Friday, September 3, 2010

Both teams speak with forked tongue at Bluetongue tonight

Photos (Top to Bottom): Mariners' manager Graham Arnold signs autographs...his demeanour was different tonight as he argued with the fourth official on the touch-line; Melbourne's Adrian Leijer...booked in the 55th minute after downing an opponent who had found a way past Kevin Muscat; Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick wasn't smiling tonight; Mariners' captain Alex Wilkinson read out FIFA's fair play pledge before tonight's game; Melbourne's Thailand international, Surat Sukha, lasted the full 90 minutes for a change; Mariners' goalkeeping coach, John Crawley, who speaks Spanish, interpreted for Patricio Perez, who was interviewed outside the stadium by FOX Sports before tonight's game. Perez was suspended for this match and was not allowed to be involved with the team; Melbourne's Roddy Vargas was booked in the 38th minute and then walked a tightrope for the rest of the game and was fortunate not to receive another yellow card [PlessPix]

Each day this weekend is a so-called “FIFA Fair Play Day”.

The captains of the two teams in every game read out a pledge over the stadium public address system, affirming their sides’ commitment to sporting behaviour.

Well, I wish someone had told the Central Coast Mariners’ Alex Wilkinson and Melbourne Victory’s Kevin Muscat, who both did their spiel on the microphones at Bluetongue Stadium in Gosford tonight.

The two teams then proceeded to foul each other and display unsporting behaviour. The expletives coming from the side-lines were hard on the ears, too, and Mariners’ coach Graham Arnold had quite an argument with the fourth official. A rough-and-tumble off the pitch between the Mariners’ Matt Simon and Victory’s Muscat, which ended with Muscat’s boot lodged in Simon’s crotch, was like a WWF bout. To be fair to Muscat, Simon had fouled him to begin with and both players tumbles off the field. And, Muscat had also been wiped out in the opening minutes by a gratuitous foul by McBreen.

The Mariners accumulated 5 yellow cards (Daniel McBreen, John Hutchinson, Rostyn Griffiths, Joshua Rose and Mathew Ryan) and the Victory 3 yellow cards (Robbie Kruse, Roddy Vargas and Adrian Leijer). How referee Chris Beath didn’t manage to pull out a red in what was his 36th A-League match is a mystery. Kruse, in particular, was very fortunate not to see red after handballing and fouling opponents, while Vargas was walking a tightrope when he tackled McBreen in the 67th minute. He had already received a yellow card as early as the 38th minute. There were 32 fouls in all, 18 committed by the Mariners and 14 by the visitors.

Oh, and incidentally, the Mariners beat Melbourne Victory 2-0 before 6,829 fans through a first-half goal by Rostyn Griffiths and a second-half strike by Daniel McBreen, both coming from headers. The first was from a set-piece, which means that 4 of the 8 goals that Victory have conceded this season have come from set-pieces.

The Mariners were without their Argentine import, Patricio Perez, who is suspended for two games after being adjudged to have dived last weekend in winning the penalty that gave the Mariners a 1-1 draw against Sydney FC.

They did have John Hutchinson, however, who declined to play for Malta in two European Championship qualifiers this coming week, choosing to play for his club instead. In his absence, Malta lost the first of these games to Israel 3-1 away, with Yossi Benayoun, the former Liverpool player who is now with Chelsea, netting a hat-trick and Jamie Pace replying for Malta.

Victory brought on their new Brazilian import, Ricardinho, in the 53rd minute in place of Tom Pondeljak, but he made little impression. In fact, he should have scored in the 71st minute from Carlos Hernandez’s perfect right-wing cross, but he headed an easy chance wide. Will he prove to be yet another Brazilian dud?

It was not a great game, and Melbourne Victory should have done much better. They had 57 per cent of the possession compared to the Mariners’ 43 per cent, and they had 7 corners to the Mariners’ 3. The Mariners got the ball into the opposing penalty area only 16 times, while the Victory managed to get it into the home side’s box 23 times, and yet the Mariners won.

The Mariners hit the front in the 21st minute from a free-kick wide and deep on the left. Michael McGlinchey floated the ball towards the far post, where Griffiths beat two players in the air and nodded the ball down and past Michael Petkovic.

McBreen, whose wife had gone into labour on the drive to the game, scored the second with a diving header at the near post in the 50th minute from Matt Simon’s cross from the right. Muscat was marking McBreen but failed to get in a challenge as the striker dived for the header.

While most of the fouls were ugly, the yellow card for the Mariners’ 18-year-old keeper Ryan in the 74th minute was for time-wasting. Enough said about fair play.

Victory have now won only four of their eight games at the Bluetongue.

The win put the Mariners equal first on the A-League standings with Perth Glory and Adelaide United, but the Mariners’ inferior goal-difference keeps them third.

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