Wednesday, January 2, 2008

A-League parties hard during festive break

A-League parties hard during festive break.
Christmas, traditionally a time to both rejoice and overindulge, succeeded on both counts over the A-League festive season.

The growing Australian support base rejoiced with confirmation the aggregate crowd figure for the league's third season passed one million over the holiday weekend, a fortnight earlier than the previous season.

Individual crowd records were also smashed by Adelaide United and the table topping Central Coast Mariners.

Adelaide's gate of 25,039 at the one-off venue of the Adelaide Oval - usual home of Test cricket at this time of year and a not uncontroversial choice by the Reds - not only surpassed the club's previous highest crowd but was also a record attendance for a football match in South Australia, domestic or international.

The Mariners, meanwhile, set successive home crowd records over the Christmas and New Year's weekends with the 18,686 turnout for the New Year's Eve clash against Melbourne outstripping the 17,514 fans which watched the club host Sydney FC.

That the Central Coast leaked a generous 10 goals in those games and fell off their perch at the top of the A-League ladder only marginally soured the entertainment for many attendees.

The Mariners' defensive frailties played their part in a level of overindulgence not seen before in A-League history. All sides gorged themselves on the way to a record-breaking average of 5.25 goals per game but it was the hosts who were left to do the dishes as every away team won for just the second time in history.

That included new league leaders Queensland Roar who triumphed in steamy Western Australia. Bottom-placed Perth Glory returned to training on Boxing Day with the temperature nudging 40 degrees and ran out of steam a few days later as the Roar cleaned up 4-1.

Combined with the Mariners leaking five in a boilover against Melbourne, Queensland - under the tutelage of former Socceroos coach Frank Farina - are gracing the summit for the first occasion.

The resurgence of Sydney under John Kosmina means a three-horse title race with three rounds of the home-and-away season remaining before the finals series starts later this month.

Kosmina's former employers Adelaide's run to the finals has faltered under the weight of a bizarre collection of ailments and complaints.

This week, youngsters Kristian Sarkies and Dez Giraldi were added to the club's seemingly endless injury list with Sarkies expected to be out of action for up to three months after Adelaide medical staff diagnosed a blood clot in his left arm during the loss to Sydney.

"We had a drinks break 20 minutes into the game, that's when I told the doc that my arm was about to explode. I felt it about a week-and-a-half ago when I slept with my arm above my head and woke up with a sore neck and sore shoulder," the 21-year-old somewhat curiously explained.

Giraldi was also admitted to hospital after complaining of heart palpitations. “What they’re leaning towards is an anxiety attack. I feel OK now but the last few days I was feeling terrible,” he said.

A-League titbits

Defending player-of-the-year Nick Carle, a Socceroos call-up for the Asian Cup in July, is on the move after failing to settle in his second overseas spell, this time at struggling Turkish outfit Genclerbirligi. Carle, a talented playmaker who can play right across the midfield, is tipped to join high-flying Championship side Bristol City.

New national team coach Pim Verbeek has been an industrious note-taker at almost every A-League match since his announcement as Socceroos coach last month. On Tuesday, Verbeek named his first local training squad ahead of Australia's World Cup qualifying opener versus Qatar next month. Of those selected, uncapped trio Andrew Durante, Ufuk Talay and Jamie Coyne caught the eye, as did the omission of former captain Craig Moore.

Happy New Year!

Copyright © Marc Fox and Soccerphile.com

Australian Soccer News

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