R1 Review: Record Crowds Mark Return Of A-League Action

A-League Round 1 Review

Record Crowds Mark Return Of A-League Action

by Jeremy Ruane

with the compliments of www.sportswebsoccer.com

Record crowds greeted the return of the Hyundai A-League on the second weekend in October, as Australasia’s lone professional football competition began its ninth season of action.

A record aggregate crowd for a single round – 101,998 fans, a derby record crowd, and a record TV average viewership were championed by Football Australia on a weekend which saw two of its national representative teams – the Socceroos and the Young Matildas – cop six-goal hidings on the international stage.

Arguably the feature match of the opening round saw a repeat of the 2013 Grand Final taking place at Bluetongue Stadium. Title-holders Central Coast Mariners were denied victory by a late Western Sydney Wanderers equaliser which earned the visitors a 1-1 draw in front of 17,134 fans.

The first half was more than a tad cagey, punctuated by fouls galore as last season’s best-performed teams cancelled each other out. But ten minutes into the second spell, Mitchell Duke opened the scoring for Central Coast, delightfully chipping home on receipt of Marco Flores’ defence-splitting pass.

The niggling nature of the match continued after this strike, but two minutes from time Western Sydney restored parity through substitute Tomi Juric, who turned home Youssouf Hersi’s splendid near post cross to earn his side a share of the spoils.

Vying for the feature match billing was the Melbourne derby, with a staggering 45,202 fans piling into Etihad Stadium to witness Victory and Heart battle out a scoreless draw which brought about the season’s first genuinely controversial incident.

Just after half-time, Adama Traore’s goal-bound shot was thwarted by Heart’s outstretched hand of Patrick Kisnorbo, much to the ire of the Victory faithful, who gave referee Peter Green a right royal serve for his decision to allow play to continue.

In truth, it was the closest either side came to scoring in what was a fairly uninspiring encounter between two teams whose intent from the outset appeared to be to avoid defeat, despite the best efforts of Heart’s former Victory star, Harry Kewell.

The competition kicked off twenty-four hours earlier with another derby, this time of the F3 variety, with Sydney FC prevailing 2-0 over Newcastle Jets in front of 20,103 fans at the Allianz Stadium.

Save for a crossbar-rattling effort from Sydney’s Matt Thompson in the 26th minute, there was very little to write home about in the opening half-hour or so, until the league’s star turn, Alessandro Del Piero, delivered an injection of much-needed quality to open the scoring in the 37thminute.

His slalom run through four players, albeit with a large assist from Newcastle’s Zenon Caravella, culminated in the Italian tucking home a goal which was supplemented on the hour by a Joel Chianese strike, which Del Piero instigated on the counter-attack.

The closest Newcastle came all evening to scoring was in stoppage time, when substitute Jacob Pepper hit the bar with a header, an effort which did little to silence “The Cove” as they rejoiced in the perfect start for their charges.

How starkly that contrasted with Wellington Phoenix’s faithful, who saw a share of the spoils snatched away from them in stoppage time at Westpac Stadium, where Brisbane Roar scored a come-from-behind 2-1 victory to silence the 8,239 natives present.

The under-strengths Wellingtonians – a quarter of their squad is currently with the All Whites on international duty – benefited from the boost which the game’s opening goal gave them, Stein Huysegems netting half-way through the first half after Michael Boxall had headed Ben Sigmund’s cross into his stride.

But Brisbane gradually wore them down, Ivan Franjic hitting the crossbar and Besart Berisha being denied a goal by the offside flag before the interval. Two minutes after it, the prolific latter-mentioned player opened his account for the season in typically unerring fashion to level the scores.

That’s how it remained throughout the bulk of the half, and a point apiece seemed certain to be the outcome until Franjic popped up in stoppage time to turn home the rebound after Tomas Broich had rattled the post.

So to the final game of the weekend, which saw the most goals scored in any match in the round, as well as the first dismissals of the season, as nine-man Adelaide United overcame Perth Glory 3-1 in front of 10,320 fans at Coopers Stadium.

The game got off to a firecracker start, with Jeronimo Neumann’s ninth minute opener for United matched by Ryo Nagai for Perth two minutes later. The visitors came close to taking the lead half-way through the half when Sidney Sciola Moraes hit the post.

Cue a United response which saw Neumann strike once more, in the 25th minute, his second goal of the game, like his first, being set up by Fabio Ferreira. They maintained that advantage to beyond half-time in what turned out to be a niggly affair, with 41 fouls being recorded during the contest.

Twelve of them were bookable offences in the eyes of referee Ben Williams, and two of those were twice brandished to the same offenders – Adelaide’s Isaias Sanchez and Nigel Boogaard were dismissed following separate second half incidents which saw United conclude the game with nine players on the pitch.

Crucially, both were still on the park when the home team extended their advantage to 3-1 in the 64th minute, Ferreira netting what proved to be the game’s decisive goal on receipt of Michael Zullo’s cross.

Next week’s action kicks off on Friday night with Adelaide entertaining Melbourne Victory at Coopers (formerly Hindmarsh) Stadium. Twenty-four hours later, Brisbane and Sydney meet at Suncorp Stadium, while Melbourne Heart welcome Central Coast to AAMI Park.

And on Sunday, Newcastle and Perth do battle at Hunter Stadium before the battle of the Ws unfolds at Parramatta Stadium, where Western Sydney provide the opposition as Wellington make their first westbound trip of the campaign.

 Details:

Adelaide United FC 3 (J. Neumann (9, 25) F. Ferreira (64)) – Perth Glory FC 1 (R. Nagai (11)); HT 2-1

Central Coast Mariners FC 1 (M. Duke (55)) – Western Sydney Wanderers FC 1 (T. Juric (88)); HT 0-0

Melbourne Victory FC 0, Melbourne Heart FC 0

Sydney FC 2 (A. Del Piero (37), J. Chianese (60)) – Newcastle Jets FC 0; HT 1-0

Wellington Phoenix FC 1 (S. Huysegems (22)) – Brisbane Roar FC 1 (B. Berisha (47), I. Franjic (90)); HT 1-0