Soccer in Australia is not dead and buried (but maybe some referees should be). That was the message for you all from coaches Nick Theodorakopoulos and Grant Lee after Leeıs team lost to Theodorakopoulosı side today. (But of course they didnıt really say that last bit in brackets, did they.)
Parramatta took the three points thanks to Ante Milicic taking two easy goals. Why soccer in Australia has so much promise is not because Parramatta actually should have won by more, but because there was a lot of talent on the park, even on the losing side, which kept attacking to the end.
Sydney Unitedıs attack in fact dominated the first few minutes.
Labinot Haliti wasted a pass from the right toward Zeljko Babic the start of what was not going to be happiest of games for Unitedıs hard-running forward.
George Nohra who ultimately suffered even more cut into the box from the right but was blocked by Matt Thompson. A well hit corner was headed clear.
Mathew Langdon (who failed to live up to the expectations of the home fans while he was on the left flank) hit a long ball right through to Power keeper Clint Bolton.
Andre Gumprecht, fed through the middle, played to Milicic (greeted by loud booing from the fans of his former club) who set up Ahmad Elrich for a cross that sailed too high. United returned the favour by wasting a cross at the other end.
The United fans called for Langdon to push further forward up the left. Babic dropped a ball for Langdon, but Langdon didnıt get it because he hadnıt pushed forward.
United kept attacking, but Power were catching them offside.
In the ninth minute Gumprecht crossed from the right and Milicic, with a leaping header, hit the crossbar.
Andrew Durante put in a good tackle on Babic chasing a through ball. Babic recovered the ball but Durante headed clear Babicıs cross from the right.
Thompson bumbled his way into the United penalty area; the United defence had him surrounded but conceded a corner nevertheless. Liam Reddy cleared with a one-fisted punch.
Babic fell over Durante. The fans complained. This was the second time referee Mark Shield had ignored a Babic spill (though in this instance probably a fair call).
Power were now looking the superior side. They were better setting up shots putting more time and thought into their game.
A Thompson shot was deflected for a corner.
Petar Markovic blocked a shot from Elrich after Alvin Ceccoli headed a long corner from the left back across the box.
Ceccoli beat Babic to a through ball and Babic appealed to the referee for protection.
In the 16th minute Gumprecht put the ball to the goal line on the right for Elrich to cross. The near post runners missed it but the ball bounced through to Milicic who had an easy tap in at the far post. It was so easy he almost looked reluctant to take it.
Elrich then played down the right for Gumprecht to cross. That was blocked but Power won a corner, taken short for Gumprecht to cross again but Power were ruled offside.
Simon Colosimo tried a long shot but didnıt really get onto it.
Elrich was good dispossessing Nohra and running 70 metres to collect the ball in the far corner of the pitch.
Paul Ivanic gave a rubbish ball to Nohra. The fans jeered.
In the 22nd minute Travis Dodd, with time, missed an easy chance after John Buonavoglia and Elrich worked well to get another cross in from the right.
United almost bundled the ball into the Power goal but Bolton watched it go wide.
In the 24th minute Reddy made a good save, late sighted, of a low shot from Elrich.
Michael Beauchamp (who started awkwardly but was a star by the end) upended Babic and the crowd and Babic gave Shield many pieces of their minds. Shield stopped play to lecture Babic.
Reddy saved a fine own goal attempt sailing to the top right corner.
In the 26th minute Babic, running into the right of the Power penalty area, shot low to the far post, but it wasnıt firm enough to really trouble Bolton.
A minute later, Halitiıs left foot peg almost dipped under the crossbar from just outside the penalty area. Bolton was beaten.
Babic called on his team mates for better service.
Gumprecht wasted a cross from the right.
Ivanic foolishly tried to take on Beauchamp and Elrich. United fans complained that Langdon was sleeping. And Ivanic was caught offside.
On 30 minutes Petar Markovic put a good ball for Langdon down the left but Langdon was fouled by Elrich (who was rewarded with a yellow card). Nothing came from the free kick apart from Joe Vrkic appealing for a pulled shirt.
United kept trying to loft balls forward, which was not the best idea, given the relative stature of Babic and the Power defence.
Ceccoli made a good tackle on Babic but Babic recovered, received a pass, and worked towards goal looking to unload but Ceccoli got him again.
Langdon hit a good curling cross early from the left. The United forwards almost overran it but Babic connected with a hefty knock high over the target.
United fans again gave Langdon stick for lagging behind play, but Langdon did deliver another good cross to Babic who was easily managed by Durante.
Simon Colosimo chipped over the Sydney United goal.
In the 41st minute Buonavoglia played to Elrich who was brought down by Markovic. When United cleared the free kick Babic had a free run at goal and the crowd got excited. Unfortunately, for Babic and the home crowd, as Babic thought it was about time to line up his shot Beauchamp passed him and took the ball as though Babic wasnıt even there.
Langdon again looked for Babic but Beauchamp cut it out.
Langdon tried to beat Beauchamp but Beauchamp won and fed Buonavoglia up the right.
In the 45th minute Buonavoglia played wide to Elrich whose long cross to the far post again found Milicic. It seemed a certain goal but Milicic headed upward instead of down and missed the target.
Nohra started to stand out, running the ball up the middle, fending off tackles and setting up an attack (unfortunately there wasnıt much more of the game ahead for him).
Gumprecht crossed and Reddy did enough to spoil the chances of the Power players arriving in the box.
The United fan to my left (correctly) predicted it was going to be hard for his side in the second half: ³Theyıre not finishing well.²
It got particularly hard for United when Nohra was stretchered off not long after the restart. Though that provided the opportunity for Marko Filipovic to make his debut for United.
Markovic was good stopping Dodd coming in from the right.
Colosimo, who had been pretty quiet in the first half, reminded everyone he was there with a brilliant turn in midfield, changing the direction of play and setting up an exciting period of Power possession play. The visitors slowly worked forward until their game broke down when Buonavoglia fell over trying to collect a Milicic pass.
Buonavoglia hit a great ball wide to Lucas Pantelis (on at half time for Thompson) but Michael Cunico cleared the cross. Cunico, who struggled the week before and who also had a quiet first half, made his presence felt in the second period.
In the 58th minute Dean Heffernan came on for Haliti. The fans near me, who thought Haliti was their best player in the first half, went, ³Ay, yay, yah!² They would have much preferred that Heffernan replaced Langdon. In any case, Langdon switched to the right, so he could learn from their advice some more.
Langdon beat Pantelis in the chase for a Power through ball and Mark Rudan stopped Buonavoglia with a good tackle after Power played into the United penalty area.
In the 63rd minute Pantelis shot over the United crossbar. And a minute later Pantelis played in to Dodd who ran at goal and shot just to the left of target.
Dodd then cut in from the left and pushed the ball across the edge of the United penalty area and Colosimo also shot wide to the left of goal.
Pantelis crossed from the left and Buonavoglia and Milicic couldnıt make contact.
United built well for a change but Cunico and Langdon gave the ball away.
Just as I noticed that Babic had been replaced by Anthony Zmire and wondered why Ivanic hadnıt been replaced, Ivanic broke through the middle but ran into Durante instead of using options to his left and right. The fans murmured bitterly.
Colosimo played to Ceccoli on the left. Colosimo got it back and switched play to Elrich on the right. Elrichıs cross was cut out by Rudan.
Dodd, receiving a Power corner from the right, had a good chance from close range, turning on goal, but shot high.
Michael Cunico was very good chasing back and beating Pantelis before delivering a fine long ball to Damon Collina.
In the 77th minute Buonavoglia got a clear run at goal from the right corner of the penalty area but shot wide to the left.
Heffernan had a slight chance on a crooked Markovic shot, but his deflection went wide. Then Ivanic blasted the rebound from another Heffernan shot high when Zmire was in a good position to his right.
A cross by Jacek Sobczyk, on for Dodd, was cleared by Cunico. Bolton was good coming out to stop a Langdon cross.
In the 83rd minute Heffernan, already on a yellow card, got a straight red card for what seemed a weighty but fair tackle on Gumprecht.
Vrkic, also on a yellow card, was very good and controlled running down and blocking Pantelis. The cross from the short corner was headed clear by Rudan. Then Durante was good stopping Langdon.
In the 88th minute Ivanic was (surprisingly) good beating players into the right side of the Power box and playing a perfect ball for Markovic who had a wonderful chance to equalise but shot straight at Bolton.
The Power fans to my right said the scoreline was a joke, but some relief was about to come their way.
Three minutes into time added on a Peter Zorbas shot rebounded to Milicic (in a similar position from which Markovic had just missed at the other end) who made the scoreline better reflect the difference between the two teams.
The Power fans were happier and very admiring of Colosimo and Gumprecht, though they said they couldnıt expect the best from their players when the opposition was so crummy.
Both coaches wanted to talk up the NSL on the basis of the success of the first game for the new Adelaide team and the talent of the young players the league was producing.
Power coach Nick Theodorakopoulos said there were many positives in the game today. ³We try and attack and out of our first four games it was the first time a team has tried to play football against us Full credit to Sydney United who obviously tried to win the game.²
Lee said, ³Even at one-nil we really wanted to have a go at it, even with ten men Put pressure on teams, thatıs how the kids will learn how to play. We have some good young kids, some good talent, some kids with attributes. We want to try and develop that.²
³Our game is not dead,² said Theodorakopoulos. ³There was a lot of skill on show tonight. Even in Sydney United there are some boys coming through There was a good skill factor out there tonight.²
Lee agreed, ³Thereıs some good quality on the park. Just because the best of the best are playing overseas doesnıt mean that the boys who are playing here are second rate. They are bloody good footballers. It can be entertaining. Itıs lovely to watch. A good passing game, attacking play, crosses in the box, people on the end of things: there is nothing wrong with the game.²
Theodorakopoulos was happy with the result, saying Power was fortunate to come there when United were missing Franco Parisi and Anthony Doumanis, ³Out of our four games so far this season, this has been the only time someone had tried to play football against us.²
He said, though, that Power made heavy weather of the first half when there was some great offensive play in the last third, where his side were dynamic. ³But in the second half we purposely slowed it down and we asked them to attack us. And we changed the formation a couple of times.²
Theodorakopoulos described his right hand side as the best attacking right side in the league.
Lee said Parramatta were a very exciting side to play against and an exciting side to watch. ³There are a lot of very good footballers on the park, very creative. Itıs nice: they are very controlled, they are smart, they know how to play their interchange, their movement they share the workload, people making breaks and crossovers.²
He said given time his own young side would display similar qualities.