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Glory be to the Popa and to his son: A-League & W-League season 2019-20

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    Glory be to the Popa and to his son: A-League & W-League season 2019-20

    The fixture list is finally out for the A-League season, so no better time to get an A-League thread up & running.

    It all kicks off on Friday 11 October as Adelaide Utd host champions Sydney FC, and the following day there's a Melbourne derby as Victory host City. Western Sydney's new ground hosts its first A-League match when Central Coast Mariners come visiting and the newbies, Western Utd, face a tricky game at Wellington Phoenix. Round 1 concludes with Premier winners Perth Glory hosting Robbie Fowler's Brisbane Roar (RFBR™).

    I'll try and do a preview closer to kick off, but last night was the conclusion of the FFA Cup Round of 32. A-League clubs entered at this stage, but we're already waving goodbye to the following heavyweights:
    • Sydney FC, who lost 2-0 at home to Brisbane Roar
    • Melbourne Victory, who lost 3-2 at home to Newcastle Jets
    • Perth Glory, who lost 2-1 at home to Western Sydney Wanderers
    • Wellington Phoenix - the shock of the round, losing on penalties to Brisbane Strikers
    So the draw for the next round is:

    Brisbane Roar v Central Coast Mariners
    Moreland Zebras v Magpies Crusaders
    Adelaide Olympic v Hume City
    Brisbane Strikers v Manly United

    Marconi Stallions v Melbourne City
    Olympic FC v Adelaide United
    Edgeworth v Newcastle Jets
    Sydney United 58 v Western Sydney Wanderers

    Games to be played in a couple of weeks. Just the one all A-League clash but would be fantastic to see a non A-League club lift the trophy.

    Edgeworth v Jets will be fun. Glory getting stripped of players - Keogh and Lowry gone, Spiranovic likely to leave too.


      FFA Cup Round 16 Results:

      Marconi Stallions 1-2 Melbourne City
      Olympic FC 2-3 Adelaide United
      Edgeworth 1-5 Newcastle Jets
      Moreland Zebras 4-0 Magpies Crusaders

      Sydney United 58 1-5 Western Sydney Wanderers
      Brisbane Roar 2-2 Central Coast Mariners (2-4 Pens)
      Adelaide Olympic 1-3 Hume City
      Brisbane Strikers 1-0 Manly United

      So no problems for any of the A-League teams (apart from RFBR) but the quarter final draw will see at least 2 of them exit:

      Tuesday 17 September:
      Hume City v Central Coast Mariners
      Adelaide Utd v Newcastle Jets

      Wednesday 18 September:
      Melbourne City v Western Sydney Wanderers
      Brisbane Strikers v Moreland Zebras


        With the AFL & NRL Grand Finals now out of the way, today saw the official launch of the A-League which finally kicks off this Friday when Adelaide host the champions, Sydney FC. It's all been very low key but earlier this week the ABC were announced as the new free-to-air broadcaster, showing the Saturday 5pm games live. But Fox Sports still pull all the strings showing every game live, and come the Finals the ABC will only be allowed to show their games on delay, which is a bit shit. ABC will also be showing the W-League and Soceroos games as part of the deal.

        The A-League is now being controlled by the clubs instead of the FFA but already some of the coaches are complaining about this weekend's start date; a few clubs will have to do without players being after called up for the Socceroos & Olyroos duty.

        Sydney FC will be favourites to win it again, whilst Melbourne Victory will be without the odious Kevin Muscat for the first time ever but will still expect to finish in the top 3, with Robbie Kruse back at the club after a decent few years in Germany. Perth Glory have lost a few stalwarts from last season but still look competitive, however may sacrifice the A-League once the Asian Champions League commences in the new year.

        Adelaide Utd have lost top-scorer Craig Goodwin to a Saudi Arabian team so could struggle to score, but there's excitement building at Western Sydney Wanderers who will be playing in the brand spanking new 30,000 capacity Bankwest Arena. The WSW fans have deserted the team whilst they've been homeless the past 3 seasons, but the fans appear to be back on board so the pressure's on Marcus Babbel to deliver this season after being woeful last season.

        Melbourne City were very dull to watch last season, but coach Warren Joyce has gone so hopefully new coach Erick Mombaerts can at least make them interesting to watch. Newcastle Jets could struggle this season and have lost star striker Roy O'Donovan to Brisbane Roar. And talking of the Roar, Robbie Fowler has recruited a number of players from the English lower leagues. The Roar conceded 71 goals last season as they finished 2nd bottom, so I hope some of these new recruits know how to defend otherwise it's going to be another car crash of a season.

        Central Coast seem to finish last every season but have at least looked to improve with the signing of 'keeper Mark Birighitti. I'm looking forward to seeing how Ziggy Gordon from Hamilton Accies does - a decent defender but does like a rash lunge from time to time. Go on Ziggy, don't let me down!

        And then there's Wellington Phoenix. The 'Nix had a great season last year, but it all fell apart once rumours circulated that coach Mark Rudan was about to jump ship to new boys Western Utd. Any chance of a home semi-final evaporated and they limped out away at the Victory. Rudan has now taken 3 of the 'Nix's best players with him to his new club, so it could be a nasty atmosphere for Rudan when he takes his new team to Wellington for their first game this Sunday. Apparently Wellington requested this fixture as their opening game, so they better win it or will look a bit stupid. As for Western Utd, they look like Sassuolo in their green & black stripes and have recruited a lot of éxperience' in the guise of former Socceroo Scott McDonald as well as A-League all-time leading goalscorer, Besart Berisha. They've got some decent kids on their books too, but with nothing expected of them they'll no doubt get thumped a good few times but also give some sides a bloody nose.

        So roll on Week 1 of the A-League.

        Oh yeah, the FFA Cup has completely passed me by and we now know who's in the final, so here's the results:

        Hume City 0-1 Central Coast Mariners
        Adelaide Utd 1-0 Newcastle Jets
        Melbourne City 3-0 Western Sydney Wanderers
        Brisbane Strikers 3-2 Moreland Zebras

        Last week was the semis:

        Brisbane Strikers 1-5 Melbourne City
        Central Coast Mariners 1-2 Adelaide Utd

        So the final between Adelaide & Melbourne City, to be played at Coopers Stadium on Wednesday 23rd October. Both clubs are two-times winners of the cup, with Adelaide looking to retain the trophy.


          I'm going to claim that BDG read my preview to write his latest strip


            It's Round 1 of the W-League season and earlier tonight Western Sydney Wanderers came from behind to beat Adelaide Utd 2-1, with the winner coming deep into injury time. Thursday night is 'Hersday' night on Fox Sports with the 3 other fixtures all taking place this Sunday. ABC will also be broadcasting 1 game live per week, so the W-League really is getting some incredible exposure.

            But the last 24 hours has been dominated by the news that Sam Kerr won't be part of it. Whilst everyone knew she wasn't coming back, she's been confirmed as Chelsea's latest signing and in the process making her one of the most highly paid female players in the world.

            Hard to predict who'll be Champions this season. Sydney FC will be looking for back-to-back titles and having held on to most of their squad, and added Veronica Latsko to the attack, look very strong.

            Defending Premiers, Melbourne Victory, will be taking part in the inaugural AFC Women's Club Championship at the end of November. With the season only lasting 14 Rounds, there's not much room for error and the Victory will hope this extra tournament doesn't derail their domestic campaign. Jenna McCormick looked really impressive for the Matildas recently so looking forward to seeing how she progresses.

            Melbourne City have signed three Matildas - Ellie Carpenter, Emma Checker and Emily van Egmond - as well as holding on to existing Matildas Steph Catley, Kyah Simon and Lydia Williams. And they've also added Scotland's Claire Emslie. That's really impressive, and having missed out on a finals spot last season having won the previous 3 Championships, it looks like they're desperate to get back to winning ways.

            So the first 3 places should be taken by Sydney FC, Melbourne Victory & Melbourne City. But the race for the last finals place could be more interesting.

            Brisbane Roar have a few Matildas in their line up including Clare Polkinghorne, Hayley Raso, Katrina Gorry and Mackenzie Arnold, as well as Elise Kellond-Knight and the free-scroing Tameka Yallop. The Roar must be favourites for a finals place.

            Western Sydney Wanderers were poor last season but have completely revamped their squad. They've signed Lynn Williams, who has just been recalled to the USA squad having missed out on the World Cup - she finished second in the golden boot race twice to Sam Kerr in the NWSL, so expect her to bang in the goals.

            Adelaide Utd have the Fowler sisters, Mary and Ciara. Mary's only 16 but already been touted as the next big thing. Adelaide have a young squad, but could sneak 4th place.

            Canberra Utd have lost Ellie Carpenter to Melbourne City and that will hurt them. They finished 8th last season however more's expected of them this season.

            Newcastle Jets finished 7th last season, but having lost star player Emily van Egmond to Melbourne City, they'll be relying on their local talent. Could be another disappointing season for the Jets.

            Meanwhile Perth Glory, beaten finalists last season, could be in for a tough one with the loss of Kerr as well as her strike partner, Rachel Hill. It's hard to see where the goals will now come from, with the team now looking quite young and inexperienced.


              With Ernie Merrick being the first manager to lose his job this season after being fired by Newcastle Jets, it's surely just a matter of time before Marcus Babbel at Western Sydney or Gertjan Verbeek at Adelaide Utd, follow.

              However having done a decent job at Adelaide, Mario Kurtz's decision to quit at the end of last season and move to Melbourne Victory hasn't been as smooth as he would have hoped and he might also be feeling a bit nervous regarding his employment status.

              Earlier today we had some absolutely superb A-League drama which saw Kurtz get sent-off right at the end, having seen his Victory side concede two stoppage time penalties to lose at the home of the big inflatable condiments - the Central Coast Mariners. Not satisfied with having the biggest inflatable condiments ever seen at a football ground, CCM now have a big cannon that fires smoke all over the ground when they score - just what everyone needs at a time when the air-quality is already really shit. And I'm sure if the fans had set off such a device, the police would have frog-marched them right out the ground.

              The headline for the match report says it all


                Verbeek publicly hammering his players might have put him favourite as next to go. Played a midfielder out of position at left back then throws him under the bus when it predictably goes pear-shaped. Odd game though. Right up to the Glory goal Adelaide were all over Glory. Complete reversal after that.

                As for Babbel - I was at his first game in Darwin 18 months ago. Looks me to that since then the wage bill has gone up, plenty of good youngsters have left and the team looks worse.


                  CY_Boaby very prescient - Kurtz gone.


                    Had someone said 10 days ago that two A-League managers were very soon to be sacked, one of them German, you'd have put your mortgage on Marcus Babbel. Yet somehow that clown's still gainfully employed. It's a funny old game!


                      Bang! Markus Babbel finally gets the bullet at WSW.

                      It was obvious to most observers that he should have been jettisoned when they missed out on the finals last season, but the WSW board clearly didn’t want to own up to their massive mistake in appointing him in the first place, so put their collective heads in the sand and hoped the sweary German couldn’t be as bad this season. Well they were partly right – he wasn’t as bad last season, but unfortunately he was worse.
                      German coach Markus Babbel has been sacked by Western Sydney Wanderers after winning just 10 of 41 A-League matches.


                        It's the final round of the regular W-League season but the Premiers Plate was already decided last week when Melbourne City romped to a 4-0 win at Western Sydney last Thursday. After drawing their opening game, City proved to be too strong for the rest of the league and won the next 10. Hard to see anyone challenge them when the Finals commence.

                        But the big talking point is the fact that many of the teams have been severely weakened with a lot of the Matildas players having already left for England. A 12-game regular season is clearly not long enough and looks like the W-League will hemorrhage more top talent in the very near future.

                        Meanwhile in the A-League, Perth Glory's proposed sale to the very shifty cryptocurrency mob has finally fallen through. This farce has completely overshadowed their Asian Champions League debut and Glory owner Tony Sage has not come out of this at all well.


                          The Matildas have all but booked their place at the Tokyo Olympics (if they take place) with a 1st leg 5-0 thumping of Vietnam. The return leg takes place this Wednesday behind closed doors, due to the coronavirus.

                          And then the attention turns to the W-League finals next weekend, with the clubs sweating that their players all return from international duty with no injuries and no fever. On Saturday Melbourne Victory are at home to Sydney, and the following day the all-conquering Melbourne City host WSW. Can anyone stop Melbourne City?


                            With the government's restrictions on mass gatherings not coming into play until tomorrow, the W-League Finals and A-League tried to continue as normal this weekend.

                            In the W-League, champions Sydney FC won 1-0 away at Melbourne Victory, whilst the all-conquering Melbourne City predictably thumped WSW 5-1. The grand final is scheduled for next Saturday but it's anyone's guess if it'll actually get played. With most of the players contracted to leave for Europe, the US or Asia after Saturday, a re-arranged final could see it being played by their respective youth squads if they can't get them back in time.

                            In the A-League, the games went on but the crowds were significantly down as folk decided their health was far more important than a game of football. Adelaide continue to be a woeful, following up last week's 5-1 home thumping by Western Utd by losing 3-0 at home to Newcastle Jets. That Dutch numptie they have in charge surely won't be there for much longer.

                            And with the A-League thinking they can carry on behind closed doors, Wellington Phoenix gave their fans a terrific send-off as they crushed Melbourne Victory 3-0. The 'Nix are planning on flying to Sydney this Tuesday thinking it will allow them to complete the remainder of their games, but with the government today announcing that all overseas arrivals from midnight tonight will have to self isolate for 14-days, it seems a pointless exercise as they'll have to now postpone 4 fixtures. And with Melbourne Victory also caught up in this new restriction, it seems inevitable the competition will be suspended.


                              Moneybags Melbourne City do the double and are crowned Champions as they follow up their Premier Plate with a 1-0 win over Sydney FC in the W-League grand final. Shame that the only goal was a horrible mistake from the Sydney 'keeper who turned a shot from City captain Steph Catley into her own net after 15 mins. But the floodgates didn't open and Sydney should have had a penalty when Catley clearly handled in her own penalty box 10 mins before half-time.

                              Second half saw Sydney create a couple of good chances whilst City remained dangerous. It got tense, the tackles flew in but City held out to end the season with 11 wins out of 12 in the regular season, unbeaten throughout and become the most successful club in W-League history with 4 titles. Very strange at the medal ceremony seeing all the players having to lift their own medal off the table due to the restrictions on close contact. Of course all these restrictions went completely out of the window at full time when both sets of players shook hands and hugged one another.

                              Yesterday the A-League ploughed on behind closed doors whilst the rest of the world takes a more sensible approach. So roll up, roll up for the only show in town as the A-League becomes the most watched league in world football as we all look to get our football fix.

                              Melbourne City consolidated 2nd place with a 4-2 win at Central Coast and Brisbane's hot form continued with a 1-0 win at home to Newcastle Jets. For the Jets, this is the new coach Carl Robinson's first defeat and should kill off any hopes they had of a top 6 finish.

                              And in a few minutes time we have the Sydney derby. To the watching world - are you ready?


                                Yes, I know it's poor etiquette to keep bumping up your own thread, but the A-League has been rumbling on for the past month and this evening we finally reached the end of the regular season. The majority of the games were played behind closed doors in NSW hubs and there's been no real surprises with Sydney FC being wrapping up the Premiers Plate. So the top 6 who'll compete in the Finals are:
                                1. Sydney FC
                                2. Melbourne City
                                3. Wellington Phoenix
                                4. Brisbane Roar
                                5. Western Utd
                                6. Perth Glory
                                It's a strange top 6 and no one predicted that the A-League's biggest club, Melbourne Victory, would have a shocker of a season and finish 2nd bottom.

                                The first Elimination Final is this Saturday which sees Wellington Phoenix take on Perth Glory. Both sides are woefully out of form and look like they just want to get back home to their families. The 'Nix's only victory in their 6 hub games came against the Glory, whilst Glory have won 2 and lost 4 of their 6 hub games. Glory were always going to struggle when captain and star player, Diego Castro, refused to travel to the NSW hub and decided to stay in WA and go on holiday. They also lost impressive central defender Gregory Wuthrich, who headed back to Switzerland when the coronavirus kicked in and decided not to return to Australia.

                                Sunday sees Brisbane Roar take on Western Utd. The Roar no longer have Robbie Fowler in charge, as he headed back to England in March and accusing the Roar of not arranging a flight for him and his assistant to return. Despite signing a load of players from the English lower leagues which could have been a disaster, Fowler did a decent job and certainly leaves the Roar in a far better position than when he joined them. As for Western Utd, what a debut season they've had and are the only team who've gone on a decent run of form since the resumption. And you can guarantee that shithouse striker, Besart Berisha, will have plenty to say this Sunday.

                                All 4 of these teams are evenly matched but whoever triumphs don't look like they'll be troubling either Sydney or Melbourne City in the Semi Finals. It'll be a huge shock if the Grand Final fails to feature this season's top two.

                                Off the pitch, the A-League faces a very uncertain future. Major broadcaster, Fox Sports, will end their deal at the end of next season and main sponsor Hyundai looking to end their 15 year association at the end of this season. If anyone has any spare change, fancy sending it on the the FFA?


                                  Both Elimination Finals have now been played (behind closed doors at WSW's Bankwest Stadium) and it's the two lowest-ranked teams who progress.

                                  With Wellington Phoenix having no advantage for finishing third, things went from bad to worse earlier in the week when they lost striker, Gary Hooper, and defender Tim Payne, both to hamstring injuries. Glory scored the only goal of the game after 18 mins from a fine finish from Joel Chianese and the absence of Hooper really began to bite when the 'Nix created numerous chances but failed to convert any of them. A great result for the Glory whose defence since the restart has been bloody awful, conceded 14 goals in their 6 games, including a 5-3 thumping by Adelaide and an embarrassing 4-0 loss to Melbourne Victory; both teams who failed to make the top 6.

                                  Today saw Western Utd beat beat Brisbane Roar 1-0 thanks to a terrific free kick from Alessandro Diamanti, which flew-in in off the post. I had it on in the background and wasn't paying to much attention to it, but Utd's debut season just keeps getting better. Lots of their players looked knackered at the end, so they'll need to get them fit ASAP with the semi-final on Wednesday.

                                  So all back to the Bankwest Stadium on Wednesday for the Semi-Finals double-header, which will have a small number of fans in attendance. First up is the Melbourne derby between Melbourne City and Western Utd. City won all 3 encounters during the regular season and have been resting up since last Wednesday, so would be a massive shock if they lost this one. Three hours later sees a rematch of last year's Grand Final as Sydney take on Glory. Surely we're not going to have a Grand Final being contested by the two lowest-ranked teams?


                                    What happened to Melbourne Victory?


                                      Finished 10th out of 11. Made a strange appointment as coach; struggled, sacked him. Long-term player and acting coach Grant Brebner announced as permanent (well, you know what I mean) appointment today.


                                        No shocks in either of Wednesday’s Semi-Finals as the two favourites progressed with respective 2-0 victories, but neither looked particularly impressive.

                                        Melbourne City booked their first A-League Grand Final appearance with second-half goals against the run of play; the first a penalty from Golden Boot winner Jamie Maclaren and the second an own goal from a corner with 6 mins to go.

                                        Next up saw Sydney start impressively against Perth Glory, but they didn’t make their dominance count until the 24th min when Milos Ninkovic beautifully slotted home a loose ball in the box with a really composed finish. 4 minutes later it was all over when Glory ‘keeper Liam Reddy received a back-pass under a bit of pressure but made a right tit of it, got slide-tacked by Adam le Fondre and the ball trickled over the line with Reddy not quick enough as he scrambled back to claw it away. Second half and Sydney just sat on their lead and whilst Bruno Fornaroli hit the near post then the far post with the same shot, it was as close as Glory were going to get and Sydney easily saw the rest of the game out.

                                        For the two beaten sides, it’s been a great debut season for Western Utd and they’ll consider themselves really unlucky not to have reached the Grand Final as they really impressive. As for the Glory, things look to be falling apart with coach Tony Popovic blindsiding the club by announcing yesterday that he’s off to Greek club, Xanthi. There’s been no official announcement from the club who say he still has a year left on his contract but looks like he’s activated his get-out clause. This confusion just about sums the Glory up at the moment following on from owner, Tony Sage, and his disastrous attempt to sell the club to the dodgy London Football Exchange which fell through almost as soon as the sale was announced.

                                        So we’re all set for Sunday’s Grand Final as first takes on second. In the sky-blue corner are the current champions and the A-League’s most unpopular club among all the other supporters, Sydney FC. And in the sky-blue (sorry, city-blue) corner is Melbourne City, who are also very unpopular due to being part of the City Football Group portfolio of clubs. It's just a shame one of them has to win.
                                        Last edited by CY_Boaby; 28-08-2020, 04:37. Reason: Font went a bit weird and small


                                          Sydney are now out in front as the A-League’s most successful side, claiming their 5th Championship with a 1-0 extra win over Melbourne City. City wore their 3rd choice kit of red and white stripes, paying lip-service to their former guise as Melbourne Heart, and were by far the better team in the 1st half. They thought they’d taken the lead after 20mins, but their striker was standing in an offside position and obscuring the ‘keeper’s view, so VAR had a look and chopped it off.

                                          Sydney were far better in the second half but couldn’t score so extra time it was, and up popped flying man-mullet Rhyan Grant to chest the ball into the net after a great cross from Luke Brattan. Sydney saw the rest of the game out to secure back-to-back Championship wins. The bastards.

                                          So we got there in the end. Not too sure what the future holds for the A-League – no firm start date for the new season which has already been pushed back to early 2021. The league’s expanding to 12 teams with a third Sydney team coming along, Macarthur FC, however the dirty dozen may not come to fruition as the Central Coast Mariners face a really uncertain future.

                                          Their English-based owner is utterly desperate to sell them and even explored the option of merging them with fierce rivals Newcastle Jets before the FFA told him it was a non-starter. Would be a shame to say goodbye to the palm trees and those big, inflatable condiment bottles. Has the time finally arrived where CCM become the A-League’s first fan-owned club?


                                            Thanks for the updates, CY. How many fans were allowed in to the final?


                                              Cheers Ray - I believe only 7,500 were allowed in with the Melbourne City fans being NSW-based only, as Melbourne's still in lockdown.


                                                Popovic gone. Fornaroli and Castro possibly gone too.


                                                  Things are getting nasty in the A-League. No league sponsor and Fox Sports re-negotiating a much-reduced TV deal, the clubs and the PFA are at loggerheads with the clubs wanting the players to agree to a 30% wage cut for the 2020-21 season. The PFA say the players already took a significant pay cut in order to complete the 2019-20 season and aren't prepared to take another 30% hit. Today, Perth Glory owner Tony Sage sent an email to all Glory members with a very one-sided version of events saying he will stand-down all the players and staff if the situation isn't resolved. There's was nothing in his email to either confirm or deny the rumours that the club have contacted (or threatened to contact) the Department of Home Affairs about deporting club captain, Diego Castro, if he walks out on his contract.

                                                  All the A-League clubs demanded independence from the FFA and to manage wages and salary cap issues themselves. They got what they wanted; this is their first major test and they're currently making a right pigs arse of it. On Friday, Glory appointed a new head coach when former Socceroo, Richard Garcia, got promoted from within their ranks. As things stand, he won't have any players to coach.