Friday, 28 March 2014


Despite poor weather in the lead up to the match and the resting of last week's match winner Luke Brattan, Brisbane Roar turned in an gritty hard fought display to win 2-1 as they continue building momentum ahead of the A-League finals.

The Heart applied the blowtorch early and adopted a “nothing to lose but everything to gain” approach as they begin making their “Mad Monday” costume selections.

They were awfully unlucky not to pull the newly crowned Premiers' pants down with an early penalty, only to be denied due to an offside ruling from the sideline official.

Michael Theo’s 16-yard box was busy early with plenty of opposition attention being cast his way. There was none better than when star striker David Williams found space from a fumbling Matt Smith turnover however his poorly executed attempt was sadly off target.

The small but willing contingent of travelling Heart fans didn’t have to wait too long as Aziz Behich punched home a beautifully laid off ball by Mate Duganzic after some fine lead up work by former Roar stalwart Massimo Murdocca to take the lead and the volume from the Roar supporters Den.

Roar’s tight possession took sometime to click into gear with the normally finely tuned passing style a little below par of previous weeks. They seemed to miss the tradesman like runs and endless work rate of Shane Steffanutto who was marked down on the subs bench for the evening.

The momentum eventually shifted back Brisbane's way on the back of a running and passing master class overseen by Thomas Broich.

It ended with Roar Captain Matt Smith finding Dimitri Petratos who eventually slotted home the equaliser past replacement keeper Tando Valaphi for his fifth goal and his very first at Suncorp Stadium.

Besart Berisha was looking dangerous with every touch on his welcome return back to the starting side following a brief stint in the FFA’s naughty chair. If we could only have predicted what was to happen next.

Mike Mulvey didn’t take long to call on the fourth official to announce experienced defender Jade North would make way for the youthful enthusiasm and brawn of James Donachie.

All appeared to be going along swimmingly until the game suddenly ignited plenty of feeling following an unfortunate challenge by Besart Berisha on Heart keeper Velaphi.

Referee Chris Beath judged that Berisha’s challenge warranted an immediate send off and duly flashed the red card in his direction.

It will be a nervous wait for the Albanian who looks certain to sit out at least a one match ban for his second straight and third send off of the season overall.

With the benefit of the replay it did appear that Berisha collected the entire ball first in his attempt on goal, but his boot awkwardly rolled up to catch Velaphi square in the face. Thankfully he was to his feet quickly and continued between the posts.

A teary and distraught Berisha finally made an emotional exit up the players tunnel to the dressing room to await his future.

Surprisingly the Roar’s defence gelled and lifted in intensity after Breisha’s exit and with that came renewed confidence in a blossoming attack that clearly lacked in numbers.

As the 70th minute ticked over Mulvey decided to unleash his secret attacking weapon in the form of the tiny but agile Henrique who replaced a battle wearied Liam Miller.

Henrique’s impact was almost immediate as Brisbane’s “Slippery Fish” made a determined salmon like run into space which eventually culminated with a pin point strike leaving the keeper left with no option but to watch the ball into the caressing arms of the nylon netting.

Mike Mulvey’s disappoiment was evident post match at the decision by the referee Chris Beath to award a red card to Berisha.

“I think it was the wrong decision.” He’s made contact with the ball; he’s at full stretch. What’s he supposed to do?”
“We’ll appeal this (Red Card), in fact I don’t think we’ll need to appeal this, as they (FFA) will have a look at this and say that this is not the right decision.” 
Mulvey conceded that his players:

“Weren’t at the races in the first-half.” “The second half however was a credit to the players we looked brighter and more incisive, composed and that was everything we weren’t in the first-half.”

For the Heart’s coach John van't Schip he was a little more philosophical in his assessment, ruing his side’s early missed opportunities and chances, but conceded that their tilt at the finals is over for this season.

Brisbane Roar: 1.Michael THEO (GK), 2.Matthew SMITH (c), 7.Besart BERISHA, 8.Steven LUSTICA, 11.Liam MILLER, 13.Jade NORTH, 14.Diogo FERRIERA, 17.Matt McKAY, 19.Jack HINGERT, 22.Thomas BROICH, 23.Dimitri PETRATOS

Subs: 3.Shane STEFANUTTO, 10. HENRIQUE, 15.James DONACHIE, 16.Jean Carlos SOLORZANO, 20.Matthew ACTON (GK),

Melbourne Heart: 3.Robbie WIELAERT (C), 4.Orlando ENGELAAR, 7.Iain RAMSAY, 8.Massimo MURDOCCA, 15.David WILLIAMS, 16. Aziz BEHICH, 17.Jason HOFFMAN, 19.Benjamin GARUCCIO, 20.Tando VELAPHI (GK), 23.Mate DUGANDZIC, 24.Patrick KISNORBO

Subs: 1.Andrew REDMAYNE (GK), 6.Patrick GERHARDT, 21.Stefan MAUK, 22.Nicholas KALMAR, 28. Paulo RETRE

The Football Sack - "Grabbing the A-League by the Balls" 

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Trevor Morgan: Development is the Key

As coach of the Western Sydney Wanderer’s Foxtel National Youth League side, Trevor Morgan is well equipped to help shape and mold the future talent at the club.

Image Credit: Quarrie Sports Photography

Success is not measured by their place on the NYL ladder but how each player can improve and develop their game as highlighted by the selection of five Wanderers players in the Young Socceroos.

It is an important blueprint for success that involves enormous involvement from the entire Wanderers coaching staff from Tony Popovic, Ante Milicic and veteran goalkeeping coach Ron Corry. The same intensity, mentality, and key words are used on and off the pitch to assist in making a smooth transition when and if they are called into the senior squad.

Once talent is identified, Morgan explains the coaching ethos then begins on programming the four main pillars for football into his players. The key attributes (tactical, technical, mental and physical) is his “spider web” to growth and what players need to have in their kitbag to succeed.

There are endless challenges facing coaches in this league as players cope with the new priorities and commitments required to take their game to the next level. Study, travel, heightened expectations and the realisation that some are no longer the big fish in the small pond can all weigh on young players mind.

The competition is a pathway for young talent to develop in a pressure-cooker environment within a professional Hyundai A-League outfit. With many already tasting senior football experience this year the proof is certainly in the pudding.

“I always notice a change in players when they return from a stint training with the senior Wanderers squad,” said Morgan.
“There is a look of intense concentration in their eyes but never any cockiness or increase in bravado."
“When they train with the likes of Shinji Ono, Matthew Spiranovic, Youssouf Hersi and Aaron Mooy they see how hard these players continue to work in every session despite their success and this ethic seems to rub off immediately."
“Shinji Ono has been a wonderful player to have at the Wanderers not only for the senior squad but for the young players who experience the high standards of professionalism he lives by. He’s a player that always sees areas of improvement in his game despite his standing in the game.”

It is often said that leaders aren’t born but made and Morgan has seen a number of players step up in that department this season.
“Exposure to the senior team and Young Socceroos squad for some has certainly encouraged players to lead and communicate more effectively in the team environment.”
As the NYL season has come to a close players now return to their National Premier League clubs and continue with their development. Morgan agrees the NYL competition has been a tremendous success to date but would love to see it mirror the Hyundai A-League’s current 27 round format to have more time together as a squad.

He has some very wise advice for young players keen to take their football to the next level.

• Never get ahead of yourself
• Maintain your self-belief
• No half measures
• Have a plan B
• Be a good person

After interviewing many of Morgan’s young squad this season, the common value is the enormous respect they share for the Wanderers family and the coaching staff.

Morgan, like many coaches, finds it difficult to switch off from the sport that is more a passion than an occupation. However family time is at the top of the priority list when the round ball comes to a halt on the pitch.
“We love spending time at the beach but the football mind is difficult one to close down and I have enormous drive and energy to better the game.”
“Observing Tony Popovic and his commitment to the entire extended playing group at the Wanderers continues to motivate me to perform better as a coach every day to get the very best out of my players.”

Western Sydney Wanderers Website Link:

Saturday, 22 March 2014


With only three rounds still remaining, Brisbane Roar claimed the A-League Premier’s Plate after a nail-biting win over a determined and classy Melbourne Victory at Suncorp Stadium.

The Roar now join the Victory as the most successful club in A-League history with two premierships and two championships and have earned the right to compete in the Asian Champion's League competition next season.

Despite juggling a heavy Asian Champions League schedule in recent weeks, the Victory showed no sign of fatigue and were determined make the Roar earn the silverware from FFA Boss David Gallop.

You could be excused for thinking that this was a Grand Final dress rehearsal as the quality of the match never waned and continued to build in intensity right from the opening whistle.

As often is the case with the Roar, they starved the Victory of possession and their slick one and two touch passing game created plenty of opportunities for a forward line missing key striker Besart Berisha through suspension.

The most pleasing aspect of this season for the Roar has been the ability and competitiveness of bench players to fill the void and lift in games they were expected to struggle.

Luke Brattan despite an early injury scare battled through the pain barrier to earn his hero status after his cracking strike found the netting deep into extra time and ignited a tense 17, 965 fans at the ground.

As has become the “norm” in recent years, it was the German engineered Thomas Broich who was instrumental in delivering the horsepower and reliability under the bonnet of a Roar outfit that believes they can always win a contest despite the lack of sand left in the added-time “egg timer”.

Melbourne Victory’s glove man Lawrence Thomas went perilously close to claiming his second clean sheet in a week despite being peppered like a sideshow alley wood-duck after contending with nine shots on target to Michael Theo’s two.

An invigorated and match fit Henrique created plenty of headaches for the Victory with his slippery-fish runs but failed to convert many chances on goal.

Brisbane coach Mike Mulvey heaped plenty of praise on both teams but singled out match winner Luke Brattan for a special mention at the post match press conference.
“This is what I love about this kid (Brattan). He’s so humble, he’s just scored the winning goal that has brought the Premiership to the club in the 90th minute and he’s gonna go a long way.”
Mulvey was glowing in his assessment on the game itself.
“It was two teams, well organised, having a go at each other, playing football the way I think it should be played. It’s a great sign for Australian football. That quality of football tonight, I’m very proud to be involved in a game like that!”
Mulvey also had plenty to say about the strong ethos of success at the club
"From the tea-lady to the chairman, everybody deserves credit."
Whoever that magic tea-lady is, she looks in line for a bonus or at the very least a new kettle at season’s end.

For now the Roar can celebrate a wonderful achievement, but come Monday morning it is back to the training pitch as they prepare to host Melbourne Heart and look towards another three points and ticking off the third and most important goal in Mike Mulvey’s sights, winning the A-League Grand Final.

Be sure to vote for The Football Sack in the 2014 FFDU Fan Awards.

Brisbane Roar: 1. Michael Theo (GK), 2. Matthew Smith (C), 3. Shane Stefanutto, 10. Henrique, 11. Liam Miller, 14. Diogo Ferreira, 17. Matt McKay, 18. Luke Brattan, 19. Jack Hingert, 22. Thomas Broich, 23. Dimitri Petratos

Subs: 8. Steve Lustica, 16. Jean Carlos Solorzano, 20. Matt Acton (GK), 27. Devante Clut, 28. Brandon Borrello

Melbourne Victory: 20. Lawrence Thomas (GK), 5. Mark Milligan (C), 6. Leigh Broxham, 7. Gui Finkler, 9. Kosta Barbarouses, 14. James Troisi, 17. James Jeggo, 21. Tomas Rogic, 23. Adrian Leijer, 24. Scott Galloway, 25. Jason Geria

Subs: 1. Nathan Coe, 10. Archie Thompson, 16. Rashid Mahazi, 22. Jesse Makarounas, 26. 31. Dylan Marianne

The Football Sack "Grabbing the A-League by the Balls"

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

World Cup 2014: Out with the old and in with the new as eco-friendly Australia blood youth for Brazil

Brazil has been described as the Socceroos toughest World Cup campaign to date
World Cup 2014: Out with the old and in with the new as eco-friendly Australia blood youth for Brazil

Learning curve: Australia's young guns struggled against Ecuador Photo: AFP

February has been a massive month for the Socceroos. The unveiling of new eco-friendly kit, controversial squad announcements, and a UK-based run out against Ecuador have dominated headlines in a land "girt" by sea.

Football fans love a new kit unveiling. In our socially mediated world the big surprise is often deflated by a million tweets, mentions and retweets before a single camera flashes in excitement. So it was no surprise when Nike launched the new "Green and Gold" kit in the shadow of the Sydney Harbour Bridge but, unlike the Scots, the kit has garnered very positive endorsement.

The cutting edge design (consisting of 18 recycled plastic bottles) shouts sustainability as it pays tribute to the trailblazers of the nation's first World Cup finals campaign. The retro-styled adaptation has the quote, "We Socceroos can do the impossible", from the side's '74 Captain, Peter Wilson, woven into a stylish pennant tab.

Ange Postecoglou announced a youthful squad for the Ecuador match. As he seeks to construct the next generation, long-serving captain Lucas Neil was the most noticeable, though expected, absentee given his stalled on-field career. Postecoglou hasn't ruled out his inclusion in the final squad, but signalled a preference for solid club form over reputation.

Harry Kewell was another exclusion and, despite finding recent form with Manchester City's A-League side, Melbourne Heart, is long odds to be involved. He might be turning the "shrimps on the barbie" with Neil while their young colleagues are shaking their maracas on the Copacabana.

The match itself was one of mixed emotions. The clash between the Aussies and the 24th Fifa ranked Ecuador at Millwall's "The Den", a ground many Socceroos have called home, started with plenty of promise. Newly-appointed captain Mile Jedinak oversaw veteran Tim Cahill become the country's all-time top scorer with a handy brace. Cahill has never really been a "footballer" in the true sense of the word preferring his more reliable cranial asset to that of his feet.

Australians hope his trademark corner-post sparring session will be seen on more than one occasion in Brazil, but with Group B opponents Netherlands, Chile and Spain, not conceding will be the priority.

Belgium-based Maty Ryan had an impressive clean sheet in the first-half between the sticks, before making way for the much less successful Mitchell Langerak in the second. It was an unhappy night for the Borussia Dortmund back up as his sloppy Kung-Fu style challenge, and ensuing red card, saw the momentum shift to Ecuador.

Despite four unanswered goals handed to Ecuador in a cliché-riddled game of two halves, Postecoglou remained upbeat when he noted the friendly was more about blooding youth than the final result. Playing a man down certainly educated the squad in what scenarios can be thrown up in the tough competition of international football.

The Socceroos face South Africa in a farewell friendly at the Olympic Stadium in Sydney on May 26. The game will finish a week-long squad camp, and a great opportunity to continue Postecoglou's 'rebuilding' phase.

The "Bafana Bafana" may not be an ideal opponent given their recent 5-0 drubbing from tournament hosts Brazil, but it could provide the Socceroos with a much-needed shot in the brand new shirt-sleeve before their trek across the Pacific.

The final World Cup squad will continue to divide opinion and spark plenty of debate amongst supporters. But despite our tough Group B predicament, a record contingent of Aussie fans travelling to Brazil will be an encouraging aspect to what has been described as the Socceroos toughest World Cup campaign to date.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Daniel Alessi: The Defence Rests

One thing that strikes you when speaking with 16 year old Daniel Alessi is the confidence he possesses. Not long after learning to walk the round ball was never far from reach or his feet for that matter, such is the pattern of progression for many footballers his age.

 Image Credit: George Suresh

Daniel’s early years were spent playing for local Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School in Pymble and it was obvious his growth chart far exceeded that of his classmates. Thankful for his Italian pedigree, Daniel is happy to wear his height advantage as a badge of honour in those all-important aerial contests for possession.

To say 2014 has started well for the St Joseph’s student is a massive understatement. As he trained with his Foxtel NYL teammates over the summer he was blissfully unaware his hard work and dedication was about to pay off.

Wanderer’s coach Tony Popovic keeps a very keen eye on the NYL talent and saw an ingredient in the youngster that warranted a call up to the senior side.
 “I knew something was up when Ante Covic and Tony Popovic approached me after training to inform me that I would be playing on the weekend in the senior team,” said Daniel.
 “I didn't know what to think and it really didn't sink in until I was driving home on my L plates with my Mum and told her in the car!"
 “Mum said ‘What? You’re playing in the Derby?’ She was excited as anyone but not surprised as she knows how hard I work."
 “To play my first senior game is a memory that will be hard to emulate. To debut in a Sydney Derby against one of the finest players in the world in Alessandro Del Piero was the icing on the cake."
 “Competing with the likes of Del Piero was an amazing experience. He’s a player that just seems to operate at a different speed to everyone else on the pitch."
 “You cannot ease off your intensity as a defender for one minute or he can and most probably will convert that tiny advantage into a massive punishment."
 “The best thing about playing for the Wanderers is the confidence and the self-belief that grows within you. The staff and senior players are so encouraging and they trust your ability as a player no matter what your age.”

Daniel’s hard work has paid off with another call up into the Paul Okon managed Young Socceroos squad. The squad is looking to build momentum ahead of the AFC Championship tournament in Myanmar later in the year.

To finish in the top four will mean an all-important qualifying spot for the 2015 FIFA U20 World Cup hosted by our neighbours across the ditch in New Zealand.
 “To be selected in the Young Socceroos squad is an amazing honour but to share it with four of my Wanderer’s team mates in Shayne D’Cunha, Alusine Fofanah, Lawrence Hanna, and Thomas Manos is extra special."
 “To also have our keeper Thomas in goals gives me plenty of reassurance as we seem to know what each other is thinking which is so important in defence.”
 Daniel draws his football inspiration from watching and training with the senior team and continually admires the way goalkeeper Ante Covic lifts the team from the back.
 “Ante is wonderful communicator and as a young defender having him in the box behind you gives you that added security and confidence as the opposition attack approaches.”
 It is Daniel’s ultimate aim to play regular senior football and secure a Hyundai A-League contract with his beloved Wanderers. For now it’s all about the present and working hard, learning and soaking up any opportunities that comes with being a young footballer.

Western Sydney Wanderers Website Link: