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Vant Schip: We can emulate Adelaide United

Thu, 30/10/2014 - 11:51
The Reds were leaking goals and failing to convince early in Josep Gombau's tenure last year, before a mid-season revival saw them march into the finals in some style. They are unbeaten so far in the A-League, sitting joint top alongside Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC after three rounds and have also reached the semi-finals of the inaugural FFA Cup. With the pressure certain to increase if his team continue their winless start, Van 't Schip made a point on Thursday of highlighting the time it has taken Gombau to get in right at Coopers Stadium. "They're playing good football," he said. "Josep's put a team on the pitch that now (after) more than a year's time, you really see that they have made progress. "If you remember the start was also difficult there, they were playing good football (but not winning). "I think if you look at our situation you can compare it a little bit to how they started last year - playing good football but not getting the results that they maybe deserved. "Sticking to their belief, sticking to the way they play, you see that now, the results are coming from out of that philosophy. It's good to see. "The way they play is very fluent, very attacking, very entertaining, the way that I like it as well. We're not far from that. Only it takes ... time to make those steps. Hopefully we can start tomorrow. Adelaide have Australia's football hipsters drooling in 2014-15 with their seamless switch from 3-4-3 to 4-3-3 during matches, holding midfield Isaias dropping into defence when his side are out of possession. Van 't Schip is intimately familiar with that tactical ploy, but claimed his privileged apprenticeship at in one of the world's leading youth academies will not afford him a secret weapon to counter the Reds' fluidity. "We started it from the Dutch school, the Ajax system in the 90s playing that (formation)," he said when asked about Adelaide's ploy. "(Johan) Cruyff implemented it (at) the time when he was having the dream team (at Barcelona) with (Ronald) Koeman going into the midfield and playing with three at the back. "It's nothing new, but he (Gombau) did from out of injury problems and it worked well, so he has now the option he can switch in a team and that's very good." Van 't Schip confirmed David Williams would be available again after he was a late withdrawal from the Melbourne derby, although Connor Chapman has suffered a minor setback in his comeback from injury in the National Youth League, meaning the former Newcastle Jet must continue to wait for the chance to make his City debut.
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Horror Cup clash claims Victorys stars

Thu, 30/10/2014 - 10:27
Victory coach Kevin Muscat confirmed after the game that Berisha and Delpierre had suffered groin and hamstring injuries, forcing both to be replaced. Muscat said the pair are likely to miss the Wellington game, with Archie Thompson (illness) in doubt, while Adrian Leijer and Daniel Georgievski were both sent off and will be subsequently suspended. Berisha was substituted shortly before half-time, after appearing to feel a twinge and immediately signalling to the bench he needed to be replaced. The Albanian’s body language suggested it was a serious injury, although Muscat couldn’t confirm the extent of either his or Delpierre’s. The Frenchman injured his right hamstring and was substituted in the 88th minute. Victory were also without Thompson who wasn’t part of the matchday squad despite travelling, due to illness, with Muscat confirming they “decided to keep him away from the squad”. “I can’t recall a night like that with injuries and red cards, not too much went our way tonight,” Muscat said after the game. “It’s disappointing, but we have to pick ourselves up.” On Berisha and Delpierre’s injuries, Muscat said: “The extent of the injuries I don’t know, but if it was enough for them to come off, they’d be in serious doubt for Monday. “We’re going to have to assess them when we get back to Melbourne to know for definite.” Despite the potential loss of five key players, Muscat was confident his squad could cover their absences. Muscat pointed to the examples of young full-back Dylan Murnane, who returned after Young Socceroos duty, and Tunisian Fahid Ben Khalfallah, who opened the scoring, as a sign of the club’s depth. “We’ll have enough bodies to put out a strong team at home to win a game of football,” Muscat said. Meanwhile, Muscat refused to lambast referee Alan Milliner for his performance in the extra-time defeat, despite issuing two red cards and awarding a controversial first-half penalty against Victory. Muscat insisted he had “no issues” with the referee’s performance, although he appeared to be boiling under the surface. Speaking about Georgievski’s send-off, he said: “I don’t know whether he got the ball. “(The referee) seemed like he was in a close enough position to make the right decision, but time will tell when I have another look at it.”
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Lowe not carried away by De Silvas fairytale job

Thu, 30/10/2014 - 10:00
The highly-rated 17-year-old came on in the 80th minute before putting his side 3-2 ahead in extra-time with a strike that the gaffer said “he finished well”. Since becoming the second youngest A-League player in history after making his debut as a 15-year-old in March 2013, De Silva has always been known as a huge future prospect. The Perth-born talent has regularly represented Australia at under-age level and landed a dream AU$2.5 million move to Italian giants AS Roma in March, before being loaned back to Glory. Despite all the plaudits, Wednesday’s goal was only his first for Glory, but one which meant a lot to the club, as it booked its place in the FFA Cup semi-finals. “Danny’s come on and it’s a fairytale job,” Lowe said. “He’s come on and affected the game.” De Silva hadn’t played for Glory since April, having missed large parts of pre-season away on Young Socceroos duty. The prospect of a firing De Silva is one which will excite Glory fans, but Lowe appeared eager to play it down. “He hasn’t been around so much, I forgot what he looked like, he’s been away with international duty that much,” Lowe said. “I think he’s grown about two inches. It’s good for him. It’s good for the club.” Lowe refused to get carried away with De Silva’s impact off the bench, having entered the fray on 80 minutes. The teenager produced a few moments of skill, in particular a nutmeg which opened up a chance for him to make it 4-2. The Glory boss said he hadn’t pondered De Silva’s immediate future in the line-up, having previously been largely used off the bench. “He’s still young, he’s got to be protected,” Lowe said. “But if he does that every week, he’ll probably play 90 minutes. “If he’d been around a bit more, instead of being on international duty, he probably would’ve got more of a sniff.” Lowe was more forthright in his praise of Irishman Andy Keogh who scored two goals and set up another two. The former Wolverhampton hitman has now scored nine goals in six competitive games for Glory and appears a major coup for the club. “We are looking for blue-collar players with character, but who are good footballers, who are going to affect the team and add value,” Lowe said. “We signed Andy Keogh because he ticked all the boxes that we want. He’s surpassing all the things we envisaged we were going to get.” Meanwhile, Glory were the final side to book their place in the FFA Cup final four, alongside Bentleigh Greens, Adelaide United and Central Coast Mariners. Surprisingly, after losing 2-0 to Adelaide on Sunday, Lowe nominated the Reds as the team he’d like to face next. “It’s always a good game against Adelaide,” Lowe explained. “They are a good team. It’d be a good cup game against Adelaide. “It doesn’t matter where. You’re in the cup, you get who you get, if you can beat them there, who’s left. They play super football.”
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De Silva lays down marker after Cup romp

Thu, 30/10/2014 - 09:51
The teenage playmaker came off the bench to score his first senior goal which put the Glory in front in extra-time, with Kenny Lowe’s side going on to win a thrilling quarter-final 4-2 at nib Stadium. “It’s my first goal in a proper game for Glory so it’s a great feeling to get the goal which puts us in the (semi-finals),” De Silva told Fox Sports. “Hopefully that’s just the start and I get a few more minutes. “I showed what I can do today and hopefully the coach was impressed and I can get a few more minutes for the rest of the season.” The action-packed match had a number of momentum swings, with Victory taking an early lead through Fahid Ben Khalfallah before an Andy Keogh brace had the home side in control. But just when it looked like the Glory would hold on, Gui Finkler scored a sensational free-kick in stoppage time to ensure an extra 30 minutes. After Victory’s Daniel Georgievski was sent off for a second bookable offence, De Silva took over scoring on a clinical counter-attack before playing a role in Nebojsa Marinkovic’s match-sealer. “We’re obviously delighted. That’s what we came out here to do was to win,” De Silva said. “I thought the boys played really well and we fought hard, think we deserved the points today.” Glory join Central Coast Mariners, Adelaide United and Bentleigh Greens in the draw for the semi-finals, which will take place on Friday night.
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Bentleigh Greens dreaming of cup glory

Thu, 30/10/2014 - 09:51
The Greens came from behind to defeat Adelaide City 2-1 on Wednesday, becoming the only team from the outside the Hyundai A-League to reach the semi-finals. Just two matches now separate the PS4 National Premier Leagues Victoria team from what would be a fairytale triumph in the national knockout competition. Regardless of whether they are drawn against Adelaide United, the Central Coast Mariners or Perth Glory/Melbourne Victory (playing at time of writing) in the last four, the boss has no intention of merely making up the numbers. "Nothing's impossible," he said. "Now we're in the final four all that it needs is for us to have a good game and maybe the other team won't. Then you're in the final and anything can happen after that. "Last year, I said before the game that we ended up runners-up in a game we should have won in the VPL final," he said, referring to a 3-2 loss to Northcote City. "This is redemption for us to get this far. We want to go one step further, no doubt."  Anastasiadis implored the Greens to build on their achievements of recent seasons as they prepare for another tilt at state and cup glory next term. "It leaves a massive legacy for the club," he said. "It puts us in another stratosphere at the moment. We have to take advantage of this, as a club, as a committee, we have to take advantage of this now.  "Hopefully it'll give the other players coming through this club, to know they're part of a club that's in the final four of the inaugural FFA Cup.  "It gives them another incentive to be part of this club."
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Broxham rues costly Cup defeat in Perth

Thu, 30/10/2014 - 09:21
It was a costly night for the Victory with Archie Thompson ruled out in the warm-up with a hamstring injury, while striker Besart Berisha (groin) and defender Mathieu Delpierre (hamstring) also forced off before the end of the match. “Injuries are part of the game. We’re well-drilled in all sorts of positions,” Broxham told Fox Sports. “We should be able to deal with it. We didn’t tonight and it’s Perth Glory’s night. “The boys gave everything they had. It was a tough 120 minutes. There was a few dubious decisions in my opinion and it turns the game and it’s tough to come back from that. “We showed some character getting back in the game. It’s a pity we couldn’t go on with it.” The dubious calls Broxham was referring to were the two red cards shown to defenders Daniel Georgievski and Adrian Leijer in extra-time. Both players were shown second yellow cards, Georgievski for a late tackle on Scott Jamieson, while Leijer was marched for dissent. “I didn’t think either were send offs in my opinion,” Broxham said. “But my opinion doesn’t really matter. It’s hard to go to 10 let alone nine and Perth took full advantage of it.” Victory don’t have long to assess the damage and pick up the pieces with a clash against Wellington Phoenix on Monday night back in Melbourne.
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FFA Cup pics: Perth Glory v Melbourne Victory

Thu, 30/10/2014 - 02:10
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Victory count the cost as Perth stay on track for FFA Cup glory

Thu, 30/10/2014 - 00:47
In a classic Cup tie which had a bit of everything, the Glory progressed after substitutes Daniel De Silva and Nebojsa Marinkovic both scored in the extra 30 minutes. The visitors took an early lead through Fahid Ben Khalfallah before two goals to Andy Keogh looked to have settled the result for the Glory. But Gui Finkler produced a stunning free-kick two minutes into stoppage time to send the match to extra-time where all the drama started with two more goals and red cards to Victory pair Adrian Leijer and Daniel Georgievski. Glory join Central Coast Mariners, Adelaide United and Bentleigh Greens in the Westfield FFA Cup semi-final draw on Friday night. GOALS 0-1Ben Khalfallah (8’)– Victory won possession deep in Glory’s half, with Jesse Makarounas laying off to the Tunisian who took one touch before unleashing a swerving shot from all of 30 metres which gave Danny Vukovic no chance. 1-1 Keogh (15’) – The home side were awarded a contentious penalty for a slight tug on Youssef Hersi by Leigh Broxham. Keogh sent Nathan Coe the wrong way, coolly slotting it into the corner. 2-1 Keogh (82’) – Scott Jamieson swung a teasing corner to the far post where Keogh was waiting unmarked to head home from close range. 2-2 Finkler (90+2’) – With time almost up Finkler was presented with a chance from a free-kick on the left-hand side about 25 metres from goal. And the Brazilian delivered curling a sublime effort around the wall and past Vukovic into the far corner of the net. 3-2 De Silva (103’) – The home side produced a clinical counter-attack after a Victory corner, streaming forward in numbers with Keogh finding an unmarked De Silva. The youngster took a touch into the box before driving it past Coe with a clinical finish. 4-2 Marinkovic (111’) – Keogh raced clear after springing the offside trap, getting into the box before unselfishly cutting the ball back to Marinkovic to slam it home. KEY MOMENT While he was kept fairly well in check for most of the first half, the loss of Besart Berisha to injury just before the break was a huge blow to Melbourne Victory. Without the Albanian, who scored a hat-trick in the Melbourne derby last weekend, the visitors lacked an attacking focal point and the Glory took advantage HIGHLIGHTS REEL Finkler’s scored a couple of brilliant free-kicks in his time in the Hyundai A-League but none better than the one that sent the contest to extra-time. His strike had power and precision and was far too good for a fully-stretched Vukovic. COACH KILLER With his side already weary with the match in extra-time, the last thing the Victory needed was to go down to 10-men. After picking up a booking in the first half, Georgievski should have known better than to dive in on Scott Jamieson and his mis-timed challenge saw him giving his marching orders and handed the initiative to the Glory. TREATMENT TABLE The Victory suffered a blow before kick-off with Archie Thompson injuring his left hamstring in the warm-up. It got worse for the visitors late in the first half as Berisha was forced off with a groin problem, while Mathieu Delpierre limped off late with a hamstring strain. A second game in four days obviously didn’t help the trio who must be in doubt for the club’s Hyundai A-League clash with Wellington Phoenix on Monday night. THE FINAL WORD The Glory bounced back to form in strong fashion to ensure they are in the draw for the semi-finals and it will give them plenty of confidence and aid their recovery for the visit of Newcastle Jets in just three days’ time. Victory will be disappointed to have bowed out despite taking an early lead but their focus will be on getting the fitness right of Berisha, Thompson and Delpierre. Suspensions for Leijer and Georgievski won’t help their cause either. A disastrous night for the Big V all-round. Perth Glory:Vukovic (GK), Risdon, Djulbic, Thwaite, Jamieson, Hersi (Marinkovic 91’), Griffiths (Ferreira 76’), Nichols, Garcia (De Silva 80’), Keogh, Maclaren Melbourne Victory:Coe (GK), Georgievski, Leijer, Delpierre (Mahazi 88’), Murnane, Milligan, Broxham, Makarounas (Finkler 64’), Barbarouses, Berisha (Nabbout 44’), Ben Khalfallah Red cards:Georgievski (99’), (Leijer 112’) Yellow cards:Leijer (11’ and 112’),Georgievski (25’ and 99’), Nichols (29’), Hersi (31’), Griffiths (34’), Ferreira (110’) Conditions:21C, Dry Attendance:3899
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The jig is up for Perths Kenny Lowe

Wed, 29/10/2014 - 18:24
Lowe is targeting FFA Cup silverware in the competition’s inaugural year but first has to negotiate his side past a high-flying Melbourne Victory in the quarter-final at nib Stadium. That’s plenty of pressure on the shoulders of the Glory tactician who feels every miss-kick, crunching tackle and squandered opportunity throughout the full 90. Known as one of the big characters of the A-League, his celebratory jig after Andy Keogh scored a late winner against Brisbane Roar was a media and crowd hit. But Lowe said of his colourful reputation: “It’s all right being a character but you don’t want to be a caricature. “I think it’s just the way you’re made you know, sometimes that’s a good thing sometimes it’s a bad thing, but I think I’ve got to temper that a little bit. “It’s just the way I am. I’m actually not that way off the pitch at all, I’m quite laid back, I think I get wrapped up in the game, it’s something I love and enjoy. “(But) I’ve got to really have a look at that and maybe be a little better.” Glory defeated Newcastle Jets and state league outfit St Albans Saints, who are two tiers below the A-league, to make tonight’s showdown. Nebo Marinkovic and Andy Keogh have both scored in the previous rounds and Lowe will look to his import duo to continue their Cup form against Victory. “Nebo came last season during the January the transfer window; obviously he’s had the benefit of a pre-season under his belt and the chance to obviously get to know everybody,” Lowe said. “Same, as Andy (Keogh) those guys have settled in, they are quality players, and quality people. It will be an interesting year for those guys, they’ve both started off very, very well.” Lowe hit back at criticism he abandoned the club’s policy of developing young players in favour of signing some highly credentialed veterans. “It’s the youngest squad in the A- League,” he said. “I think I’ve known 90% of the boys since they were 13-years-old. I’m not quite sure where the context of that comes from. “I guess at the end of the day when we’ve lost eight senior players and we’ve already got 12 younger players in the playing group, really looking at your squad, you probably need to go and replace your eight senior players with younger version senior players and that’s what we’ve done. “If we had gone and replaced our eight senior players with young players, that would have been a bit of a tough gig this year.” Lowe enjoyed a 10-year involvement in West Australian youth football before taking on the head coaching job at Glory and says there is a lot that excites him about the state’s up-and-comers. “At the youth level, for the last 10 years we’ve had some quality guys involved with the youth development on the coaching side,” he said. “It’s been a fair few guys that have been passionate about what they’ve been doing, real belief and I think that’s maybe spilled out into the fact that they’ve helped these guys, but ultimately the players have got to have quality as well. “There’s good players everywhere, it’s just maximising the potential and helping them, maybe the guys over here have helped the younger guys a little bit to chase their dream.” Meanwhile the Glory boss is keen to blow away the perception that Perth plays unattractive football. “For me I guess I’m under an obligation to entertain people and play football the right way and that’s kind of the way I like to go about my business if I can,” he said. “I want my players to enjoy it, I want them to get on the ball, I want them to express themselves. I want them to play in an entertaining manner if possible but also be competitive. “(I’m excited by) players that want make me sit on the edge of my seat, players that excite people, players that express themselves and play with some freedom. “We’ve got fans at the club that want success and they want it in a certain way, we try to do that as much as we possibly can and excite people.”
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Young ‘embarrassed’ by Sydney wonder goals

Wed, 29/10/2014 - 17:07
Janko scored one of the goals of the season, and his first for Sydney FC, after chesting down a Young clearance and volleying the ball past the 29-year-old during the first half of the Sky Blues’ 2-0 win on Friday. Milos Dimitrijevic then added further insult in the second half when he curled home a stunner over the former England youth international from outside the box to seal the victory. The Roar custodian told FourFourTwo they were disappointing goals to concede. “I thought Sydney were a very organised team and they had a very good strategy to negate us,” Young said. “They executed it quite well. The first one, my clearance should have been higher in terms of the trajectory. It probably would have gone further up the field. It wasn’t the worse clearance in the world but it wasn’t a great one, it was quite poor. “The guy took a touch and hit a wonderful strike and it very much embarrassed me. When those type of goals happen I can only take my hat off and say it was a tremendous strike. “The second one, it was a bit unlucky when we tried to play out and it hit the referee. They played some neat interplay there and he hit one in the top corner. “Very disappointing – maybe goals that, a yard back, for the second goal I could have got a hand to it. But that’s the beauty of hindsight. Disappointing.” Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold said after the match that part of his game plan was to exploit Young being off his line. “I think teams are negating the way that we play,” Young said. “We have to look at a way to combat that ourselves. I think their manager spoke about certain tendencies that I have in terms of goalkeeping, it’s more than fair that other people have strategies. “You’d expect the opposition team to have a strategy and what they can exploit. The main thing for me, personally, is looking at my own game and looking at things I can improve on. “I try not to focus on what other people say, more so at looking at my own game. In terms of the rest of team we’ve now got a window of opportunity to really look to negate how teams nullify us. I’m sure the powers that be, the manager and assistant manager, will be looking to do that.” Young said it has been a difficult opening to the season, with no points from the Roar’s first three games, but Brisbane isn’t throwing in the towel. “It’s been a difficult start for us, for whatever reason,” he said. “You can say this, that or the other, but you can’t really sugarcoat that. It’s zero and three isn’t it. That’s probably the most disappointing thing because this club’s got such huge stature in terms of the success it’s had. “There’s been a bit of bad luck there and there are things that we need to improve on as well. But the main thing is you don’t drop your head, you take it on the chin and you look at working even harder to make sure these things don’t happen.” The Roar has this weekend off with their next game against Melbourne City at Suncorp Stadium on November 8. City have yet to win a game this season with two draws and a loss from their first three matches. Young added: “They’ve not only got David Villa, they’ve got Damian Duff,” Young said. “They’re very much a club on the up, they’re a positive club so it will be a tough game. I don’t think there’s any easy games in the A-League. “They’ll be a tough team to play against but the main thing for us is look at things that have happened and how we can improve, that’s the biggest thing.”
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A-League Preview: City seek to avenge derby defeat

Wed, 29/10/2014 - 16:51
John van 't Schip's men led twice but were thrashed 5-2 by Melbourne Victory on Saturday night - as the situation surrounding guest player David Villa appeared to worsen. Spanish striker Villa is leaving Melbourne for New York following City's hosting of Adelaide, and reports have suggested he will not return to the A-League - with all eyes to be on the former Barcelona and Atletico Madrid man approaching the final whistle at AAMI Park. Adelaide, meanwhile, have few concerns after an unbeaten opening to the 2014-15 campaign. Most recently, Josep Gombau's men easily accounted for Perth Glory 2-0, after drawing with Melbourne Victory and beating Brisbane Roar. On Saturday, Perth will be looking to bounce back from dropping points for the first time this season when they host Newcastle Jets. Glory's back-to-back wins to start the campaign were put paid to by Adelaide, although Perth boss Kenny Lowe will like the look of their head-to-head record against the Jets. Perth have won seven of their past eight outings against Newcastle in all competitions, including a 2-0 FFA Cup win in August. On Sunday, Graham Arnold will be up against his old side for the first time, as his Sydney FC host the Central Coast Mariners. Arnold steered Central Coast to the premiership in 2011-12 and clinched the championship with the Mariners in 2013. At Allianz Stadium, he will be opposing former assistant Phil Moss in the technical area, hoping to preserve Sydney's unbeaten start to the season - and inflict a second straight loss on the Mariners. League leaders Melbourne Victory host Wellington Phoenix on Monday. Victory are level with Sydney and Adelaide on seven points but have a superior goal difference, while the Phoenix are just one point back after stringing together consecutive wins. If last season's clashes between the two are anything to go by, there will be goals at AAMI Park. Despite losing two of the three clashes, Phoenix outscored Victory 8-7 on the back of their 5-0 rout in January - which was preceded by a 3-2 Victory win in Melbourne, and followed by a 4-1 Melbourne rout in Wellington.
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WIN!! Tickets to Sydney FC v Central Coast Mariners

Wed, 29/10/2014 - 14:35
Sydney FC look to continue this rich vein of form, going into a game against a struggling Central Coast Mariner, who did beat FC 3 out 3 last season. FFT have 5 pairs of tickets to this game on Sunday 2nd November. All you need to do is answer the following questions and enter your details, to be in with a chance of winning. Open to all Australian residents aged 18 and over. Entries close: 31st October 8:59am AEST Prize is as stated. No cash alternative. Prizes are non-transferable. One entry per person. Transport to the venue is at the winners expense. FourFourTwoterms and conditionsapply
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Popovic to give injured striker till game day

Wed, 29/10/2014 - 08:51
Wanderers flew out of Sydney airport on Tuesday night bound for Dubai then Riyadh ahead of Saturday night’s (Sunday morning AEDT) second leg ACL final against Al-Hilal on Saturday night in Riyadh (Sunday morning AEDT).  A typically confident Santalab was upbeat despite dislocating his right shoulder in Saturday night’s first leg 1-0 win over the Saudis in Sydney. “It’s a little bit sore but making steps forward. Feeling better day by day,” Santalab told the media.  Noticeably, the striker greeted media and teammates with his left hand not with the injured right.  The hope is that by Saturday night in Riyadh the shoulder will  have settled down enough to be available for selection.  Asked about his chances and a bullish Santalab rated them as very good.  “Obviously a dislocation is not nice but it’s the biggest game of my career and this is when you have to step up and go through tough times if needed.” However, his coach was taking a more conservative approach when asked about his striker’s chances of starting the game – or at least playing a part. “He’s still in some discomfort. He tried to train today. He’ll be touch and go," said Popovic.  "He’s a day-by-day proposition but we hope he’s available for selection. And he wants to be [available]. “And he’ll do everything he can. And the medical staff will do all they can but it might be one of those that we decide on Saturday.”
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Popovic: Preparation gives us an edge

Wed, 29/10/2014 - 08:51
Wanderers faced the Chinese super-club in August and triumphed over two legs despite a hostile crowd and dirty tricks off the pitch in China. That’s exactly why the coach says it was a perfect preparation for this weekend’s ACL final second leg in Riyadh.  Around 65,000 fans will pack the King Fahd Stadium to make for an intimidating atmosphere as "The Blue Wave" aim to overturn a 1-0 first leg deficit.   “The Guangzhou experience helped us a lot,” Popovic told media at Sydney airport. “We played in conditions that were a lot tougher than this [in Riyadh]. It’ll be hot there but it won’t be humid.  "So I believe the players will be more accustomed to that.” The Wanderers also spent 10 days in a high-intensity training camp in Dubai last month.  Perhaps Popovic had an eye on the side making the final even then. “Every little bit helps and I’m sure with the two experiences we’ve had in Guangzhou and Dubai you’d expect them to go there [to Riyadh] with confidence and handle the conditions.” Popovic conceded the Wanderers may not have been the best side in Saturday’s first leg 1-0 win at Wanderland.  “They played very well. We didn’t and we won. And that’s the key to us. We can do a lot better in possession. “If we do that I believe we give ourselves a great chance of winning this Cup.” He also reflected on the 13-game ACL campaign with pride, including the travel, conditions and playing during the off-season.  It has filled him with confidence that this group has the mental strength and guile to find a way to win. Again.  “We’ve got one big one to go. We want to win this final. And I’m confident the players can do the job,” he said.  But how will the group handle any dirty tricks in Saudi Arabia similar to Guangzhou with an orchestrated bus crash and disruptions at the team hotel? Popovic laughed that one off.  “I don’t think anything could surprise us or scare us now," he said with a grin.  “If something like that happened again I think we’d just deal with it with a smile on our faces.”
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World-class Covic: Santa sends Al-Hilal a reminder

Wed, 29/10/2014 - 08:51
Wanderers go into the second leg of the Asian Champions League final on the back of a superb defensive display after a 1-0 win at Wanderland last Saturday. And Santalab had a message to Al-Hilal’s strike-force: Ante Covic is the best in the ACL. “100% yes. He’s been outstanding throughout the whole competition," he told media.  “He showed in the first leg he was our rock. “Some of his saves were world class. And I’m sure he’ll be outstanding again in the second leg.” It’s all part of the mind games going into the crunch clash at the King Fahd Stadium on Saturday night in Riyadh (Sunday morning AEDT). And those mind games began straight after the first leg with the Al-Hilal coach dismissing Wanderers’ chances in the second leg – despite the Hyundai A-League outfit holding a slender lead. “The fact is we lost the game and I’m not happy about that,” said Laurentiu Reghecampf.  “But I’m sure the next game we’re going to win. The players are going to score the two goals to win the Cup. “I think the goal was unlucky. “In the second game we have the power and we’re going to change the result.” But “Santa” was having none of the Romanian's crystal ball.  “Oh  yeah, it’s great motivation for us. It’s his tactics to try put us off a bit.  "We won’t fall for that,” he said, echoing coach Tony Popovic’s comments about the Guangzhou experience in August’s ACL quarter finals. “We’ve been through all of that before and we’re experienced in that situation after playing Guangzhou Evergrande. “We played a few games mentally with them and we won that one again.” Santalab’s fellow striker Labinot Haliti was in no doubt, though, of the importance of the game in his career. “It’s the biggest. There’s no hiding it. They are a good team but so are we.” Santalab added the feeling in the camp was of ‘job half done’.  “We’re halfway there. Celebrations were very limited after the first leg. And we know what we’re up for. The job’s not done. “They’re a great side. Great individuals and their fitness is fantastic. They’re quick and mobile. “We kept our structure well in leg one and I felt we could’ve kept the ball a little better. “We’ve worked on things at training to improve in the second leg. “And we know all the fans will be focused on the TV back home in Australia on Sunday morning." 
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Perth lights the way for FFA Cup glory

Wed, 29/10/2014 - 02:15
The city showed its support for the home team ahead of their FFA Cup quarter-final clash against Melbourne Victory with the iconic Council House lit up in the club’s colour. Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi wished coach Kenny Lowe’s men well in the west v east showdown. “The bright lights of Council House will leave no doubt as to which soccer team we support,” Ms Scaffidi said. Glory goalkeeper, Danny Vukovic, said he was relishing the opportunity to make history as the inaugural FFA Cup champions. “It’s the first real silverware up for grabs this season and we’d love nothing more than to win it,” Vukovic said. “We’ve had a good run so far and we certainly want to extend it tomorrow night.” Until Sunday’s 2-0 loss to Adelaide United, the Perth outfit was sitting top of the A-League ladder, winning the first two matches of their 2014/15 campaign. But Vukovic said the team had already put the loss behind them and were focused on winning the Victory game despite the short turnaround. “We don’t dwell on anything in this league, we’ve got a game tomorrow night, which is great,” the 29-year-old custodian said. “We can easily forget about Sunday’s game and concentrate on this game tomorrow.” Vukovic added: “Everyone wants to play, regardless of whether they’re old or young or whether their bodies are sore at the moment.” In terms of pride, the stakes could not be higher. Since Sunday’s loss, Victory has replaced Perth as the league leaders. And Glory’s last A-League finals appearance was a heartbreaking 2-1 loss after extra-time to Melbourne Victory back in season 2012/13. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the match will be the battle of the strikers with Perth’s Andy Keogh and Victory’s Besart Berisha going toe to toe. Both have scored four goals in the opening three games of the A-League season – each with a hat trick - and are sitting on three goals apiece in the FFA Cup. Kick-off: 7pm local (10:00pm AEDT) at nib Stadium on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Stuart Meachem
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Grant set for Sydney FC return

Wed, 29/10/2014 - 00:58
The 23-year-old ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament contesting a tackle in last season’s round three home clash against Western Sydney Wanderers. Now almost a year after the season-ending setback, Grant has set his sights on cementing a spot in Graham Arnold’s starting XI. “It’s been 11 and a half months now but I’ve been training fully with the team for the last couple of weeks so it’s up to the coaching staff to throw me in,” Grant told FourFourTwo. “I’ve been given the all clear so I’ll be raring to go hopefully in the next two to three weeks. “I’m feeling really fit and Andrew Clark (head of strength and conditioning) has looked after me for the past couple months. I’m in shape and looking good. “I want to get back playing and break myself into the team. “To get back into the team would be a great achievement personally, seeing as though I’ve been out for almost a year – I’m just concentrating on that.” The Sky Blues scraped into the finals series last term – defying the odds with a fifth-place finish before eventually losing to Melbourne Victory in the first elimination final. It was a season marred by off-field dramas, most notably then-coach Frank Farina’s banishment of Nick Carle as well as the disenchantment in the stands, with fans publicly calling for Farina’s resignation. Grant, however, remains grateful for the impact the 50-year-old tactician had on his career. “I got along well with Farina and to be fair, I had my breakout season when he was still coach so I’m grateful for his support – he helped me a lot,” the defender said. “Arnie’s in there now, he has the whole team’s support and we seem to be playing well and hopefully we can continue to do that – get a few wins, surprise a few people and go all the way. “He’s very controlled when it comes to structure and philosophy, he has a plan and all the players know what he wants to do. In that way, he’s very good. Off the field, he made some changes and united the squad after a few dramas last season.” Grant added that Arnold was something of a “father figure” to the players. After a promising start to their 2014/15 campaign, the Sky Blues are sitting equal on points with league leaders Melbourne Victory and Grant believes the team will settle for nothing less than an A-League championship. “We’d be lying if we said we didn’t want to win the A-league,” he said. “Over the past few years, you’ve seen anyone can win on their day so it’s all about consistency and the depth of our squad will allow us to achieve that. “Arnie has set some goals for the team and one of them is to make our home ground a fortress – not to let visiting teams get an easy win. “Our facilities have also improved at our home base out at Macquarie University – we have our own gym, change rooms, physio set-up. Let’s hope that these changes will help us towards a successful season.”
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FFA Cup QF preview: Perth Glory v Melbourne Victory

Tue, 28/10/2014 - 23:50
Wednesday, 29 October 2014 nib Stadium, Perth Kick-off:7:00pm local (10:00pm AEDT) Referee:Alan Milliner TV broadcast:FoxSports3 and 3HD Perth Glory squad:1.Daniel VUKOVIC (GK) 2.Jack CLISBY, 3.Brandon O’NEILL, 5.Rostyn GRIFFITHS, 6.Dino DJULBIC, 7.Youssouf HERSI, 9.Andy KEOGH, 10.Nebosja MARINKOVIC, 11.Richard GARCIA, 13.Diogo FERREIRA, 15.Jamie MACLAREN, 17.Mitch NICHOLS, 18.Jack DUNCAN (GK), 19 Josh RISDON, 20.Daniel DE SILVA, 21.Scott JAMIESON, 23.Michael THWAITE (c), 24.Matt DAVIES **two to be omitted** Melbourne Victory squad:1.Nathan COE (GK), 5.Mark MILLIGAN (c), 6.Leigh BROXHAM, 7.Guilherme FINKLER, 8.Besart BERISHA, 9.Kosta BARBAROUSES, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 11.Connor PAIN, 13.Andrew NABBOUT, 14.Fahid BEN KHALFALLAH, 15.Daniel GEORGIEVSKI, 17.Matthieu DELPIERRE, 18.Dylan MURNANE, 20.Lawrence THOMAS (GK), 21.Carl VALERI, 22.Jesse MAKAROUNAS, 23.Adrian LEIJER, 24.Scott GALLOWAY **two to be omitted** PREVIEW Can Perth pick themselves up from their first defeat of the season to halt the Melbourne Victory juggernaut and register a huge Cup win? Up until Sunday’s 2-0 defeat to Adelaide United, the Glory had been most impressive over the first fortnight of the A-League with wins over Wellington Phoenix and Brisbane Roar. That momentum is now well-and-truly with Kevin Muscat’s outfit who trounced local rivals Melbourne City 5-2 and have scored 10 goals in just three games this season. Will Perth be able to contain Victory’s wealth of options in attack? Muscat may spare some of his starters the long trip West but the visitors have plenty of firepower in their ranks. Striker Besart Berisha is flying after a hat-trick in the derby, while veteran Archie Thompson is in good form and scored a brace in that match. But Kosta Barbarouses has also been in devastating form down the right flank – providing three assists against City – and his battle with Glory’s Scott Jamieson down that flank will be intriguing. The likes of Fahid Ben Khalfallah, Connor Pain and Leigh Broxham can’t force their way into the starting XI at the moment which underlines Victory’s depth. Kenny Lowe will demand more energy from his side, who were uncharacteristically subdued in going down to the Reds at Coopers Stadium. But they have been impressive in both their previous FFA Cup contests and are always tough to beat on home soil. Striker Andy Keogh looms as a key figure and he is sure to give Victory centre-backs Adrian Leijer and Matthieu Delpierre a busy night. Winger Youssouf Hersi started off the bench on Sunday but could be unleashed from the start while Mitch Nichols will be keen to get one over his former club. Will it be Victory’s all-out attack or the Glory’s more disciplined, structured style that will win out in the battle of two A-League powerhouses fighting for a spot in the last four of the Cup?
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Safros Sydney: Les, legacies and the Sky Blues

Tue, 28/10/2014 - 16:54
Somehow, the ludicrous Nikola Petkovic suspension for a red card that never was is but a distant memory, washed away by Janko and Dimitrijevic wonder strikes. The most important football story of the week isn’t the confusing suspension of player and referee, not the Melbourne Derby, not the first leg of the ACL final or Manchester United-Chelsea. And not even Real’s mauling of Barca at the Bernabeu. What SHOULD be the biggest story of the week is the retirement from the airwaves of Australian football icon, Les Murray. It is impossible to discuss football on Australian television sets in any context without Murray’s name up in the most prominent of lights. Anyone can Wiki his biography and marvel at the man’s achievements. I suggest everyone does. Instead of retelling Murray’s career, I will make this personal. As a football loving kid growing up in the early ‘80s, my viewing options were limited. English football was all we had and while I fell in love with it, it did narrow the field, especially in terms of seeing a variety of football styles. Then SBS came along and Les Murray brought us the National Soccer League. World Soccer was a weekly highlight as Murray would bring into my living room derbies as diverse and passionate as Red Star-Dinamo, Boca-River and Real-Barca. I watched as SBS exposed us to Italian football at its glorious peak, bringing Maradona, Platini, Gullit, van Basten, Rijkaard and Baresi to our screens and educating us mere mortals that there was more than one way of playing the game. What an era that was. I watched as Les Murray and Johnny Warren brought World Cup after World Cup into my living room. And most personally of all, I watched as Murray brought us glorious Socceroo World Cup qualifying failures, one after another. Scotland. Israel. Argentina. Iran. Uruguay. The pain, the sheer gut-wrenching agony of knowing that once again we had failed to make it onto the world’s biggest sporting stage. And done so to howls of jubilation from a cross-section of small-minded Australians who could not see beyond the next mark or scrum. And we knew that Les, despite his on-air professionalism, suffered with us. He was one of us. Our more recent World Cup and A-League successes somewhat passed Les by as Fox picked up the baton. But none of that could have been possible without Les Murray’s missionary zeal with which he brought football to us in the previous three decades. I was fortunate enough be seated next to Murray at a Sydney FC function a few years back. I was actually sandwiched between him and Mark Bosnich and while Bozza regaled everyone at the table with one story after next (yes folks, Bozza is the same in real life as he is onscreen!), Murray indulged me in a one-on-one football conversation and was even prepared to discuss my opinions in between his cigarette breaks. Les Murray’s legacy cannot be overstated. The man leaves an indelible mark on Australian football and I thank him from the bottom of my heart. EVER the purist Murray would approve of the Sydney FC football style change from pragmatic to skilful and entertaining. The Sky Blues have played spectacular football recently and all of us welcome the change. After two emotionally draining encounters in three days, the Sky Blues travelled up to Suncorp to face the defending champions, a task next to insurmountable in recent seasons. Whatever Graham Arnold is selling, the Sydney players are buying it. It certainly helps that last year’s players, who didn’t have a preseason with us in 2013 – Petkovic, Ognenovski, Antonis and Dimitrijevic particularly - are now supremely fit. But beyond pure fitness, our squad seems focused, mature and full of belief. Structurally I thought Arnie had it all over Mike Mulvey and Brisbane, pressured in their own back third, did not unlock the opposition from the back as has been their trademark. Michael Theo’s absence is surely part of the problem, but there appears to be a malaise in the Roar squad right now. Despite the game not reaching the emotional heights of last week’s Sydney Derby, the Sky Blues maintained a high level of intensity throughout the match without compromising possession. No one maintained the rage more than Sasa Ognenovski, fast becoming Sydney’s spiritual leader. Arguably the league’s hardest, most intimidating player without being dirty, the Roar attack appeared frightened when looking up and seeing Big Sash’s shadow barrelling towards them. And his leadership on the park kept the Sydney players focused. Every successful team needs its tough leaders. We would not have won our last title without Terry McFlynn while Manchester United needed its Roy Keane as much as Arsenal needed its Patrick Vieira. This was no one man effort though. Every Sydney midfielder and striker attacked, making us far more difficult to read each time we had the ball. One minute Antonis would pop up out on the left, next minute he would be leading the line up front. Janko moved effortlessly from attack to deep midfield, confident in the knowledge that Ibini or Dimitrijevic would replace him positionally. At times, the Sydney and attack interchanged almost futsal-style. For a purist it was good to watch, and effective too as we pulled the Brisbane defence out of position time and again. In some ways, we out-Roared the Roar on Friday night. Brisbane’s much vaunted possession game was still on show but our 10-man defensive press rendered it largely toothless and when we had the ball, we took far better options. With the pace of Brosque, Ibini and Gameiro troubling Brisbane all night, the midfield was happy to pick out willing runners. And when these were closed down, magicians Antonis and Dimitrijevic had no trouble cutting inside and driving hard at the Roar underbelly. The first goal will be a YouTube hit for years to come. Marc Janko’s chest and first-time volley was stunning and the quality was such that it briefly silenced even the Sydney fans. I am prepared to back it for Sydney FC’s greatest all time goal for its sheer quality. With that strike, Janko has written himself into Sydney’s history books. The second goal was hugely deserved by a player who should have a massive say in our title aspirations this season. After dominating last week, Milos Dimitrijevic rewarded himself with a bomb from outside the box, beating Jamie Young all ends up. Back to Janko and we now know what the fuss was all about. No longer lumbering, his movements were sharp, he popped up all over the place to take shots and get involved in build-up play while his leadership qualities were there for all to see. Now we just need Bernie to up his game a bit. His defensive effort was first class once again but to me he hasn’t looked a shadow of his former self with the ball at his feet. He seems to be playing in a fog and isn’t always taking the best option. But it’s a long(ish) season and he’ll come good. Fortunately, we are not over-reliant on any one player, so Ibini will have the chance to get back to his best relatively pressure-free. The changed backline worked well as a unit. That said, I really hope Arnie doesn’t get any ideas about playing Seb Ryall in the centre and shifting the returning Petkovic to left back. Ryall is a right back – arguably the best in the league – and needs to stay there. And the Ognenovski/Petkovic central defensive partnership, also among the league’s best, must remain first choice. You don’t strengthen one position by weakening another. We host the Mariners next week, a club with a few problems on and off the field. They delight in beating us, and often have, but on this occasion I believe we will be too strong for the visitors. Early days but I am finding it hard not to get at least a bit excited about what I’ve seen so far. We seem to combine fitness, graft, determination and belief with tactical acumen at both ends of the park, technique of the highest order and, finally, the ability to unlock defences. A combination which is long overdue. Not a bad recipe for success but I hope the boys keep their feet on the ground. It’s only round three. But what a start.
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Breakdown: When all-out attack backfires

Tue, 28/10/2014 - 14:14
His go-to move when chasing a game is to remove holding midfielder Erik Paartalu, who plays at the base of the midfield triangle as a #6, and bring on Paolo Retre, a tall, energetic youngster who goes on as one of the advanced midfielders, with Aaron Mooy dropping into Paartalu’s role. The intent of the change, it seems, is to get Mooy on the ball more often in time and space, with Retre’s role to press on opposition midfielders, help win the ball and also create space for the #6 with his energy. Mooy has a superb range of passing, and when chasing the game, it would seem ideal to have him facilitating attacking moves from a deep position – theoretically free from pressure from opponents. The negative consequence of the change is that Mooy isn’t as solid defensively as Paartalu, and doesn’t protect the centre-backs as keenly. Two games, the same change in both – and two different results. Against the Jets, having wrestled back control of the game after Edson Montano’s header, City had the momentum. They were dominating possession, getting into the final third and pushing the Jets defensive block very deep. Paartalu’s job had become simple – recycling the ball to players further forward – and the Jets were barely threatening on the counter. Mooy to #6 was logical. He could execute Paartalu’s distribution at a higher, more incisive tempo, and could switch the play with long, searching diagonals. In the context of the game state, with City bossing the play, it was a logical, controlled switch to up the ante. The same move, however, had the reverse effect against Melbourne Victory. This time, two goals down, Van ’t Schip really had to roll the dice but crucially, as Victory had stormed the second half with a superb display of high-tempo football, City were on the back foot. Mooy as the #6 backfired. He was overwhelmed by waves of Victory attacks and, because City were struggling to retain the ball – let alone work it forward - it was impossible for him to impact the game from a deeper position. Instead, City left themselves too open and Victory added a fifth via Archie Thompson on the counter-attack. Context is vitally important when managers make mid-game changes. An effective substitution, of course, relies inherently on the quality of the player being introduced, but the game state will determine how effectively they can impact the game. As we saw in the Melbourne derby, if you can’t win the ball in your own half, there’s not much an extra attacker higher up the pitch can do to help. It’s encouraging to see Van ’t Schip be so positive with his use of the bench (indeed, another substitution this season has seen him switch to an aggressive back three) but as the Mooy change against the Victory demonstrated, sometimes even positive intentions can backfire. City’s problem wasn’t in transitioning the ball into the final third, which is what Mooy brings as a #6, but in winning it in the first place, a quality Paartalu can provide. Removing the holding midfielder, ironically, made City less effective going forward. Somewhat paradoxically, all-out attack isn’t always the most effective way of attacking. Tim Palmer writes extensively on A-League tactics
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