Sadly only one clean sheet in the A-League this weekend but there is still plenty to rabbit on about. The “Big Blue” clash on Saturday evening between Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC was played with plenty of passion in front of 22,233 fans. Both teams blew good chances to win the game, but it was the Victory’s Nathan Coe who stood tall and saved a penalty shot from the great Allesandro Del Perio. A great scalp to have on your football resume and tell the grandkids about!
Sydney FC manager Frank Farina decided on starting with Ivan Necevski in favour of Vedran Janjetovic. Necevski relished the return to the starting side after an extended absence and will be hoping his effort will be enough to back up again for the sell out Sydney Derby against the Wanderers in Parramatta.
Moving onto the all-important clean sheets, and who else but Central Coast Mariners’ Mathew Ryan. Ryan heads up the list this year and brought up his 10th against a flat looking Brisbane Roar. Despite the lifeless Roar performance, Michael Theo wasn’t lacking in the enthusiasm department with some magical saves. For the Roar it was another missed opportunity, with the Mariners coming off a long mid week Asian Champions League road trip against Japanese side Kashiwa Reysol. They will need to improve this week at home against a desperate Melbourne Heart who have beaten the premiers twice this season.
The top six is anyone’s guess leading into the final two rounds and depending on results the wooden spoon is an open race after the Wellington Phoenix had a rare win away from home. The Nix have been a much-improved side of late and keeper Glen Moss was the difference between the two sides with some fine saves, particularly in the first 45 minutes.
In a strange way I’m not looking forward to the finals as I have enjoyed this season so much. Even though my local side the Roar has had a disappointing year by their high standard, the emergence and the success of the Western Sydney Wanderers and their fan base has been a breath of fresh air. To see veteran Ante Covic play every minute has been special making his return to the west where it all began for him. A Grand Final appearance and win would be the cream on the cake.
To the English Premier League and some top class action in the goal keeping ranks over the weekend before the much-needed international break. The big news is the huge clean sheet pulled off by Mark Schwarzer in Fulham’s win over Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs have had the wobbles of late, but it was Schwarzer’s efforts to deny Jermain Defoe and then Thomas Carroll’s slight through-ball ahead of Gareth Bale. He then showed his class by stopping Defoe once more after a well-timed left foot stab from Gareth Bale. I might be biased but if you can view a replay it is well worth a look. Vintage Schwarzer! The win is positive news for the Socceroos stopper who joins his teammates this week ahead of their all-important qualifier against Oman in Sydney on March 26.
Norwich keeper Mark Bunn was forced to do the long walk of shame at the Stadium of Light after handling the ball to deny Southampton striker Danny Graham an equaliser. Bunn didn’t contain his displeasure hitting the showers early, dispensing with his gloves and storming up the tunnel. Number two goalkeeper Lee Camp soon joined the scene only to concede a goal to Craig Gardner from the spot.
Petr Cech added yet another clean sheet, bringing his season tally to ten after a solid performance against West Ham. Cech has only leaked 27 goals this season and his form will go a long way to Chelsea finishing in the top four. Chelsea has a tough run of fixtures that see them juggling the all-important FA Cup Europa League as well as Premier League commitments. Perhaps manager Rafa Benitez may choose to rest Cech and opt for Ross Turnbull to gain some valuable game time in the Europa encounters with Russian club Rubin Kazan.
The big news in keeping this week was the performance of Arsenal number three gloveman Lukasz Fabianski. Fabianski was brought into the Gunners side by Arsene Wenger for their do or die Champions League second leg match against Bayern Munich. It was a solid return for Fabianski who has battled injury for over 12 months, but two clean sheets in as many matches has done no harm to his chances of an all important contract extension.
David Dea Gea helped Manchester United secure another three points and all but wrap up the league title. In an uneventful match, United did enough against a Reading side lacking in attacking flair and entrenched firmly in the relegation zone.
Football Quote of the Week
As the Socceroos are in town for the World Cup qualifier against Oman next Tuesday night I have to have a classic from Mark Viduka.
I would not be bothered if we lost every game as long as we won the league.
Mark Viduka (Socceroos, Celtic, Leeds, Middlesbrough and Newcastle great)
Logic was not one of Big Duke’s strong points.
Yours in football
Big Fella (James Clark)