It's Monday, so here's the good, bad and ugly from Round 9 in the A-League.
Sydney is smoking ... Sydney FC look okay, too
Extending their lead atop the A-League standings to five points, Sydney FC cut Brisbane Roar up on the counter-attack in their 5-1 win at Kogarah Oval on Saturday.
Brisbane's inability to even respond at the breakdown of possession was a concerning aspect for Robbie Fowler and Roar fans, but it shouldn't diminish just how clinical the reigning champions were, scoring five from a total of eight shots on target. Even at a basic level, much like they did against Western United the week before, how quickly the team can spring into the transitional phase does not necessitate domination of the ball. A bit of column A and B on this one, but with 42.3 percent possession of the ball, Sydney generated more shots in the penalty area than the Roar.
Thankfully for Football Federation Australia, though, Sydney's A-League and W-League games were even able to go ahead. And Newcastle were away in both competitions. And Central Coast had the bye, but the Y-League fixture between the Mariners and Jets on Sunday was postponed. At least for this round, the quality of air in New South Wales hasn't wreaked complete havoc on the schedule. Yet, it's ultimately secondary in context of the wider and more tangible impact of bushfires on lives.
And while we're on the subject...
The Australian summer can be harsh and unforgiving. Even doing anything out in the sun at times can seem insane, let alone kicking and chasing a ball around for two hours. Fundamentally, it took sizeable effort from both Adelaide and Newcastle to play a game at that fast a tempo in 40 degrees Celsius heat at Hindmarsh Stadium. Even at 30°C, a player's mouth becomes oppressively dry after the first sprint. On the game's complexion, the Reds were fortunate to get away with the 2-1 win after Ernie Merrick's side dominated the majority of the game and their profligacy once again told.
The conditions are important, though. This is not exactly a new subject, but why is a television broadcast more important than player or spectator welfare? Logistical problems would arise in scenarios like these, but that welfare should be at the forefront of decision-making to delay kick-off times or not. Especially in this instance, at a stadium like Hindmarsh Stadium that doesn't exactly provide shelter from the sun. Then, if the harsh conditions are the primary topic of conversation on the television broadcast itself, it raises the question -- who exactly is playing in that heat accommodating?
A clearer picture of Perth
Where fortune did not favour them in prior matches, Perth Glory certainly received their fair share of it on Friday, as they defeated Melbourne City 3-0 at AAMI Park. Now Harrison Delbridge trying to muscle Bruno Fornaroli out of the way, before the A-League's Best Ever Posterior scored Perth's opener in the 28th minute, was not good. There was an air of fortune to how the ball popped up in that position to begin with. With one win in the opening seven matches for the Glory, however, the defensive bunker they set up was always coming after the Uruguayan's opening goal.
The second goal aids Perth in this defensive aim. Gregory Wuthrich's attempt deflecting off both Curtis Good and Delbridge to finish in the net in the 47th minute, reaffirms the game's complexion. This way, Perth don't really need the ball and can play in the manner that had them at the pointy end of the table last season. There are questions about Melbourne City's ability to actually create in longer spells of possession, but finally for Tony Popovic's side, they were in position to defend a lead. Per Rob Scriva, only Brisbane had spent less time leading games coming into Round 9. And defending a lead is something Perth do particularly well.
Kone up the pitch
Western United might have performed well enough to arguably deserve more than losses to Newcastle, Central Coast and Sydney FC, but there was an aspect lacking in their attacking play. Scott McDonald's absence due to injury gave WU coach Mark Rudan the room to implement something different, and during Sunday's 3-1 win over Melbourne Victory in Geelong, there was a different dynamic to them with the ball.
Although there was an arguable trade-off defensively, with a very open first half of football on the whole, it was evident from their very first attacking sequence.
In contrast to McDonald, who would come from higher starting positions to drop between the defensive lines, Panagiotis Kone was the opposite at Kardinia Park. The 32-year-old was the focal point for continual sprinting behind the defensive line from deeper positions -- an aspect of play United have lacked -- in order to scramble Victory in a different way. It facilitated scenarios where, much like before Western United's quick equaliser in the 17th minute, Dario Jertec could feed the ball into a retreating Besart Berisha earlier in the attacking phase. Created by the availability of personnel, it was nevertheless a necessary and astute adjustment.
We don't want them
There was a certain magnitude to a team of Australian coaches celebrating post-match, as Yokohama F. Marinos secured the J-League title on Saturday. On a primary level, Ange Postecoglou has achieved something truly important in context of Australian football. Notably, along with assistants Arthur Papas and Peter Cklamovski, the very act of implementation in a different country is inspirational. Despite arguable labouring of the topic in a public sphere recently, there really is a tinge of sorrow that comes with their eventual success.
The faith shown in them has been a regrettable juxtaposition to what is largely seen in Australia. Given four of the six vacant head positions in the A-League were taken up by foreign coaches this season, Yokohama's triumph only solidifies the idea that for many Australian coaches, the only way to develop as human beings and professionals is to leave the country altogether. While the likes of Markus Babbel and Robbie Fowler continue without consequence, coaches like Papas who toiled or continue to put in work at state level recognise there is a restrictive ceiling here.