Monday night’s match was probably the last one we’ll see for a while, and it was a cracker!
As a person who does a fair bit of lurking on overseas fan forums (mainly of clubs where Socceroos are playing) I get to read quite a lot of crap about how low quality is the Australian game.
These learned comments are typically along the lines of:
“My mate was on holidays in Australia and saw an A-League game. He reckoned it was rubbish.”
“Big Tam’s technical ability is amazing when you consider he came from the A-League!”
“I don’t like Australians, therefore their game is crap.”
I usually ignore them, but I have once or twice been dragged into flame wars through defending the A-League.
ME: “Tom Rogic was far from the best player in the A-League, but he’s pretty close to the best player in yours.”
THEM: “Another know-it-all Aussie! What would you know about football?”
ME: I know we’re ranked higher than you by FIFA…”
And so it kicks off.
The footballing First World knows almost nothing about our game, but that has changed in the last couple of weeks as the Covid 19 Apocalypse closes down all sport.
Usually broadcast into about 70 (I think…someone will correct me) countries, the last few matches have been seen by a far wider audience in the sport starved northern hemisphere (whose leagues were closed down earlier).
Even Italy, the league of choice for the Eurosnobs, is watching. Last night’s match between Newcastle Jets and Melbourne City was (apparently) beamed into 25 million Italian homes, live.
And what a game they saw!
Yes, there were one or two failures of control, and a few bad passes as the players tired (it was their second game in three days) – but there are in any game, including Serie A, La Liga and the EPL. (Maybe not the Germans…bad passes are verboten!)
Otherwise, the game was technically strong, tactically savvy, and showed some wonderful attacking raids by both teams culminating in three excellent goals – all from open play.
There were also some outstanding performances by individuals. Dimi Petratos was his usual dynamic self; Rostyn Griffiths was immense; Brillante was superb – running the midfield and spraying excellent attacking passes with both feet; Tom Glover pulled off a couple of world class saves and Steve Ugarkovic also showed why he could turn into an exceptional player.
But for me, the player who stole the show was young Nathaniel Atkinson. I’ve never seen a performance like that from him before – pace, power, intelligence, both on and off the ball. His attacking was so good it kinda overshadowed his defence – which was note perfect.
It was noticeable to me, especially as the game wore on, how it was Atkinson rather than the usual City suspects, who ran the show. Everything went through him at right back and his decisions were spot on every time. He always wanted the ball back when he passed and made a lot of very dangerous runs in behind the Newcastle defence.
That performance will have been noted. The performance of all the players will have been noted – getting themselves up for a match of that quality with (tragically) no-one watching in the stands.
But for now, the league will go into hibernation – like everything else in these weirdly unprecedented times.
But I sincerely hope that last night’s match will have made just a small dent in the façade of the Eurosnobs.
Adrian's books can be purchased at any good bookstore or through ebook alchemy. He will have a new novel out shortly.