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I’ve finally managed to have a look at last week’s two Asian Champions League games involving the Australian sides. Time for some tragic thoughts.

The Melbourne v. Gamba Osaka game was, above all, fantastic entertainment. It is a real credit to the Japanese side that they pushed up and played for the win throughout, even after they’d brought the scoreline back to 3-3 in the second half.

Melbourne, to my mind, actually played a lot better than they have been given credit for. With no Thompson, no Hernandez and no Brebner, and up against a side featuring a few internationals, they caused plenty of problems for the Japanese side in defence. At the other end it was a different story, but Michael Theoklitos, sadly, must bear a fair bit of responsibility for that. One of the A-League’s best ‘keepers managed to cram all the mistakes he didn’t make during the regular season into one ACL tie.

A friend of mine who recently spent some time in Japan has commented to me that the speed of the J-League really takes one by surprise. Certainly, although the A-League has quickened considerably since its inception, the likes of Masato Yamazaki and the rampaging fullback Michihiro Yasuda made Melbourne look sluggish at times.

Yet in most other respects Melbourne were a match for Gamba, as Sydney FC were for Urawa last season (with the exception of Robson Ponte). I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Melbourne were to snatch a point in the return leg, although a win is not all that likely.

As for Adelaide, they have been demonstrating the benefit of their experience in the competition this season. Against a fairly ordinary Vietnamese side, enlivened only by the presence of the South African Philani up front, they controlled the play impressively, paced themselves well, survived a shaky period in the second half, and got the goals they needed without much ado.

It was, in fact, the same strategy that Australia adopted in the only Asian Cup game in which they did themselves justice – the quarter-final against Japan. Sustained spells of possession (some might say shuffling the ball around aimlessly at the back) followed by brief, minatory periods of pressing. Minus the occasional pressing, the same basic game-plan was adopted by Pim Verbeek in Kunming.

And Adelaide managed to prevail despite a bizarre formation (Nathan Burns on the left? Travis Dodd as a lone striker?!?) and the indifferent form of several players. It appears that Adelaide are starting to become adept at winning ugly in Asia, a skill which will become critical for Australian sides in the years to come.

Written by Mike Salter

Read more of his thoughts at The Football Tragic

Written by
Real Football

Published on April 15, 2008




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