An epic derby to silence the critics

The conversation about whether or not the A-League is up to standard just about died with that epic recent Melbourne derby, or should have.


Source: Getty Images

There were of course a couple of negative blots on the game, more about which later.

It was a night of pulsating action and drama, the like of which we have probably not witnessed since that monumental grand final between Brisbane Roar and Central Coast in 2011.

We were treated to a thrilling spectacle throughout as Victory and City pelted each other with tidal waves of attacking intent, each wave met with robust resistance with both teams defending a high line in quest of recovering the ball as quickly as possible.

It was a classic, not excluding its four goals (or was it five?) two of which were international class.

And why was this so? Because of the ingredients to the recipe, that is two teams playing football’s most modern and successful version with a desire for attacking persistence, greedy ball possession, resolute defending but always with only the intent to score more than the opposition.

There was no thought given to counter-attacking or counter-punching.

There has been a lot of twaddle written and said recently in an artificial debate about entertainment versus the need to get results, as if there was some kind of distinguishing dividing line between them.

The fact is the dividing line is a myth, for attacking, entertaining football at its most educated level usually adds up to results. Take a look at the top leagues around the world and you’ll find that attacking, proactive teams are at or near the top of most of them.

Another very good example of this is Western Sydney Wanderers. Last season they deployed reactive, counter-attacking tactics. Admittedly they won the AFC Champions League with it but also finished second last in the A-League.

Since then they have undergone a tactical and philosophical metamorphosis. They now play a proactive, attacking game largely based on possession and dominating their opponents. They are now challenging for the title again.

Contrary to the mythology, coaches who play this way don’t do it in order to entertain. They do it because they believe it gets them results. The entertainment is a mere by-product.

The blots on the Melbourne epic were a spectacular wrongly disallowed goal by Gui Finkler and the lighting of flares by some mindless fool or fools.

On the former, all one can say is that cases of balls judged not to have crossed the line when in fact they have, happen everywhere where goal line technology is not deployed. The fact that it happens here once every few years doesn’t make Australian officials worse or more blind than those elsewhere.

All we can say is thank goodness for extra goal line assistants planning to be used during the A-League final playoffs, a good move.

The ignition of flares was most unfortunate, for it blemished the memory of a grand match and occasion. Much of the media spent the ensuing days preoccupied with it. What a great game the derby otherwise was dissolved somewhere in the ether.

I believe the sanction of a $50,000 fine and a suspended three point deduction is appropriate, as it was for the Wanderers. If anything it is generous. I would have been ok with an actual points penalty, maybe not three, perhaps one or two.

Its logic is strong. If there is anything diehard supporters want it is to see their team win trophies. One has to therefore assume that weakening a team’s capacity to win a title will act as a deterrent to misbehaviour.

If it doesn’t and some fans continue to misbehave it just proves they are not supporters at all and clearly don’t want the best for their team. This then should send a message to the other supporters, the majority, that those fools who want to exercise their ‘personal choice’ to let off flares are not one of them and are not real supporters at all.

In which case the fan groups should eject such fools from their midst. This, I believe, is the ultimate solution to this problem: the majority of well-behaved active fans have to self-police their groups and ensure none of their members puts the title winning hopes of their club at risk.

I am a big fan of the active fan groups, as my past opinions in this space will testify. But if, as a collective, they are seen to condone flare throwing and other forms of violence they will not win this fight. The FFA, correctly, is determined to stamp this out and they will, no matter the cost.

Let the flares disappear. Let that ugly police van behind the western stand at Pirtek Stadium be parked somewhere else. Let the draconian handling of fans by security forces go away also.

And in the meantime let’s enjoy some of the wonderful football we are seeing.

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5 min read
Published 17 February 2016 at 4:44pm
By Les Murray