Round 22 report by Alan Clark
Carlton v Sydney United

Carlton played their last league game at Optus Oval in their 1-3 defeat at the hands of Sydney United, and from now on will play home games in the more football-friendly surrounds of Olympic Park - one of the first decisions taken by the club's new ownership.

Coach Eddie Krncevic couldn't blame the stadium for the defeat, but did single out his more senior players for pointed post-match criticism.

"I'm wondering whether some of them know what the word professional means. I'm disappointed. We didn't want (the win) - there was no passion.

"In our next season there will be some changes. In our last seven games I want people who are willing to put their body on the line. At this stage there are some players who are not willing. It was our worst game in the eighteen months we've been here. By far.

"Quite a few players let the team and the club down. You expect a lot more from the players especially when they're full-time. Next year we won't be as lenient. That's all I can say on that."

Sydney United managed to put a string of recent reverses behind him - only one point of the last nine had been taken - and puts his team's Championship aspirations back on track. Coach David Mitchell, whose name had appeared as one of four substitutes on the team-sheet as Abbas Saad had been added in his place at the last minute, said: "I pulled a muscle during the week in training. I thought I would have been alright, but funnily enough Abbas was down here and was coming to watch us play and I said to Abbas 'Look if you're alright, I'd rather have you on the bench' because I didn't want to do anything silly and pull my thigh muscle."

"I'm just so happy for the players that they got the result."

The win was even more meritorious as United had played one short for the last 34 minutes - Ante Moric had been dismissed for his second yellow-card eleven minutes into the second half, and put the result in balance at the point when the Sydney-siders' win was assumed. Joe Tricarico had scored for Carlton just moments before, but Sydney had already put three past Adrian Cagalj and there seemed no way back for Carlton.

Nathan Day had stunned the home support in the eighth minute from United's first parry of note. A Carlton goal-kick was headed forwards from the half-way line falling nicely for Steve Berry on the wing. Berry beat Sean Douglas on the turn, but it was Douglas' attempt at a clearance which sent the ball in Day's path, with David Cervinski stranded. Day ran on and found the far corner despite Adrian Cagalj's covering attempt.

The lead was extended just before the break on a break. Marcus Stergiopoulos had linked with a Carlton attack but his shot was blocked, rebounding to Joel Griffiths at the half-way line. Griffiths beat Douglas' jockeying and cut back over the head of Stergiopoulos who had raced back to cover. Moric shaped to shoot, but astutely dummied instead allowing Richard Plesa the full face of Cagalj's goal as a target.

Two minutes after the resumption, Day again popped up in exactly the right position for the third. Griffiths had ridden challenges from Stergiopoulos and Andrew Marth in the centre-circle, laying off a square pass to Berry who sent the ball forward for Day. Day turned Cervinski and shot from the 18 yard line.

Tricarico brought back some hope for Carlton just two minutes later, and that, combined with Moric's dismissal gave hope of a Carlton revival. Tricarico finished a move in which he had earlier featured, scoring from ten yards from a clever cut-back from Con Anthopoulos on the bye-line.

But it was not to be, despite Carlton's expected pressing. The experienced Mike Gibson managed anything that escaped the vigilant marking of Plesa, Joe Vrkic, David Barrett, and Peter Bennett who collectively snuffed out the danger posed by Tricarico, a disappointing Alex Moreira, and the mercurial Archie Thompson.

So it's farewell to Optus Oval, and not before time. Football at this level deserves a more suitable venue, and fans deserve a better deal.