Unless you are a genuine fan, you would be hard pressed to even know the A-League started over the weekend. It’s an area that the game really needs to improve on, in their ability to continue to promote and get airtime is crucial to its survival.
The first week of the A-league finals league saw the elimination finals take place, and first up was 3rd placed Wellington up against the 6th placed Glory (who just scraped into the top 6 by 1 point). Wellington went in as to this cut-throat final as raging favourites, yet it was Perth ran out winners through Joel Chianese’s 18th minute goal.
Wellington will be shattered at the loss after a wonderful year, and looking at the stat sheet you could understand why. Wellington had 31 shots on goal to Perth’s 15 and had 68% possession compared to 32%, however it’s still a credit to the team from across the ditch who have been in Australia since June 19th in order to meet quarantine requirements and assist with the resumption of the competition. It was a great effort, and to be toppled so quickly in the finals after a really impressive year will be deeply disappointing. Perth though will take the result and run with it, and after a tough season overall, they have the talent to push any team.
In the second cut-throat final, we had 4th placed Brisbane Roar taking on 5th placed Western United (in their maiden season). The class of United’s gun marquee captain was pivotal with Alessandro Diamanti scorching left foot strike being the difference. It’s great to see the new boys going so well, and it sets up a juicy derby in the second week of the finals.
On Wednesday, In the first game of the evening sees 2nd placed Melbourne City face Western United for a place in the grand final. With United in its first season, this is an outstanding effort by Mark Rudan’s men. City will be pushing for the clubs first grand final and with gun striker Jamie McLaren they are favoured to get that chance. It won’t be easy, as the new boys have been in strong form, but City have the talent to get them across the line here.
In the first Semi Final will be played with top of the table, Sydney FC up against Perth Glory in a rematch of last year’s grand final. The winner will go straight through to the grand final with the loser eliminated. Sydney FC’s form has been patchy since the resumption which will be a concern for coach Steve Corica, having only 1 win in the 6 games played since the resumption. Incredibly, they have also had 3 losses and have scored just 7 goals whilst conceding 9. It will be a brave person to bet against a team that has Milos Ninkovic, Kosta Barbarouses and Adam Le Fondre, so I see them taking the chocolates against the Glory, but I wouldn’t be shocked if the Glory get another upset.
With the Grand Final to be played this Sunday, Perth Glory chief Tony Sage is lobbying FFA to switch next Sunday’s A-League grand final to WA’s Optus Stadium, should Tony Popovic’s side down Sydney FC to reach the decider. Sage has dubbed the audacious move a “no brainer” for the governing body, claiming it would likely net them $1.5 million in ticket receipts.
Citing the 57,000 seats sold in just four days for last season’s finale between Glory and the Sky Blues at the same venue, Sage said uprooting the game from Sydney would provide both a “spectacle and a windfall”.
The grand final is currently locked in at Bank West Stadium but can only be played in front of a token crowd due to NSW state government COVID-19 stipulations.
However, there are no such restrictions in WA where AFL teams Fremantle Dockers and West Coast Eagles have been playing in front of 20,000-plus audiences. It is an audacious bid, but time may permit it from coming to fruition. That being said, I’m not sure the A-League is in a position to knock back potential eye-balls on the game and should certainly look at making this move if they make it. Only argument would be, if city play Perth, why should City cop an ‘away’game when they finished higher……. sounds like an AFL debate!
In other news, ex Roar coach Robbie Fowler who had the club “flying” just prior to COVID, was interviewed on English television show Soccer AM recently. Fowler said he felt he was “not a priority” for the club and no flight arrangements had been made for him to return and that he didn’t walk away, he wasn’t welcomed back. It is a massive loss for the league, and football in this country can ill-afford to lose people like Robbie Fowler to the game in this country.
In further off-season moves, several clubs are yet to conclude coaching appointments. Adelaide United have had Carl Veart in the role on an interim basis and it looks he’s favoured for the role with discussions ongoing between Chairman Piet van der Pol and Football Director Bruce Djite.
Western Sydney Wanderers have appointed interim coach Jean-Paul de Marigny (JP) for season 2021 whilst Melbourne Victory are yet to appoint a coach for season 2021. John Aloisi is favoured to land the Victory role (his 3rd A-League coaching gig), ahead of Arthur Papas who is Ange Postecoglou’s Assistant coach at FC Marinos. Papas has good intel on football in Australia having been involved with clubs at Newcastle, Oakleigh Cannons, Green Gully and a number of roles in India, Holland and Belgium. At only 40 years of age time is on Papas’ side to land a head coaching role.
Should the above coaching appointments come to fruition (for Adelaide, and Melbourne Victory), it will see every club (bar Newcastle who have Welshmen Carl Robinson) with an Australian coach which would be the first time in the league’s history. It may be a sign of the times due to COVID, but it’s great for the progression of Australian coaches