Cosmos v United

Round 21 report by Chris Kunz
Canberra Cosmos v Newcastle United

This was a tale, not about another matchup between old rivals competing once again for The Prime Minister's Cup - as they have done since around 1979, but about the emergence of a new coach at National League level.

Mike Milovanovic, a Canberra boy had taken over from Sermanni and boy did things look different. Canberra held possession much more in the first half, opened up play down the flanks and found more gaps in Newcastle than the proverbial Swiss cheese.

Castro headed in the first from a corner, then young Stephen Kemp, younger brother of Ad City's Matthew, scored a cracker from 30m, curled over the top of Catlin's stretched left arm.

Kemp is a real star in the making. He has a natural football brain - which means he doesn't take long to read, react and deliver an accurate pass - something others in today's Canberra midfield, like Ravanello, can only dream of.

Canberra were well worth their two goal half time lead, and when Mark Hagger struck home another 30m cracker - this time into Catlin's right hand top corner after, the game should have gone way beyond Newcastle's reach.

For all his reorganisation and change in tactics, Milovanovic then gave the visitors a peek at a point. First he substituted Kemp a minute before Hagger's goal, robbing the team of midfield stability, enthusiasm and accuracy (beyond the always efficient Castro), then he delayed in substituting David Milin who had been played as a striker - 'putting in' one of the worst performances I have witnessed at NSL level.

A lump of dough would have had more impact than Milin - at least it would have stood its ground! His sole positive contribution was a slow-motion header on goal in the first half - that was cleared off the line.

As Milin repeatedly lost possession (or failed to stretch for a ball within reach) and Milovanovic delayed, Newcastle came back into the match. Harper looked at least 2 meters offside when he headed their first past Barney Smith and when McBreen's header slid through a crowd of legs and into the net, with 3 minutes to go, the certain victory had almost been thrown away.

Finally, with half a minute of injury time of the match left, Milovanovic pulled Milin off, to put on the talented little Cortes - a real insult to the Uruguyan - who would have been invaluable in retaining possession and feeding others through the Mt Blanc sized tunnels in the Newcastle rearguard.

And so it ended - a rare win and a first up one for the new Cosmos coach. Hopefully he will learn much from the first outing, that started out so well, but then nearly collapsed through misjudgement and inaction.