Archive for the ‘melbourne victory’ Category

Getting out of jail but no thanks to you Mr Vargas

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

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It was with some irony that Melbourne Victory’s first home win of the season coincided with the first home game of the season that I was unable to attend due to a clash with a Grand Final that my futsal team* was playing.

Whilst it was a win that came at the end of probably the most tumultuous weeks in the short history of Melbourne Victory one must remember that this a win against a side sitting bottom of the ladder and with the worst defensive record in the league. It was also a game where the Victory when cruising at 2-0 up endeavoured to do their best to actually lose the game. First up, veteran Rodrigo Vargas decided he wanted an early shower with a two-footed challenge on the half-way line with a little over thirty minutes gone on the clock. To say Vargas should have known better is a massive understatement with the incident giving Gold Coast United the incentive to claw their way back into the game. This was followed by a rather soft penalty (it was a penalty just the Victory’s first two goals were penalties) on the stroke of half time which gave Gold Coast some much need momentum going into the second half.

Shortly after the break some lax defending saw Gold Coast equalise and you could almost hear the collective groan coming from AAMI Park in my lounge room as fans watched the team again throw away another two goal lead. Fortunately for the Victory they had come up against a team that quite clearly doesn’t know how to win and even with all of Miron Bleiberg’s so-called tactical genius couldn’t find that all important third goal against a Victory side that had gone to rabble following Vargas’ sending off. It seemed as if the home side suddenly realised that opponents didn’t have both the manpower or the will to actually win the game as both Carlos Hernandez and Archie Thompson rolled back the years (to be fair to Thompson, he’s been in outstanding form all season) and created a number of chances before the two combined for the winner in the 79th minute. Who would have thought that Hernandez could out jump three opponents.

Whilst one win doesn’t a title challenge make one pleasing aspect was the form of Billy Celeski, who looked more than the player of three seasons ago rather than the shadow of a player that existed since his return from a knee reconstruction. Whilst Ernie Merrick might have turned him into one of the best defensive midfielders of that title winning season, it seemed on a Sunday that Celeski relished a more attacking role, one that he was more accustomed to before arriving in our fair town. The result was a much more confident display than we have seen in at least one and a half seasons or maybe it just taken him that long to get over what was a quite a serious knee injury.

Next up is a clash with the Newcastle Jets, a team against which the Victory notoriously struggle against especially on their home turf. If Durakovic has indeed turned the season around then next week is surely a true test as to whether that is really the case.

* - for the record my futsal team lost the Grand Final 7-6 in extra time.

Disheartened and smelling like a Frankston bogan

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

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Back in Melbourne Victory’s first season I watched them play four consecutive matches at home and not score a single goal. Last Sunday’s match was worse than that. I have watched Melbourne Victory lose a penalty shootout in a Grand Final. The feeling after last Sunday’s match was worse than that. Last year I watched Melbourne Victory lose the first ever Melbourne derby. Last Sunday’s result was worse than that.

Never have I seen a Melbourne Victory side look so disjointed as it did against Perth Glory. Two weeks ago with nine men against the Brisbane Roar, the Victory showed a spirit not shown in a long, long time. At the time both players and coach labelled the result as a “turning of the corner” and so if we are to continue the driving analogy then Sunday’s effort has to be called a “massive U-turn” that has sent us completely in the wrong direction. It was a result in the end that inevitably cost Francis Awaritefe his job as Director of Football.

The result in many respects flattered the home side with a slightly controversial sending off and a just plain wrong penalty giving the Victory both a man and goal advantage that they didn’t really deserve. When Danny Allsopp made it 2-0 it felt like a hollow lead, although not it seems to the person in the South End who thought it necessary to throw their bourbon and coke into the air, most of which seemed to land on me. Not only was I feeling disheartened about the team’s performance on the pitch but now I also smelt like someone who had just had a big night at the now defunct 21st Century Dance Club.

Even with a two goal advantage it never actually seemed that Melbourne Victory were in the game and when Andrezinho curled in that well-taken free kick it seemed only a matter of time that Perth Glory would eventually grab an equaliser. And with three minutes left in normal time that man Shane Smeltz popped up with the winner after some pretty lax defending left him unmarked at the back post. It was disappointing rather than surprising.

The result left Melbourne Victory in seventh position with only eight points and whilst many have been quick to point out that they are only three points behind second placed Central Coast Mariners it is more the manner in which the team has played so far this season that has many fans calling for the head of coach Mehmet Durakovic with his efforts in the post-match press conference not doing a whole lot to instill any confidence.  It’s not just the team isn’t winning, it’s that it doesn’t actually look like winning.

A Victory Fan Abroad - Part Two

Friday, November 4th, 2011

In the second and final part of my chat with former Chicago Fire CEO, Peter Wilt we switch our attention to comparisons between the A-League and the MLS and look at the possibility of Wilt making his way down under. You can read it all here on Australian FourFourTwo.

A Victory Fan Abroad - Part One

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Recently I discovered that I was being followed on twitter by Peter Wilt, former Chicago Fire CEO who had in recent times become a Melbourne Victory fan. I was a little intrigued as to why a key figure in Major League Soccer I decided to follow Melbourne Victory I decided to ask Wilt a few questions with the result being a two part piece for Australian FourFourTwo. You can now read the first part here.

Formation, structure & enough space for a cow

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Since Melbourne Victory’s rather insipid performance Melbourne Heart on the weekend much has been said about structure and formation with every Tom, Dick and Harry (including myself) having a crack at what we think Mehmet Durakovic should do in terms of formation. In light of this I thought I would share with you all a comparison of what happened on Saturday night and my possible solution

Melbourne Victory formation vs Melbourne Heart

Melbourne Victory formation vs. Melbourne Heart (22 Oct 2011)*

MVFC Formation

Victory In Melbourne’s possible future Melbourne Victory formation

* NB. A cow has been has used as a symbol of how much space we left in the midfield, and is no way a reflection on Carlos Hernandez’s weight

In search of the right combination

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

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Two games, one point, zero goals. It’s not exactly the start we would have liked down in here sunny Melbourne with the only joy being taken in the fact the Heart have yet to earn themselves a point. A very small point of joy indeed.

Whilst many are calling for Durakovic’s head already I believe it all comes down to finding the right combination and where to play that man Kewell. The back four remained unchanged from the weekend before and despite Fabio’s mistake for the second week in a row that this time costing a goal it is the combination that our manager has actually got right. This however will be tested next week with the absence of our captain from the line-up. Hopefully from our point of view, Franjic gets another chance to impress as did when called upon last year.

Moving forward up the field, Leigh Broxham and Grant Brebner were played at the base of the midfield with the returning Carlos Hernandez playing in a central role. Interchanging on both flanks were Archie Thompson and Marco Rojas with Kewell playing the lone man up front. Whilst the lone striker is good in theory, especially on the road, it didn’t exactly work against an impressive Adelaide back four. What was key to Kewell’s performance from the week before was ability to link with the striker as well as those out wide. Playing as a lone striker left him completely isolated and unable to influence the match in any way shape or form. What will be key to Melbourne’s form this season is how Kewell and Hernandez can be both slotted into the midfield. But until both are properly match fit it might be a good idea to have only one in there for the time being.

As the match itself after short period of dominance, the Victory became very disjointed as Adelaide started to impose themselves on the game. Their defence, which looks one of the best in the league, shut down almost all opportunities and having Kewell, who is not a natural striker, as the out-and-out striker played a little into their hands. When Solorzano made it out on the pitch we did look a little better, but by then the horse had well and truly bolted, especially after the sending off of Leijer. Adelaide’s solitary goal came from a simple mistake and the Victory did well to hold them out for the last thirty or so minutes being a man down through a combination of luck, poor Adelaide finishing and some good defending. It wasn’t quite the pillaging that Fox Sports commentator John Kosmina alluded to but it wasn’t exactly great either.

Next week it is the derby and both teams have a lot riding on the outcome, considering our relative positions on the table. Where Melbourne will win it, will be in the front third and hopefully it’s third time lucky as Durakovic looks for the right attacking combination.

Stalemate to start the season

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Sydney FC vs Melbourne Victory

After what seemed like an interminably long off-season the A-League finally got back underway last weekend as the Victory took on Sydney FC in what seems to be some sort of start of season tradition. And like many before them it ended in a draw but as far as 0-0 draws go it was pretty exciting with the respective goalkeepers stealing the limelight from Harry Kewell and Brett Emerton, who were making their A-League debuts.

From a Melbourne Victory point of view there were a few fresh faces making their debuts, none so more than new manager/coach Mehmet Durakovic, who had his first official game in charge and whilst it wasn’t a perfect performance there was some good pointers that if worked on could make for an exciting year. With the absence of Carlos Hernandez due to international duty, Durakovic set the midfield up with two holding midfielders in the form of Billy Celeski and Grant Brebner with Harry Kewell playing a roaming role behind Danny Allsopp with Archie Thompson and debutant Marco Rojas providing the width and pace. At the back were Vargas and Leijer centrally with another debutant Fabio and Matthew Foschini playing as full backs.

Without Hernandez absent it was a somewhat lopsided formation and in many respects the midfield lacked a bit of focus as the gap between Brebner and Celeski and the front three gave Sydney a little too much space, something which they exploited early on and it was only some heroics from new goalkeeper Ante Čović that kept Sydney FC from scoring early on. He further improved on his performance with that penalty save from Brett Emerton and one can see Tando Velaphi struggling to return to the starting XI once he returns from injury.

All three starting debutantes made good debuts with the most high profile, Harry Kewell having one of the best opportunities to break the deadlock midway through the first half. Despite having gone almost five months without competitive football, Kewell looked very much at home in free roaming role and some of his combinations with Archie Thompson were a sight to behold. One criticism that could be levelled at Kewell is that at times he seemed a little desperate to get on the scoresheet, particularly as the deadlock dragged on. When Hernandez returns next week against Adelaide week it will be interesting to see how Durakovic can fit both into the team, especially on the road.

Marco Rojas, the young New Zealander formerly of Wellington Phoenix, showed plenty of signs that he will be a useful addition this season providing the width that Melbourne Victory fans always seemed so much to crave during the reign of Ernie Merrick. What was especially pleasing was that at the end of some pulsating runs he was able to put in some quality final balls with ones for Kewell and Allsopp that forced great saves from Sydney goalkeeper, Liam Reddy.

Fabio, the latest in a string of Brazilians to play for the Victory, showed that he could be a good acquisition at full back despite giving away the penalty through a somewhat clumsy challenge on Mark Bridge. What caught the eye was his work rate providing an attacking outlet but also making sure to get back in defence and making a number of crucial interceptions. Both Jean-Carlos Solorzano and Isaka Cernak also saw pitch time but it was limited so a proper assessment would be a little unfair.

Next up is Adelaide in Adelaide and after our run of ten consecutive wins, the South Australians have won the last two with the last one coming in the final round last season. Adelaide will be coming off a poor performance against Perth Glory and will be looking to turn it around in front of their home fans. Like many such matches between the two teams it should be a cracker.

It’s so Kewell now that Harry is at Melbourne Victory

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

So after almost three months of speculation Melbourne Victory finally got around to announcing what Anthony Di Pietro described as the biggest signing in Australian sport as he confirmed the signing of Harry Kewell on a three-year deal.

The signing of Kewell means that fans of Australian football will for the first time get to see this country’s most high-profile football player playing club football but for a time there it seemed it wasn’t going to be worth the effort. All the constant to and froing and media speculation about supposed deals and counter-deals left a sour taste in many a fans’ mouth as Melbourne Victory and SydneyFC fought for Kewell’s signature (although to be fair I don’t think Sydney were actually ever in the hunt). Even this little blogger had enough at one stage when it looked like any deal to see Kewell to return to Australia had fallen through as I made the following (in hindsight) rather rash statements on twitter:

“So is Harry Kewelll not returning to the #aleague because Bernie #Mandic is basically a greedy fucker?”

“It was a perfect opportunity for #Kewell to give something back to Australian football, but greed sadly got in the way”

So now that is everything is fine and dandy and Kewell has been signed up and I’m even considering getting his name put on one of those fancy Melbourne Victory shirts it will definitely be interesting what sort of effect he will have both on and off the field. Kewell’s class on the pitch has never been questioned and with much less rigorous nature of an A-League season the threat of injury one would think would be mitigated to some extent. One does wonder though how Mehmet Durakovic is actually going to fit him into the starting XI with the likes of Marco Rojas and Isaka Cernak already signed up.

But is off the field where Kewell will probably have the most impact with his signing surely signalling an upswing in crowds both here in Melbourne and on the road. Already there are signs that he is having an effect with the Melbourne Victory membership hotline running hot since his signing and the club announced a membership cap of 18,000 people. But it will be his ability to pull in the non A-League punter that could very well set the A-League on a new and exciting course.

Giving the A-League some stick

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

If you remember just over year ago I shared my burgeoning obsession of trying to complete my 2011 World Cup sticker book. At the time I did think why I hadn’t the A-League got around to doing something similar. Well almost a year on I finally got around to writing something about it for my latest effort for Australian FourFourTwo.

Durakovic and Awaritefe to launch new era

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

The saying “worst kept secret” is very much overused and at time I have been guilty of using it repeatedly on this blog. With the advent of social media, especially Twitter, it is very difficult for clubs to make a big announcement without the majority of fans already knowing about it. Therefore today’s announcement of the appointment of Mehmet Durakovic as manager and Francis Awaritefe as Director of Football was just a confirmation of what we already knew.

Durakovic has been signed on a two year contract and after Anthony Di Pietro reasons for sacking Ernie Merrick, one would assume a top four finish is the minimum requirement expected of the new man in charge. During his brief stint in charge during our failed ACL campaign, Durakovic showed enough that he could make a good fist of his new job. There was however a touch of a naivety about some of his decision making especially when it came to making crucial substitutions but one would hope come the new season of the A-League that has disappeared.

Whilst many Victory supporters were hoping some kind of big name to lead them into next season but in all honesty who actually thought that this would be the case. It was always going to more likely that Di Pietro and his board would go for the relatively safe option, although untested option of Durakovic. Let’s give him some time and let’s see how he goes.

Even though it was mooted for some time, it was surprising to see now former SBS analyst Francis Awaritefe appointed to the newly created Director of Football position. It is both a bold and pleasing decision by the club as they look in a direction following the end the of the Ernie Merrick/Geoff Lord era. A few months when Di Pietro sacked Merrick I made the comment that in one of blogs for FourFourTwo Australia that he better not fuck it up and to be honest I don’t think he has at this stage. The double signing of Durakovic and Awaritefe also provides a tangible link to the NSL, something that the former regime was at pains to avoid.

The four months until the start of the season can’t come soon enough to truly see how the era of Melbourne Victory will unfold.