Roar v Glory

A-League report by Andrew Demack
Queensland Roar v Perth Glory

There is a fine line between success and failure as a coach.

For 80 minutes of Queensland Roar's season opener against Perth Glory at Lang Park, Miron Bleiberg's attacking vision remained unfulfilled, as it had for four games in the Pre-Season Cup.

But in a sudden 10-minute burst, all the pressure that has been building up around the Roar suddenly burst into an explosion of goals. A game that might have ended with Perth earning an away point in a nil-all draw, instead finished 3-0 to the home side.

It was a bit reminiscent of Australia-Japan at the recent World Cup. And like that match, it was the substitutes who made all the difference.

In 19-year-old Dario Vidosic, Queensland surely have a rising star. Vidosic was Bleiberg's first tactical substitution, replacing skipper Chad Gibson. It wasn't as though Queensland had started defensively. They were already playing a fairly adventurous 3-4-3. But Vidosic's sharp skills and incisive running sparked the attack, particularly in combination with debut Scottish striker Simon Lynch.

The 2005/06 Roar team played an attacking brand of football, but lacking strikepower upfront, with Michael Baird misfiring, and Alex Brosque shooting, shooting, shooting all the time but rarely scoring.

It seems Version 2.0 of the Roar has a bit more bite upfront, and Simon Lynch is his name. He played in combination with Reinaldo Da Costa and Ante Milicic, and always looked the most dangerous of the three.

Reinaldo is tall and gangly and very good in the air, but his first touch is often not up to standard. Ante Milicic showed much more in this match than he had previously in an orange shirt, but still thus far the Roar fans have only seen a shadow of the player who was the Australian game's most prolific goalscorer of the last five years.

Lynch looks to have pace, two good feet, a sure touch, combativity, and a real eye for goal. Without a doubt he has the equipment to be a success in the A-League. Perth, despite their disrupted preparation, put out a side that was very sound on paper. With Colosimo patrolling the midfield, Lazarides on the left flank, Harnwell and Kovacevic in defence, there was no prospect of the Glory giving the three points away without a fight.

And that's not even mentioning Perth's strike partnership of Naum Sekulosvki and Stuart Young. Surely I was not the only person at the ground with a vivid memory of that pair in their Wollongong Wolves days, being responsible for giving the Brisbane Strikers an absolute bath one night at Ballymore about four years ago?

My companions reminded me that that was in the old NSL, and now we're watching the Roar, not the Strikers. I should have already known that. There were never 20,000 fans to watch the Strikers!

As the game started it was a player I had never heard of before, Leo Bertos, who was providing the real danger to the Queensland defence. In the 26th minute, Bertos' powerful freekick was turned away by Liam Reddy.

Bertos is a Kiwi international, recently signed by Glory after a stint in the lower leagues of England. He was a thorn in Queensland's side for most of the game.

Queensland had a majority share of possession, but neither side looked odds-on to score first. Marcus Wedau, nominated by coach Bleiberg as Queensland's playmaker, was struggling to be comfortable on the ball, or to connect with his frontmen.

Returning Socceroos Stan Lazarides was strangely anonymous for Perth. The direct running which has always been a feature of his game was missing. Instead, he seemed content to drift across field in possession, looking for a passing option rather than creating the incision himself.

Glory made two of the better chances midway through the first half, with Tyler Simpson and Jamie Harnwell both having headed opportunities from set-pieces. A defender blocked Simpson's effort, and Harnwell put his header just wide.

No score at half-time.

Queensland's new Socceroo Matt McKay began the second half brightly, particularly in combination with Simon Lynch. In the 51st minute McKay fed Lynch deep in the left corner. Lynch put a beautiful cross right onto the head of Reinaldo who had out-leaped the defenders. But his header skimmed the bar. Two minutes later, McKay once again found space down the left. This time he cut inside Simpson and went for the shot on his right foot. 17-year-old Glory keeper Vrteski parried it away.

On came Dario Vidosic in the 63rd minute, and Queensland stepped up a gear. Suddenly Milicic was finding a bit of space to work in behind the front two, and the chances started to come for Queensland.

Reinaldo Da Costa was in a physical battle with old stager Ante Kovacevic, but he never quite got the upper hand.

Finally Queensland's pressure told in the 79th minute. First Vidosic and Ante Milicic fashioned a shooting opportunity on the edge of the penalty area. Vrteski palmed away Milicic's shot, but moments later the ball broke free for Lynch on the left, and he drilled his left foot shot across Vrteski into the corner of the goal, with the angle far from easy.

Bleiberg immediately sought to press home the advantage, bringing Stuart McLaren on as a striker for the exhausted Reinaldo.

Two minutes later Vidosic threaded a beautiful pass through the defence to set Lynch free again, this time on the right of goal. He might have shot to attempt a second goal, but instead put a low cross back to Vidosic who turned it past Vrteski from close range.

Milicic was then the provider for the game-sealing third goal, attracting the attention of the Perth defenders before sliding a perfect set-up pass to McLaren. McLaren accepted the gift with no little skill, placing his shot neatly past Vrteski's left hand into the goal.

On the evidence of this display, Queensland Roar have some much improved options in attack for 2006-07. This writer is not yet convinced about Bleiberg's three-striker formation. I think Queensland would create more chances with just Lynch and Milicic upfront, and Vidosic, McKay, Wedau, Andrew Packer et al joining the attack from deeper positions.

It would seem unlikely that Queensland will play with three strikers in away games, but as we've all heard, and now surely believe, Bleiberg is an attacking coach! Queensland's defensive play was assured in this game. McCloughan and Ogenenosvki dominated the air, and Chad Gibson's speed helped to keep tabs on Sekulovski.

In goal, Liam Reddy only gets a pass mark, as he twice failed to get to crosses that he was going for. Admittedly each time he was in heavy traffic, but when the defenders in front of you have aerial supremacy, perhaps the keeper doesn't need to come out for crosses unless he is certain of getting there. Tom Willis might well get a run in the next game for Queensland.

But Perth won't be without positives. They kept Queensland out for all bar 10 minutes of this game, and made quite a few chances on the break. In Bertos they have a very good acquisition, and of course they still have the evergreen Bobby Despotsvki to come back into the side.

I continue to be struck by the fact that not much has really changed on the field from the old NSL to the A-League. But what has changed - absolutely for the better - is the off-field standard. Queensland Roar drew 20,606 patrons to the magnificent Lang Park for this match. Every single one of those will be back for the next match against NZ Knights in three weeks time - and they might even bring a friend.