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The Finals swansong

The regular home and away A-League season ended on Sunday night with Adelaide beating Central Coast Mariners in the final match of the season and now the A-League grand final will be played either at Telstra Dome or Hindmarsh Stadium depending on results in the major semi final.

Watching SBS's World Game program on Sunday, most pundits were of the opinion that its all over for Melbourne and rightly so because of recent form but I think the finals series is a different stage altogether and all teams in a way will be starting from the same position.

Of the teams now left in the finals Adelaide would go in as the form team. In round 20 they overcame Sydney and on Sunday night they easily subdued the Mariners. Newcastle played well against Melbourne no doubt but they were pretty average against Perth Glory and only came to life in the dying minutes of that match.

Although Newcastle have never beaten Sydney FC before, if they play the way they played against Melbourne and most of the season after round 6 they should give Sydney a run of their money. I still think Sydney will prevail though.

Even though Melbourne lost the final two matches of the season, I still think they still have the right kind of players to carry them past what I believe is a very good Adelaide side. With the first leg at Hindmarsh its imperative for Victory to score at least an away goal to ease the nerves before coming to the Dome.

Elsewhere in the A-League, the New Zealand Knights finished off with a flurry and I wonder what would have happened had Ricki Herbert managed them from the start. To some teams they became the finals spoiler and the only blemish for Herbert's team was the fifteen minutes at Olympic Park where they conceded four goals.

If I was to put money on any of these teams to win the grand final, I would put my money on Newcastle. I see them go all the way and they will give Sydney FC a football lesson.

John, I think Newcastle have a very good chance especially as they play the last leg at home but to go past Sydney they will have to beat them for the first time and that's a big ask.

With Nick Carle and Milton Rodriguez and also the in-form Mark Bridge, they have very good attacking players but I still think Sydney FC with their experience will be able to contain Newcastle. I could be wrong, and hope I am John.

Football lesson? Well, I don't think so John, this is one match that can easily go either way depending on factors like referee decisions and silly mistakes in defence. Well, that's what football is about anyway.

Newcastle lost 2-1 but for me the key points from this match insofar as Newcastle are concerned are the away goal and the dominant second half performance. If Newcastle picks up from where they left in the second half then they will beat Sydney.

From a Sydney point of view they had an excellent first half and scored two goals but they should have scored more goals in that half. They have to quickly forget about the second half and see how they can either defend the slender lead or increase it. Either way it doesn't look easy at the moment.

I don't quite agree with the fact that the winners of this finals series is declared the champion of the A-League. The champion should be the team that wins the league proper and that's Melbourne Victory this year. The final series is just a knockout competition and for the winner to be declared league champion sounds ridiculous. The winner is only the champion of the knockout competition.

Thanks for your comment Nigel, you bring across some interesting points and I can understand your argument. A similar debate rages on nearly every year in England when the Championship premiership playoffs start because fans whose team finished third think its best their team gets automatic promotion.

Anyway in the context of the A-League, I think the finals series ensures that the league is relevant all the way to the last round because every team wants to finish in the top four and enter the finals hence we had the exciting Queensland/Sydney battle for fourth place.

Also I think the finals series is the way the other leagues go like the AFL and NRL. Maybe there are other reasons I don't know.

John K
Nigel, your absolutely right! But, unfortunately, there are not enough games played in the A-League to warrant a 'first past the post' winner.

Look at the English Premier League: they play 38 games. Surely, the team that tops the league there is by far the best team throughout the year.

But the finals series is something that Australians are used to, with the AFL, NRL, and NBL, amongst others. It also, I suppose from the FFA's point of view, generates an extra amount of income as well as publicity that they can capitalise on for the future.

I agree with you John K that the final series will do at least for now for the A-League.
When you look at the major European leagues the champion is the team that finishes top at the end of the season but if you look closely you find that those leagues also have Champions League places, UEFA Cup places and at least two domestic cup competitions. From that list the A-League only has two Asian Champions League places and so Nigel the final series is good for now as John K says.

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