Hyundai A-League - 2012/2013 - Season 8

Mariners prove too solid
for resilient Reds
By Daniel Paperny

2012/2013 Hyundai A-League - Round 15
6:00pm, Sunday 6 January, 2013
at Paramatta Stadium

Western Sydney Wanderers FC 0
lost to
Central Coast Mariners FC 2
(McBreen 41’, 90+5')

(Polenz with a burst of pace)

Two similar teams, two similar styles, but only one outcome. Daniel Paperny reports on the Round 15 A-League clash as Western Sydney took on Central Coast in a cagey encounter at the Parramatta Stadium.

The atmosphere was electric as the Wanderers faced the league leaders in an excitingly open game last Sunday on a day of flares, friction and fast-paced football. Both teams started with reactive 4-2-3-1 formations but the key difference rested with defensive organisation and the reaction to Jason Trifiro’s sending off. The Mariners proved to be dominant both in the air and in terms of defensive solidity, but the game was ultimately decided by some questionable refereeing that kept a crowd of 16, 387 at the edge of their seats.

This is what the A-League should be about.

The first 15 minutes were an exciting display of fast-paced, joyful football. 20-year-old Kwabena Appiah-Kubi took the place of Youssouf Hersi for the Wanderers and was a constant counter-attacking threat throughout the match. Through a combination of deft footwork, an array of trickery and mazy runs, Appiah-Kubi, like Hersi, would move into wide right channels, looking to stretch the play and combine with the overlapping movement of his teammates. On 27 minutes, Appiah-Kubi received the ball with his back to the goal and, shielding the ball from left full-back Joshua Rose, the young winger executed a delightful throughball that found the feet of Jerome Polenz in a dangerous position at the edge of the box, but the opportunity was wasted. The roaming positioning of Appiah-Kubi, together with the surging runs of Polenz meant that the Mariners looked to be on the backpedal for the first quarter of the match but they soon grew in confidence, much to the dismay of the home side.

The Mariners’ own wide-right midfielder, Michael McGlinchey, also had a fantastic game. On 21 minutes, the New Zealand international evaded three Wanderers players in the centre of midfield to retain possession and his sideways pass to Oliver Bozanic initiated a good passing move that was ultimately blocked. Two minutes later, McGlinchey made a good run down the right flank, laying the ball off to right-back Pedj Bojic, with the ball passed to Trent Sainsbury then backheeled to meet the dashing run of Daniel McBreen, but the fluid passing move was thwarted by Aaron Mooy who cleared the ball to safety. Another good bounding run by McGlinchey on 36 minutes saw him evade two Reds players but his shot went wide of the goal.

Battle of the full-backs

The fascinating tactical battle in this game was the use of width and how each coach sought to deploy their own attacking full-backs. Jerome Polenz was imperious on the ball and it was through his surges forward that the Wanderers looked most threatening. For the Central Coast, Bojic presented himself as a real threat, combining well with both McGlinchey and McBreen as the Mariners sought to overload the right flank. On 41 minutes, after a burst of pace from left-back Rose, McBreen engaged in a neat 1,2 with Adam Kwasnik who backheeled the ball through the Wanderers defence. The ball met McBreen on the run, confidently slotting it beyond Ante Covic and into the top right corner for the first goal of the match.

Commenting on the first goal, SBS football analyst Craig Foster believes that the Mariners made the most of a poor positional error by the Wanderers to put themselves in front.

“Polenz was way out of touch with his three defenders, and they [took] advantage of that...a sign of a very good team,” he said.

The Wanderers looked to play ultra-defensively for the rest of the half. On 44 minutes, Jason Trifiro headed the ball clear from a corner but there was no attacking outlet in sight. Tony Popovic had, it seemed, asked Joey Gibbs to drop deeper as the Mariners looked much stronger in possession of the ball in midfield zones. Because of this, both sides sought to take advantage of attacking transitions through the striding runs of their full-backs, with most goalscoring opportunities arising from these transitions.

During the match, Aaron Mooy’s positioning was another interesting tactical feature; one reminiscent of the Busquets centre-half role at Barcelona. Dropping deep to receive the ball, Mooy acted as an auxiliary centreback, covering for the vertical runs of Polenz and playing the ball from the back. Mooy’s smooth exchanges with Topor-Stanley and his keen eye for passing outlets meant that he played a crucial role here in both keeping possession and distributing the ball forward, particularly as Shinji Ono was marked out of the game.

No Ono?

Shinji Ono’s ability to dictate tempo was not felt in this match. Having produced some excellent displays in the last few games for the Wanderers, the former Japanese international has come to be known for his ability to move into channels, initiate passing manoeuvres and find incisive diagonals to slice through the opposition, but his presence was diminished here. Ono was limited to long-range shots and his effort on 45 minutes from the edge of the box was blocked by Nick Montgomery with the ball cleared to safety.

On 50 minutes, Ono had another chance for goal but solid defensive work by the Mariners once again meant that the playmaker truly struggled to hold the reins in this close encounter. Employing a double-man marking system, Coach Graham Arnold ensured that the Mariners were well-drilled defensively, with Ono being pressured and dispossessed as soon as he received the ball. This match saw Ono’s influence emphatically limited as Montgomery was instructed to man-mark him, combining with the zonal marking of Michael McGlinchey and Zac Anderson to restrict Ono’s movement depending on which zone he was in. With Ono finding himself checked by two players at all times, the Japanese playmaker was unable to impose himself on the match, and consequently, the Wanderers lacked incision in their passing; it became more difficult for them to find spaces to exploit.

Red card doesn’t faze Reds

Popovic’s reaction to Trifiro’s red card on 53 minutes was to drop Shinji Ono into central midfield so that the team’s shape and structure wasn’t affected too dramatically. Seeing as Shinji was afforded little space when playing in the hole, the Wanderers actually looked more effective on the ball when Shinji played deeper. With the extra distance covered by the advancing Mooy, the Wanderers looked more organised and effective with 10 men than with 11. In football, this is no revelation. Legendary coach Arrigo Sacchi was a proponent of disciplined defensive systems, affirming that five organised players could hold out against ten disorganised ones, even if they were the club’s best ten attacking players.

Coach Tony Popovic seems to have taken that notion of defensive rigidity into his teachings.

In his post-match commentary, assistant coach Ante Milicic emphasised the importance of the Wanderers committing to their sense of defensive organisation.

“We didn’t change too much in the game and played the way we wanted...[With] the squad, everyone knows their roles, both with the ball and without it,” he said.

Defence the difference

With Popovic changing his line-up to a 3-4-2, the Reds were good on the ball in the second half but they failed to penetrate a dogged Mariners defence. At 59 minutes, the Mariners looked to control the match with patient build-up play from the back and spraying the ball with short passes in midfield. Appiah-Kubi increasingly looked to track back for the Reds and, consequently, the Wanderers looked bereft of attacking options at times. Although Appiah-Kubi was solid in his defensive discipline, the young winger failed to join the Wanderers in some of their counter-attacking plays during the later stages of the match and this left gaps in the Reds’ attack. Consequently, Bojic and Rose were afforded more time on the ball, posing further problems for a tiring Wanderers defence.

Referee, why are we waiting?

A few questionable refereeing decisions by Chris Beath detracted from the thrill of this game. The Mariners’ centreback Trent Sainsbury avoided being red-carded in the first half for a professional foul on Joey Gibbs who was through on goal. On 88 minutes, Mark Bridge went to ground after another challenge by Sainsbury but a penalty was not given despite the crowd’s shouts and appeals. Flares and water bottles were thrown onto the ground as the referee nonchalantly looked on and the minutes kept ticking.

Several minutes later, McBreen dispossessed La Rocca as both players fell to the ground and the ball was sent back into play. The intent was there as La Rocca’s knee was lifted and then crashed into McBreen’s head but the incident went unnoticed as the Mariners played on with the ball. Six minutes of stoppage time were given, but this only created further tensions towards the end of the game. Late substitutions and time-wasting by keeper Matthew Ryan went unnoticed by the referee as the Mariners sought to hold out for a victory. Despite appeals for an offside, McBreen found Wanderers keeper Ante Covic to be far from his line on the 95th minute and curled the ball in for a smooth finish to put the result beyond doubt.

2 - 0

The result of the game did not reflect what a close and competitive contest this was. Despite playing with 10 men for nearly the entirety of the second half, the Wanderers matched the Mariners for their intensity, but the outstanding play of the Mariners’ fullbacks coupled with the resilience of their defence meant that attacking chances were hard to come by. Despite the loss, Ante Milicic said that there were many positives to be taken from the Wanderers’ performances this season as they continue to go from strength to strength.

“We had a good chance in creating a culture with the club and the results [overall] have been good to us,” he said. “We have had good players, good [teams] and access to good’s all come together really quickly and worked really well for us”.

2012/2013 Hyundai A-League - Round 15
6:00pm, Sunday 6 January, 2013
at Paramatta Stadium

Western Sydney Wanderers FC 0
lost to
Central Coast Mariners FC 2
(McBreen 41’, 90+5')

    Crowd: 16,387


    Western Sydney Wanderers FC :
    Player listing:
    1. Ante Covic (Gk), 2. Shannon Cole (15. Reece Caira 80’), 4. Nikolai Topor-Stanley (c), 6. Jerome Polenz, 10. Aaron Mooy, 13. Joseph Gibbs (7. Labinot Haliti 67’), 14. Kwabena Appiah-Kubi (11. Tarek Elrich 67’), 18. Iacopo La Rocca, 19. Mark Bridge, 21. Shinji Ono, 23. Jason Trifiro

    Substitutes not used: 20. Jerrad Tyson (rgk)

    Coach: Tony Popovic

    Yellow Cards: Jerome Polenz '16, Jason Trifiro '22 (Red on '53), Iacopo La Rocca '85
    Red Cards: Trifiro 53'

    Central Coast Mariners FC :
    Player listing:
    1. Mathew Ryan (Gk), 2. Daniel McBreen, 3. Joshua Rose, 4. Pedj Bojic, 5. Zachary Anderson, 11. Oliver Bozanic (13. Brent Griffiths 90’), 14. Michael McGlinchey (c), 16. Trent Sainsbury, 18. Nick Montgomery (7. John Hutchinson 75’), 21. Mile Sterjovski, 23. Adam Kwasnik (9. Bernie Ibini 62’)

    Substitutes not used: 20. Justin Pasfield (rgk)

    Coach: Graham Arnold

    Yellow Cards: Trent Sainsbury '24, Pedj Bojic '56, Nick Montgomery '56
    Red Cards: Nil

    Referee: Chris Beath 2/10

    BOTN Player Points:
    3. Michael McGlinchey (CCM)
    2. Jerome Polenz (WSW)
    1. Pedj Bojic (CCM)

    Pitch rating: 8/10

    Game rating: 10/10

    Match report, stats and photos: By Daniel Paperny

(Shinji Ono tries to evade a challenge)

(McGlinchey carves up the opposition)

(McGlinchey calls for the ball)

(Bojic plays the ball back)

(Flares and bottles thrown at the Mariners goal)

Disclaimer: The content of this report is the responsibility of the writer. Stats are either as recorded by the writer at the game, or as supplied by FFA, or a mixture - no responsibility can be taken for their compete accuracy although we do strive for that. Any photos used here are as attributed.

Crafted lovingly by hand
By fans, for fans
© Magic Llama 2000 - 2013