Australia 13 - Solomon Islands 0

Well there's not a lot you can say about this game that's going to make it look any better than what you might gather from the scoreline. The reason for this sort of mindless mismatch is, aparently, to make it look like there is some competition going on in Oceania. I'll let you be the judge as to whether you think this is working. Charlie Dempsey, if you're out there, you are putting the "Colon" into "Colonial".

I was in my first week of a new job and the combination of a 7pm kickoff and the location of the game at the smaller (and cheaper to hire) Parramatta Stadium threatened my attendance but thanks to an offer of free tickets from a friend (You're the best Virginia) and an understanding boss (thanks Dan) meant I spent my first game of any kind at the Stadium.

It was a typical winters night, cold but still and a fair bit of dew on the grass. I walked in and found that with my $2 programme came a copy of the $5 programme from the Superstars of soccer series played just the week before..for free. Sad really. Still I came in, blundered about the Cronin stand looking for familiar faces and found none. Then I hear Mick Kmet yell out my name and eventually came across others previously known and unknown to me.

The stadium has a grandstand on either side and there is a grassed hill at each end. The grassed areas (named the Peter Sterling and Brett Kenny hills) were closed off and from what I could see the only means to get from one side to the other was to get out of the stadium, walk to the other side and go back in. The lengthy Solomons anthem was followed by the Australian version and the game got underway. The Solomons were dead keen to score inside the first 10 seconds but didn't quite make it. Australia were so much better than this lot it was almost sad the Solomons didn't score first. Almost.

First goal came from Mori who tapped in from a Zelic shot, I think the ground announcer missed it because he didn't say a word. Not that it really needed much commentary. I don't even know what to say about all this. The Solomons spent about 95% of the game deep in their own half, and I suppose it was pretty much all they could do. Their goalkeeper Aefi epitomised the word "nuggety", he was one of the shorter players on the field but he made some friends with a spirited display including two brilliant saves from Aloisi and Slater when another goal seemed certain. Both these saves came late in the game when Australia, as well as being a lot better, had a numerical advantage and lesser men would have contented themselves with a half effort.

Contrary to Aefi Bosnich had nothing to do. There wasn't a single shot at goal he had to deal with, not one, and all he did was to clear a few backpasses and take the odd goalkick. Until the last minute when a run by Tapai was cut short in the penalty box. Tapai overacted a bit but there was enough to warrant the spot kick, the yellow card was somewhat harsh. Anyway it was the end of the game, Bosnich was catching cold just standing around for an hour and a half, so he runs up to Aurelio Vidmar who appeared likely to take the shot and asked to have a go. He put it in with a nice little left foot shot and that was the end of the game.

Despite the second half send off of Daudau for a second yellow card for clumsy tackling and the penalty the Solomons played extremely cleanly, actually they played too cleanly. They could have got away with more and they chose not to and I think they deserve special mention for that. They still played poorly, when they had the ball they seemed too surprised to do very much with it and had trouble evading tackles. It's not a remarkable point considering the backgrounds of the respective players but it served to illustrate the meaninglessness of this game.

Damian Mori, though scoring 5, showed a distinct lack of finishing skills. The most glaring miss came when he was in front of goal, just inside the penalty box and oodles of time. The shot was sidefooted over the bar, and there were nasty displays of ineptitude from others too...which I would prefer to put down to the greasy conditions. The players had some problems maintaining a normal humanoid upright stance, on both sides, and this can't have made it easy when crossing and so on. I can forgive the Solomons for this, but the Australians are highly paid professionals and should be able to cope.

John Aloisi was a little more impressive, after having failed to impress me at all in Hungary, but I think Zelic was the shining light. Most of the moves involved him in some way or other and while broadly speaking all the Australians played well enough there is room for improvement. It remains to be seen if it takes a better opponent to bring it out of them or if they are mature enough to play to their best rather than merely playing better than the other side. You cannot fault a 13-0 win though...

The Kiwi ref had a quiet game. He actually overruled the linesman on a goal which the latter had called offside. That was the 11th goal. I suppose it wasn't a major talking point but I still don't know why (looked pretty offside to me).

The whole thing went ....

1. Zelic shot, deflected in by Mori.
2. Lazaridis cross, headed in by Mori.
3. Lazaridis pulls ball across face of goal, Aloisi "Del Piero's*" it in
4. Lazaridis corner, Aloisi header, Mori deflection in
5. Zelic free kick, Horvat cuts back, Aloisi taps in
6. Tony Vidmar cross, Mori tap in
7. Zelic pass, Foster drive
8. Tobin lob over defence, Tapai dribble and shot
9. Foster pass back to Mori who shoots home
10. Tapai cross, Aloisi tap in at near post
11. Aloisi run and shoot
12. Aloisi turn and shoot
13. Manewai trips Tapai, Bosnich scores from the spot.

*As in Del Piero's goal against Dortmund in the 1997 European Champions League final in Munich.

This game cannot get by without giving mention to halftime. A group (~20) of the most dedicated Socceroo supporters imaginable stood for the game, chanted, cheered and jeered to add a little colour to the game. There were no flares, the language might have a bit coarse but it's a football game for god's sake. So when halftime came I was more than a little surprised when I bore close witness to the following exchange.

Securitygoon : "We've had word from FIFA and you have to sit down during the game."
Fans : {general disbelief}
Securitygoon : "Yeah, I laughed myself" (note the "I'm just the messenger" ploy)

As the nature of this notification (clearly bullshit), sovereignty of the stadium and historical precedent was discussed between the two sides I was eventually within punching distance of 5 police officers and 3 security guards with another 2 policemen standing a little further back. So that's about 1 authoritarian figure for every 2 unarmed subversives.

The two parties parted company and the fans continued to stand and the security guys looked mistrustingly on. The ugly incident at the same stadium for a National League game a few weeks before probably served to make them a little more rednecked than was called for but it was a remarkable incident nonetheless.

Friday I will make the same trip to see the game against Tahiti which I will doubtlessly find equally pointless.

written by Thomas Esamie