Australian summer?