MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Melbourne Victory’s star players have repeatedly settled tight games this season. Picture: Getty ImagesAnother day, another draw in the F3 derby.Should we really be surprised? No lack of effort, no lack of ambition. Just a lack of cutting-edge quality.
There were mistakes, near misses, a host of half-chances for both sides, but no hero for either.
I know this is the 7000th time I will have written this, but repeat after me: “Big players win matches.”
A quick glance around the league on the weekend provides all the evidence you could need.
Melbourne Victory survived a tough game against an improved Adelaide United on Saturday night, and when it came to the crunch, up stepped their talisman, Marco Rojas, with a silky free kick, and the predatorial Besart Berisha with a clinical Klinsmannesque finish with the outside of the right foot.
In the previous matches, James Troisi had stepped into the spotlight when Kevin Muscat’s side needed a spark.
Later that night, Perth Glory continued their hot form and fast track towards the top of the table with a 2-0 victory over a weary, lethargic Wanderers outfit.
Perth have some very good players in the front third, and one genius in Diego Castro who is a country mile in front of his peers for vision and technique.
Sydney FC continued there inexorable march towards the Premiers Plate with a 3-1 win over a 10-man Melbourne City sideafter absorbing a good deal of pressure early in the fixture.
Brazilian striker Bobo notched twiceand seems to be adapting to the physical requirements of the A-League, but yet again it was his teammateMilos Ninkovic who was at the heart of most things creative for Sydney.
The affable Serb was incisive, energeticand busy, provided a glorious pass for the third goal, and has collected enough man-of-the-match awards this season to pay for a Harvard education.
Sadly for Jets fans, concerted efforts to sign Ninkovic as a No.1 priority two years ago went unrewarded. I wonder how he would have fared up this way?
And, as a small aside, I rest my case with a guy called Zlatan, who as totally expectedcame up with the goods at 35 years of ageto pilot Manchester United to their first bit of silverware in the Mourinho era.
All of which leaves the A-League scenario pretty much where it was last week. Despite losing, the Wanderers remain sixth. Despite drawing 1-1, the Jets and Mariners remain seventh and ninth respectively. And, despite winning at Brisbane, Wellington remain eighth.
As I’ve noted before, I doubt the jostling for, and ups and downs in, the race for sixth place will finish until round 26 or 27.
For the Jets’ sake, I hope it is in round 26, because a trip to Sydney FC on the final Saturday of the regular season, requiring a result, is a prospectively huge ask.
With six rounds remaining, eyes are being cast to upcoming fixtures, potential points required, ACL commitments for some, World Cup qualifiers for others.
Some will regard this time as exciting, others as an indication of mediocrity, or at best the modest capabilities of most sides. Where do you sit on that topic? Is it any different to most competitions around the globe?
“Well, yes it is, Lowey,because you don’t have to finish first to win a title in .”
That’s very true, but historically you must finish top two to win our unique grand final, and I think that is appropriate in many ways.
It seems cut and dried that Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory have first and second places sewn up with almost a quarter of the season still to play.
Indeed, having lost just once to date, I am prepared to say that it will be a travesty if any side other than Sydney win this year’s championship.
In any other season, Melbourne Victory’s campaign would be title worthy, and the Premiers Plate would not be almost out of reach. They are very capable of lifting on the big dayand seem to stand alone between Sydney and a record-breaking year.
What then of the others? Should some have been doing much better? What about the Jets and Mariners?
For many, it’s just about making or not making the finals, and I understand that rationale. For me, it’s relative to budget, playing roster, expectationsand signs of improvement.
How does the Jets’ season to this point stack up against, say, Melbourne City’s? Eight points fewer than a team earmarked for titlecontention, with last year’s golden boot, Bruno Fornaroli, and marquee Tim Cahill leading their challenge.
I know things can change a lot in the final six weeks, but if you measured results against potential, who has been more effective to this point?
Has Paul Okon, from an awful foundationat the Mariners, with 20 points and relatively little input from imports Jacques Faty and Mikael Tavares, done as good a job as John Aloisi (30 points) at the Roar, with Broich, McKay, Maclaren, Holman, North, DeVere, Petratos and co?
If I had asked you at the start of the EPL season who the top seven teams would be, 95 per centof you, Leicester fans aside, would have got it right.
Are Everton, currently in seventh spot, with the league’s equal leading scorerand 12 wins from 26 games(44 points), having a better season relatively speaking than perennial battlers Watford and Burnley with 31 points?
I hope the Jets can make the six, and the Mariners finish the season well. Things don’t always change quickly, if at all, in football, but there have been some positive steps taken by both.