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Archive for February 2007

The Chappell-Hadlee whitewash

The Chappell-Hadlee Trophy one day international series finished yesterday with another Australia loss stretching Australia's losing streak to five straight matches. Ironically the last win was against New Zealand.

I thought Australia were completely outplayed in the first match when they could only score 148 runs which New Zealand had no problems chasing. As for the second and third matches I actually thought that Australia played quite well and the losses were due to New Zealand just being a lot better on the day.

However, this series has shown that Australia really struggle without Ricky Ponting and Andrew Symonds. Although Adam Gilchrist and Brett Lee were also missing, the later through injury, it is Ponting and Symonds who were actually missed. Gilchrist has been struggling for form anyway and it was better that he be rested.

Looking at the series now, it looks like a lost opportunity for Australia to actually prepare for the Cricket World Cup in the Caribbean. I think at the time decisions were made to leave out Ponting and Gilchrist, it was possibly seen as a walkover series but with the whitewash the real work now is to lift up the players for the World Cup.

It was unfair for Matthew Hayden to score a fantastic 181 and end up on the losing side and this brings another point. For two consecutive matches Australia has failed to defend high scores of 336 and 346 respectively. That may mean that the bowlers in the team are not doing a good job and for this reason I don't see why Stuart Clarke is not going to the World Cup.

In the first match Australia failed to take a single wicket in 27 overs. In the second match Nathan Bracken and Shaun Watson together took five wickets when New Zealand were chasing 336 to win. It was a much improved performance in the last match and it worth noting that Glenn McGrath did not play in the last match and he and Brad Hogg came back wicket-less for the bowlers who bowled at least 10 overs in the series.

I hope the team will re-group and be able the defend the World Cup crown won in South Africa.

Melbourne clinches double in style

Melbourne Victory became the first team to win the A-League double when it beat Adelaide United by six goals to nil in the A-League Grand final today at Telstra Dome.

This match exceeds any other match played by Victory at the Dome in terms of entertainment value and it was goals galore thanks to Archie Thompson. Thompson was the hero of the day and the official man of the match and rightly so as he scored five brilliant goals. Fred was involved directly in four of the goals and indirectly in the fifth and he too had a brilliant game.

I think all in all it was a good day at the office for Melbourne as everything seemed to work as expected. It wasn't like that for Adelaide though and whilst before the match much talk was around coach John Kosmina's banishment from the bench, in the match itself the major talking point is easily the two yellow cards awarded to Adelaide captain Ross Aloisi resulting in a send-off when the team was already two goals down. Aloisi becomes the first player to be send off in an A-League grand final.

With the team two goals down and the captain on a yellow card the needless challenge on Grant Brebner was uncalled for and reckless. I think when Aloisi was leaving the field he knew that he was leaving his team with an insurmountable task and there would be no way to come back against a clinical Melbourne side.

Adelaide went on to concede four more goals without Aloisi but they could have been more with at least three shots hitting the woodwork and Danny Allsop squandering two golden chances in a space of three minutes in the second half.

Kristian Sarkies capped his time on the pitch with the sixth goal in injury time to record a score which I think will take some time to overtake.

The A-League now goes into a very long off-season but in between Sydney FC and Adelaide will participate in the Asian Champions League.

A club shopping spree

Not exactly a spree at the moment but maybe soon we will come close to it. Not so long ago most speculation in English football used to be about either coach sacking or player transfers. But now you can't miss the speculation about which club is going to be bought next and mostly by a foreign buyer.

The fashionable thing for a club in the past was for the club to be listed on the London Stock Exchange enabling fans to own a share of the club but this has since been replaced by a buyer, mostly foreign coming along and buying a club.

The positives for this are that the product, the premiership, is good and that is why there are many suitors hovering around in search of a purchase. Coupled to this though is the question of whether the new owners would still hang around on the first signs of lustre? I think only time will tell.

Chelsea was the first purchase in this new era when Russian Roman Abramovich splashed his cash and bought the club and went on to transform it into Premier League champions in a short space of time. Next we saw the purchase of Manchester United by the Glazer family in a deal that incensed some fans but still went ahead and its business as usual at Manchester United - at least they are on top of the league at the moment.

The latest deal has seen Liverpool being bought by Americans George Gillett and Tom Hicks. Before this we saw Porthsmouth go to Russian Alexandre Gaydamak and the midlands outfit Aston Villa go to American Randy Lerner and also West Ham United to the Icelander Eggert Magnusson .

I don't think that there is anything wrong with these foreigners buying these clubs as long they work on improving the clubs and stick with them especially when they are unfortunately relegated and that's the danger in all these deals. Unless you buy one of the top four teams - Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal - the threat of relegation always looms.

West Ham is lying in the relegation zone at the moment and if things don't improve they could see themselves in the Championship which is not as glamorous as the Premier League. The question is will these new owners still be interested when the teams they have purchased now languish in the Championship?

Many a team have gone down into the Championship or Division One as it was called before claiming that they will be back after just one season and whilst some of them have done it like my team West Bromwich Albion recently, for others like Leeds United that hasn't been the case. The championship is not an easy place to come out of because the teams are more evenly matched and every season there is a surprise team like Derby this season.

Which brings another interesting scenario about people buying clubs in the Championship. Former Chelsea chairman Ken Bates is now chairman of Leeds United and this week it was confirmed that former Portsmouth owner Milan Mandaric has now bought Leicester City. I wonder whether this will be the new trend with locals (Mandaric is American) buying in the lower leagues and mostly foreigners buying the Premier League.

On the Australian front, I am wondering whether the A-League would reach such a state that teams will draw so much attention from across the globe. I think its a mixed bag at the moment because Perth Glory is still under the administration of the FFA whereas there has been some positive interest for the New Zealand franchise. The real test will come though when it comes time to increase the number of teams in the league from the current eight.

Back to the speculation we await to see which club will be bought next. Will for example Dubai International Capital (DIC) come back to buy another club after failing to buy Liverpool? And will Newcastle be next or maybe Tottenham? The speculation continues on unabated.

Melbourne's final test

After Adelaide United's win over Newcastle United on penalties, Adelaide will meet Melbourne Victory at a sold out grand final at Telstra Dome on Sunday to test Melbourne’s resolve to be the first team to win the A-League double.

Adelaide nearly blew their chance of reaching the grand final by once again trying to defend a one goal lead by defending very deeply and more or less inviting Newcastle to attack. That allowed Newcastle more space and possession and they were able to equalise and Adelaide had to start chasing the game again and for me that was the most exciting phase of the match when both teams were trying to notch a winner on tired legs.

Newcastle's Nick Carle could have given Newcastle the lead four minutes after the Newcastle equaliser but he could not get the better of Daniel Beltrame who was in goal for Adelaide.

Looking at the grand final, Melbourne and Adelaide have met five times so far this season at three different venues, once at Olympic Park and twice each at Hindmarsh Stadium and Telstra Dome. Melbourne has won 3 matches and Adelaide one and the other match one was drawn.

In the five matches ten goals have been scored with Melbourne scoring seven to Adelaide's three. In the normal home and away season Melbourne had the better defence conceding 20 goals compared to Adelaide's 27 and Melbourne scored 41 goals and Adelaide 32.

The statistics would make Melbourne slight favourites and added to that they will also be playing at home. Adelaide's strength lie at the back where they have two good goalkeepers in Daniel Beltrame and Robert Bajic and a defence well marshalled by Angelo Constanco and Michael Valkanis.

Melbourne's strength are upfront where in Archie Thompson and Daniel Allsop they probably have the best strike partnership in the league and they have the goals to prove it, scoring a combined twenty two goals this season. Fred chips in to help in attack and he has scored four goals including one against Adelaide at Hindmarsh.

On the other hand Adelaide’s top goal scorer Fernando has only scored six goals and Carl Veart has scored five. But the grand final doesn’t look like its going to be a high scoring encounter and could easily won by a single goal just like last year’s one.

I think the grand final will be won and lost in midfield. If the Melbourne midfield can supply their strikers up front with good balls then they could come up with a goal or two but Rossi Aloisi and Diego Walsh will have a lot to say about it. Adelaide will be missing Mathew Kemp in midfield who got a second yellow card against Newcastle.

Whatever happens in the grand final, it’s good to see the top two teams fighting it out for the top prize and both teams will represent Australia in Asian Champions League in 2008.

A final flourish for England

England stunned Australia last night when they won the second one day Commonwealth Bank International series finals match at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) winning by 34 runs using the Duckworth/Lewis method to win the tournament.

This result was unthinkable when the series started soon after the Australia's Ashes Test series triumph and was even more unthinkable when England succumbed to Australia after scoring a paltry 110 runs in Adelaide on Australia Day.

I think the tide changed when England beat Australia at the SCG in a match where England had to win to stay in contention for the finals and from there onwards England have now established a four match unbeaten.

Apart from last night, in all the previous three matches an English batsman has scored a century something that has been a rarity for some time. Paul Collingwood scoring back to centuries has been has been great for England.

Not so long ago Australia's coach John Buchanan claimed Australia's bowling and fielding were suffering because their opponents were batting poorly but when the opposition's batting has been good the bowlers haven't been very convincing.

I think Australia must consider taking Stuart Clarke to the World Cup especially after he took a career best 8-58 for NSW against Western Australia at the weekend. He is a bowler in form who took part earlier in the series and maybe now is the time to recall him and make him part of the World Cup 15.

Also all rounder Andrew Symonds is sorely missed and I hope he will recover in time to take some part in the World Cup even if it means playing in the later stages of the World Cup assuming Australia reaches those stages. The team has struggled without him.

Collingwood has been the shining light for England scoring back to back centuries and also taking two wickets at the SCG. This is what every one day team needs - somebody who can score many runs and the rest of the team chip in around him.

After these four wins England suddenly are looking good for the World Cup especially if you consider that Kevin Pieterson and Michael Vaughan will be added to the squad.

Australia will now face New Zealand in the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy series and its now important for the team to win that series to go to the World Cup with confidence.

Four to Foxtel

At long last, it has now been announced that Foxsports will show four AFL matches live out of the eight played in each round. I have been following with interest to see what would happen because channels 7 and Ten got the rights to all the AFL matches but they couldn't show all the matches on their networks without affecting other programming schedules and so they had to sell on some of the matches to another channel.

So now they have managed to sell the matches to Foxtel. With the Footy channel now closed it means that the matches will be shown alongside the other sports that get shown on Foxsports which in a way is better than the previous arrangement where there was a channel showing nothing else but AFL football which I pointed out in an earlier post.

Its interesting to see that the free-to-air channels bid for the right show the all AFL matches but they know they cannot show all of them for logistical reasons and have to sell on to pay television which is not allowed to bid on its own right because of the anti-siphoning laws. What would happen for example, if the pay television channel doesn't buy the rights to the other matches? Maybe if pay television could bid on their own merit that could result in more money for AFL clubs but that would need a change to the current anti-siphoning laws which dictate that those rights go to free-to-air television.

The end result of the latest deal now means that less matches will be available on free to air television compared to last season. Also because Foxtel will have the first rights to matches involving teams from Adelaide and Perth, its more likely that most of the matches involving Freemantle, Adelaide, Port Adelaide and West Coast Eagles will be on pay television.

I don't know what the AFL fans in Perth and Adelaide now think of those same anti-siphoning laws when most matches involving their teams are not going to be available on free-to-air.

It will be interesting to see if this will still be the case when these rights are up for grabs again in five years time. Maybe by then clubs would have realised that they could make more money by allowing everybody to bid in the first place.

Seeing beyond circumstances

Just reading the Bible in 1 Kings from chapter 17 you find that the dominant figure becomes Elijah and you can see how God worked closely with him and yet in more demanding situations Elijah could feel like he was all on his own.

“What are you doing here, Elijah?” God asked the prophet in a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:13). Elijah had just experienced his greatest triumph. On Mount Carmel, he had challenged the forces of evil before the whole nation and had seen the fire of God come from heaven to consume the sacrifice he had prepared. Seeing this, the people had turned back to God and had slaughtered the priests of Baal.

Immediately, God had opened the skies and had sent rain on the parched land of Israel. However, one threat from Queen Jezebel had caused him to flee into the desert and to Mount Horeb, where he now sat, wishing to die.

After we have experienced God’s power in a special way the enemy will seek to intimidate us and to rob us of the blessings we have just received. It is then easy to lose sight of God’s greatness and His calling for our lives, and to shift our focus onto the issues that suddenly confront us. In these situations, we need to find a place where we can once again hear the gentle whisper of God, reminding us that He is always in control.

Elijah’s response to God reveals how much he had lost the plot. I think all he could see was himself and his situation. He told God how he alone had been zealous for Him, and how everybody else was serving Baal and was therefore out to kill him. With his eyes on himself and his circumstances, he apparently forgot that God had demonstrated His sovereign power at Mount Carmel and that, as a result, thousands had turned back to Him.

I think it is easy for us too to lose sight of God’s purpose, to think like Elijah that we are the only ones left serving Him. Like Elijah, we may be looking for some comforting words, a pat on the shoulder and a “well done, my good and faithful servant.”

God’s reply to Elijah is not quite what the prophet would have expected: He tells Elijah that there are seven thousand others. Those seven thousand may not have stood in the limelight of mount Carmel (yet), but they loved God and refused to bow to Baal or to be intimidated by his followers. And one of these people was Elisha son of Shaphat. I will pick from there in another post when I have read 2 Kings.

The issue of cancelled services

It has not been an easy two weeks for train commuters in Melbourne especially those who had their services cancelled by Connex, the Melbourne train operator and therefore had to get an earlier or later service. In most cases it would be earlier especially if you are going to work and later when coming back home. The trains were withdrawn from service for safety reasons.

The good thing if anything to come out of this is that the annual fare increase that was due to be implemented in March has now been deferred to July. But I think some commuters would rather have a fare decrease for now given the time that they have lost due to cancelled services or delays or both.

Another good thing on my line at least, is that for the last two weeks the remaining scheduled services have actually come on time and all the time. This is quite good especially when you think that hardly a week goes without a service either being delayed or cancelled.

On Monday, the cancelled services will be back and that's good news and that will mean less crowding on the trains and hopefully more comfortable journeys.

Danes down Socceroos

This morning Denmark beat the Socceroos 3-1 in an international friendly played at Loftus Road Stadium, London. It was a nightmare first half for the Socceroos with some comical defending and by-passing of midfield that should have left Graham Arnold with some thinking to do.

Its good to see that the Socceroos created chances of their own in that first half but the big difference between the two teams was finishing. Whilst the Danes buried their chances to score three goals through double scorer Jon Dahl Tomasson and Daniel Jensen, the Socceroos could only see their shots missing the target or tamely hit giving the Danish goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen no problems at all.

It was an improved display in the second half with a more organised defence and stand-in captain Brett Emerton gave us something to cheer about when he scored with five minutes remaining.

Although this was a friendly I think Arnold wanted a result and that could explain why the Socceroos only used two substitutes Jacob Burns and Ryan Griffiths who came in for Josip Skoko and Tim Cahill respectively instead of five. I don't understand why the full quota of five substitutes was not used. The Danes used five substitutes. This could have been due to the lack of depth on the bench with so many withdrawals from the squad but I would have given some of the players a run and thats how they get the experience.

This friendly was a preparation for the Asian Cup later in the year and if Arnold wanted to learn something it is that chances have to be taken whenever they come because in the later stages of the Asian Cup chances may not be that many. It was also a good exercise played against an organised team something that could be handy against the likes of Japan and South Korea.

Also this was the first match under the new agreement to show Socceroos matches exclusively live on Foxtel and not the usual SBS. While obviously this deal brings more money for the FFA, a lot of football fans wouldn't have been able to watch the match this morning which is a bit of a shame especially when it is the national team playing albeit a friendly. I don't even know whether a full replay of this match is going to be shown on free to air television because its not the TV guide as far as I have checked.

Adelaide face Newcastle test

After the weekend round of finals football the home teams, Newcastle Jets and Melbourne Victory, came through and now Melbourne will host the grand final and Adelaide will play it out against Newcastle for the right to come to Telstra Dome.

On Friday night Newcastle dispatched a disjointed Sydney FC outfit in a match where they outplayed Sydney in every department. Sydney had no answer to Newcastle's free flowing brand of football and Newcastle should have at least had a goal in the first half had decisions gone their way. But with Alex Brosque being send off late in the first half, it was a matter of time before Newcastle scored.

Sunday's match at the Dome should have been exciting for the neutrals I think but for the Victory fans the second goal came very late but in a way it was worth the wait. I think Adelaide's goal came a little bit too early for them because after scoring that goal they suddenly withdrew into their shell opting to defend that slender lead. I doubt it was their plan to defend for such a long period.

Despite the erratic and wayward passing on the part of Victory in the first half, Melbourne still finished the first half on top because Adelaide were content on defending resolutely and they knew that Melbourne needed two goals to win because of the away goals rule.

The need to defend restrained Adelaide and that gave Melbourne the impetus and the second half was one of the best I have watched for some time. It should be noted that this was Melbourne's first win this year and the first win at the Dome since November 9 last year. Melbourne threw everything that they had at Adelaide and the Adelaide goalkeeper Daniel Beltrame was equal to everything that Melbourne had to offer, well until James Robinson's header.

Now Adelaide will face Newcastle in what promises to be a cracker of a game. The Newcastle encounter is bound to be more testing than the Melbourne one going by the way Newcastle has been playing in the last fortnight.

This time there is no more away goals and whoever wins on the day will go and meet Melbourne at the Dome. To me Newcastle are favourites to win this tie and playing away from home sometimes has its advantages because there will be less pressure.

Last season Adelaide lost to Central Coast Mariners at the same stage and this should be at the back of their minds as they prepare for the Jets. Adelaide will have to bring their shooting boots because I think there won't be that many chances. I cannot see this match being a nil all after ninety minutes because I predict we are going to see some goals during normal time.

Being a Melbourne fan, I would rather meet Adelaide than Newcastle but I will have to wait and see.

England victory at last

At last I witnessed what I thought I would never witness all summer - an England victory over Australia. England beat Australia in the Commonwealth Bank International Triangular series match by 92 runs at the SCG tonight.

This was going to be the last match between the two teams because had England lost they would have been out of the finals for which Australia has already qualified. With this win, England are still in the mix but have to beat New Zealand next Tuesday and if that happens then there would be at least two more matches against Australia.

Ed Joyce scored a rare England century to give England an edge with a total of 292 runs and this 292 is the highest one day score England has scored this summer so far. Throughout the summer I think England has lacked that one batsman who can go out there and score a huge score and let others add to it around him. Joyce did that with Ian Bell chipping in with a decent 51.

With Australia captain Ricky Ponting not playing, Australia were early in trouble losing two quick wickets in the opening two overs and I could see that England could sense that a face saving victory was in the offing.

I think this victory may have come too late though because New Zealand are on a roll right now and to me they look the most likely team to be reach the finals next weekend. Lets wait and see.