Well haven’t things gotten a little bit interesting in the A-League. Having a top six in a competition of only 10 teams does tend to favour mediocrity at times and cheapens the consistent performers at the top of the ladder. It does however make for great viewing and the tipping comps around the country are always thrown into turmoil as many an upset is thrown up with only four rounds remaining in the regular season.
After a quiet Friday night with no A-League to be seen or heard on the airwaves, the Brisbane Roar travelled to Hindmarsh Stadium on a sunny Saturday to help secure a top six spot. The Roar dominated this one with 22 goal attempts but their radar just wasn’t on song. Michael Theo notched up his third clean sheet in as many games and is now equal with Adelaide United’s Eugene Galekovic on seven, narrowly behind Matt Ryan and Ante Covic who are out in front on nine for the season. Galekovic played in his 150th A-League game, but the celebrations were a little subdued after an uninspiring and flat performance by the Reds.
The match of the round also doubled as a potential dress rehearsal for this seasons Grand Final, with the Western Sydney Wanderers and their impressive band of supporters (The RBB) making the wet trek up the F3 from Parramatta to Gosford in what was an extremely tight affair. Ante Covic took home the goalkeeping bragging rights after Matty Ryan looked to add a string to his keeping bow by demanding a rare spot kick. It was not to be, as Ryan looked a bunny in Covic’s headlights and missed with a poorly executed strike. Something tells me it might be a while before Ryan gets a chance for spot kick redemption, although if they meet in the Grand Final you never know what will pan out? Although a huge advocate of the poor misunderstood keeper, I firmly believe that barring injury or substitution, your dedicated striker must take a spot kick. It is what they do, and it’s easier to point the blame at a striker that more often than not spends more time on hair care product and exfoliant than getting their hands dirty.
Before shifting my attention to the EPL, the Melbourne Victory performance against the Newcastle Jets was nothing short of impressive. In front of their faithful fans, the Victory dished up calorie filled US sized portion of attacking dominance that will please manager Ange Postecoglou after a three losses on the trot. Postecoglou will be looking to reverse his side’s poor showing earlier in the season when they again travel to Brisbane this weekend to take on the Roar. When they last met at Suncorp the Roar dominated by running out 5-0 winners. I’m predicting this one will go down to the wire with the Roar narrowly getting the chocolates and consolidating their position.
To the EPL and the top four looks to be settling down with in-form Tottenham cruising past Chelsea on the ladder and beginning to look the goods for a return to European football next season. Gareth Bale has been in white-hot form of late and sits in third place on 16 goals for the season. Spurs have recorded more shots on target than any other league side and their low tally in the fouls department is also impressive.
On the clean sheet front, Chelsea’s Petr Cech added another for his club in their win over the Baggies. Manchester United’s keeper David De Gea had a quiet night between the sticks after Shinji Kagawa bagged a hat-trick on the back of some beautiful service from Wayne Rooney. De Gea will now prepare for the Champions League second leg against Real Madrid at Old Trafford. If his form matches the first leg at the Bernabéu then we’re in for a salivating game. Cannot pick this one but with Real beating Barca twice in a week, their confidence will be high. Be sure to have a bib handy for this game!
West Ham were surprise winners away to Stoke at Britannia Stadium and the win helps them drift slowly away from the relegation zone. Jussi Jaaskelainen continued his fine season with the Hammers and his clean sheet has him in forth spot in the standings with eight. However he will be tested in coming weeks against the might of Manchester United and Chelsea. Swansea hit the ground running after their historic win in the Capital One League Cup Final at Wembley, disposing of a disappointing Newcastle United. The ‘Reserve’ reserve keeper for Newcastle, Rob Elliot played in only his second EPL match for the injured Tim Krul who will spend up to five weeks on the sideline after an ankle injury he sustained in the Magpies Europa win over Ukrainian opponents Metalist Kharkiv.
Finally Pepe Reina’s Liverpool dished out a football master class at the DW Stadium on the back of a Luis Suarez hat trick. It was a difficult night for Wigan’s Ali Al Habsi who saw his stats sheet cop a battering as his side only sits ever so slightly above the relegation zone on goal difference. Their fate could ultimately be decided in the last round of the season when they host Aston Villa.
Until next week I hope your team performs to your high expectations.
Football Quote of the Week
That’s exactly how you head a ball, with the head.
– Ray Wilkins (England, Chelsea, Manchester United and QPR great)
Yours in football
Big Fella (James Clark)