Monday, April 8, 2013
Officials take centre stage
The A-League Angle delves into the world of Australian football, analysing key talking points from the top-flight club competition Down Under.
It's tough to take finals elimination lying down and Perth's attack proved more powerful post-match than it did during their 2-1 loss to Melbourne Victory on Friday night. The officials became the focal point of the match, overshadowing Archie Thompson's winner - and equally outrageous celebration - to take the spoils as talking point of the round.
The now notorious decision of Jarred Gillett to award Victory a late penalty riled Perth's staff and supporters, for two reasons. Andrew Nabbout appeared to control the ball with his arm, leaving Perth to expect a free-kick. The whistle was blown a split second later, but not for Nabbout's infringement. The 20-year-old fell to ground under close attention from Steve Pantelidis, although many in the Glory camp argued their case for simulation.
It wasn't to be and Pantelidis' red card paved the way for Victory to seal the win in extra time. The critics claimed the 'Football Gods' continued their favouritism of Ange Postecoglou, the cynics insist the referees ruined Perth's chances...again.
But spare a thought for the officials who are probably the most-maligned figures in the A-League.
Moments before Nabbout won the penalty for Victory, Smeltz smashed his own attempt from the spot against the crossbar. On most occasions, the finger would be firmly pointed at the Kiwi, who blew a golden chance to seal the result for Glory.
Smeltz avoided more criticism than his wasted opportunity warranted and the referees once again became the scapegoats. The latest developments suggest Glory will push to prevent Gillett from hosting future matches in the west "for his own safety", with the comments from Tony Sage perhaps not a smart PR move.
The debacle should move on by the time Victory travel to face Central Coast on Sunday in a match that pits two of the league's most creative attacks against one another. There is no doubt Victory deserve to be in the penultimate rounds, but they must avoid a repeat of their first-half display against Perth.
Roar edge closer to hat-trick
The A-League finals series has been condemned for rewarding mediocrity, with Brisbane's negative win-loss ratio leading many to suggest they don't have the right to still be playing in April. But there is no doubt the Roar are one of the most in-form teams of the competition, with their recent displays showing the flashes of the brilliance that led them to the last two titles.
Their dominance in Sunday's win over Adelaide will have the remaining teams looking over their shoulder. A cracker from Luke Brattan and a tidy Ivan Franjic finish booked a clash with Western Sydney on Friday night and the Premiers will have a difficult time making it four from four over their northern counterparts.
Although Adelaide's defence left plenty to be desired, Brisbane looked more comfortable in attack than they have all season. Mike Mulvey's side utilised the wide channels effectively and it is an area they must target against the Wanderers, with many sides falling short in their attempts to strike through the middle against the formidable partnership of Topor-Stanley and Beauchamp.
But Mulvey will be sweating on the outcome of injuries to Thomas Broich, Luke Brattan and Jack Hingert. It seems Brisbane's hopes of reaching a third consecutive grand final rest on the fitness of the trio, with Besart Berisha often kept quiet without adequate support from his innovative midfielders.
Kewell's final shot
Is Harry Kewell's career on its final strings? The 34-year-old signed a short-term deal with Qatari side Al Gharafa on the weekend in a desperate attempt to work his way back into Socceroos frame. It is Kewell's first club since he left Melbourne Victory at the end of last season to return to England for family reasons. Why he hasn't secured a deal since then - no matter how small the club - is bewildering. Surely playing for a Championship or Asian side is better than having no professional contract?!
After almost 12 months out of the game, it was no surprise that Kewell dropped out of Holger Osieck's calculations for the World Cup qualifier against Qatar, but the forward is hopeful of returning to the fray for the international fixtures in June and July. Only one problem - the Qatar Stars League is almost over and Kewell will be lucky to get three games under his belt unless Al Gharafa progress to the next round of the Asian Champions League.
We shouldn't question Kewell's club hiatus without knowing the finer details, but perhaps it is time to put his football career first and focus on playing consistently, even for a lower wage. There is no doubt he would be welcomed back into the A-League and rumours of a move to Perth earlier in the year looked promising for Kewell.
Unless the former Liverpool man can lock down his future, it is difficult to see him as part of Osieck's plans, even for the East Asian Cup in July. Whatever the outcome of his short-lived season, it is at least promising to see Kewell back in a club kit.