National Youth League: Season 4 (2011 - 2012 Season)
Round 6 Review
By Zee Ko

NYL Review: 'Almost, Not Quite for Victory'
(Zee Ko was pitch side as Melbourne Victory youths failed to hold out against Gold Coast United)

It was a case of what if for the Melbourne Victory youths as they conceded two goals in the last ten minutes to suffer yet another loss. The Victory boys had looked full or running early on, as Luke O'Dea started up front on his own, ably supported by Christopher Cristaldo and new recruit Melvin Becket on the flanks. 16-year-old John Buceto tucked in behind O'Dea in the hold, looking to link up play between the forward line and the Jeggo brothers in midfield.

Petar Franjic returned from the senior side to partner Nick Ansell in central defence, but it was a new face in goal as backup custodian Keegan Coulter made his debut for the youth side. Forecasted showers failed to materialise, as the match was played out under blazing sunshine at AAMI Park. Victory were looking to grab their first points of the season, after lopsided losses in their previous fixtures.

The first real opportunity didn't come however till the 24th minute and it was the hosts who went ahead. Becket was making a nuisance of himself up front and stole the ball off a Gold Coast defender. Quick as a flash, the Liberian was off and running for goal before the visitors could react. O'Dea joined the fast break to provide a second attacker against two backpedalling defenders. Receiving the ball from his teammate, the forward first drew out one of the covering defenders, before powering a shot across the face of the goal and into the bottom left corner of the net.

Gold Coast United seemed to wake from its slumber following the goal, and started probing the Victory defence with a vengeance. Overage player Daniel Severino and namesake Daniel Bowles were the chief instigators, the latter brushing off defenders with impunity while storming down the right flank.

Victory's Buceto was being forced to track back in defence, and did well to throw himself bravely in front of a goal bound shot right on the edge of the box in the 29th minute. The defending was getting desperate at times as Franjic was dispossessed in his own box, only for teammate Luc Jeggo to bail him out of trouble seconds later with a hacked clearance.

The home fans were nearly given a heart attack in first-half injury time as Luc Jeggo conceded a free kick after bringing down the lively Jake Barker-Daish. Severino was in shooting range and duely let loose with a thunderbolt that cleared the wall easily and rattled the crossbar with an almighty bang.

Gold Coast United came out for the second half with renewed vigour, but were still finding it difficult to hit the target, ballooning many a shot way above the Victory goal. Instead, it was the hosts who came close to sealing the win as O'Dea found an onrushing Cristaldo with a sweet cross field ball. The winger brought the ball down expertly with his marker trailing in his wake, but goalkeeper Brendan White did well to come off his line and quickly smother the ball.

The visitors finally managed a shot on target in the 55th minute, but Coulter was equal to the task as he dived down low to save a long-range shot. Attacking impetus was sorely needed, and it was no surprise to see replacements readied on the touchline.

Barker-Daish and Elliot Ronto were withdrawn for Kwame Yeboah and Bobby Russell, while Cristaldo and Buceto were replaced by Daniel Chabaani and Adam Nakic respectively.

It was O'Dea however who had yet another great chance to put the result beyond doubt but White was equal to the task in the 64th minute. Four minutes later, the livewire Victory forward went down clutching his foot after coming together with a Gold Coast defender and the physio was summoned. Things were not looking good as he hobbled back on and it was no surprise when he sank to the ground again following an offside call not long after. Buceto was recalled back onto the field to take his place.

Something had to give and in the 80th minute, Severino had yet another chance with a free kick right on the edge of the Melbourne box. The journeyman midfielder made no mistake this time round, blasting an unstoppable shot into the top corner of the net and leaving Coulter rooted to the spot.

Gold Coast pushed forward in numbers following the equaliser and broke Victory hearts as yet another Severino free kick was headed home by the excellent Bowles. A late corner kick awarded to Victory gave them some hope, but the short corner was swiftly dealt with and Gold Coast emerged worthy victors on the day.

Davies: Performance commendable, but still more work to do:

Melbourne Victory Youth Coach Darren Davies was philosophical in defeat, revealing that he was "disappointed with the result [but] pleased with the performance". "I thought we played well, or better than we have been, for 45 to 55 minutes," he explained.

"There was a lack of intensity within the last 35 minutes, and that's obviously to do with playing at a high intensity, we need to obviously last the full 90 minutes." Davies also praised his side's defensive showing to limit Gold Coast to just the two goals, given the last three outings had seen the team leak an astounding 16 goals.

"I think we've worked hard over the last two weeks on defending and our shape and structure… I think the boys defended well yesterday although you know, there are still improvements to be made," he said. "We conceded one goal in particular we shouldn't have conceded."

As for the fixture being played out at AAMI Park rather than their normal home ground at Kingston Heath, Davies had nothing but good words, claiming that it was a "fantastic" experience for the young lads that had to be implemented more often.

He was also full of praise for new signing Melvin Becket, saying he had done "exceptionally well". "He's previously been at the AIS, and you can see the way he's been thought. His touches, the positions he takes up and he understands what we're trying to put in place at Melbourne Victory so he fitted in very well."

Man of the Match: Daniel Severino

Set pieces were key and Severino proved the difference between the two sides. The midfielder's pinpoint accuracy in dead ball situations was telling, as he scored one and laid on another for his team.

Crowd Watch:

AAMI Park was looking quite bare as the match kicked off, with gates opening at 2pm. Spectators started to trickle in as the game went on, many no doubt arriving early for the senior fixture that was to follow. The young lads on the pitch didn't seem to mind though, visibly lapping up the atmosphere as the game progressed.

Melbourne Victory Verdict:

It was an improvement for Victory in terms of the scoreline. Luke O'Dea seems to be recovering well from his back problems as he lasted 75 minutes this time round. His second goal in two games shows that he is coming back into form and he should be a handful to deal with when match fit. John Buceto was full of running while Melvin Becket impressed across midfield with some nifty footwork.

Gold Coast United Verdict:

United were profligate with their chances in the first half, but their experience soon told as they grabbed two late goals to settle the tie. Plenty of exciting potential among their ranks, with Jake Barker-Daish, Mitch Cooper and Daniel Bowles names to look for in the future. Victory coach Darren Davies will have been delighted to catch up with some of his former QAS charges.

See also Daniel Quinn's Match report
See also Alex Robinson's Match report from John Cain Memorial Park

Details: National Youth-League, Round 6:

26 Nov - 3:00pm - Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) 4 - Sydney FC 2 - AIS Athletics Track, Canberra
26 Nov - 4:00pm - Adelaide United FC 0 - Newcastle Jets FC 5 - Burton Park
27 Nov - 2:15pm - Melbourne Victory FC 1 - Gold Coast United FC 1 - AAMI Park
27 Nov - 2:30pm - Melbourne Heart FC 2 - Central Coast Mariners FC 1 - John Cain Memorial Park, Thornbury
27 Nov - 3:00pm - Brisbane Roar FC - Perth Glory FC - Cleveland Showgrounds, Cleveland

Zee Ko, Melbourne Football Stadium, aka AAMI Park), 27 November, 2011


Crafted lovingly by hand © Magic Llama 2000 - 2011