The refereeing is again the focus this week - again not for the right reasons - and a certain slippery Argentine at Adelaide United gets his share of column space
By VINCE RUGARI
Refs are crap everywhere, not just here
It happened again. For the second consecutive round of matches, referees are firmly in the spotlight, for no reason other than a couple of woeful, match-turning decisions.
The worst part? This is our lot. We must accept it. But first, the wrap.
On Saturday, a sturdy, stubborn Wellington side looked good value for a share of the points against Adelaide at Hindmarsh - until Jeronimo Neumann felt the touch of Ben Sigmund on his arm, and chose to live up to his name by taking a tumble to the ground around 20 minutes after impact.
A red card followed, and Adelaide's next goal - scored by Cassio, but assisted by a clearly offside Jeronimo - added insult to injury. The Phoenix have every right to be filthy, and the Argentine should expect to feel like public enemy No.1 the next time he visits Wellington.
What do you think of Jeronimo Neumann's 'dive'? Cast your vote in our poll below!
The following day, Perth joined the growing queue of A-League clubs unhappy with the standard of officiating. Sydney's Rhyan Grant clearly handled the ball in the box in the 87th minute but the incident went unseen and therefore unpunished by Peter Green, still the original and the best 'homey ref'.
Ian Ferguson said he was "gobsmacked", and his stance was only lent further credibility when Ian Crook confessed that he would be fuming too if he was in the shoes of his counterpart. Robbed of what would have been an equalizing goal [or an attempt at one from the penalty spot], the Glory should also be spitting chips.
So that is two games out of five ruined by refereeing mistakes. Par for the course in the A-League, and La Regista takes no joy out of it, but it is what it is. And it will always be. Because in the wider context of world football, these are not really mistakes.
No, mistakes are the ones that were made by professional refs in the self-proclaimed greatest competition in the world, the English Premier League, over the weekend. Most notably, in the Arsenal-QPR, Everton-Liverpool and Chelsea-United games. There was controversy in the Serie A too.
The door is now open for the apologists. "Refs make mistakes all the time, in every league, in every country," is the excuse. "That doesn't mean they're any worse in Australia. If they can't get it right in England or Italy, how can we expect them to get it right here? Mistakes are part of the game."
They are. And it is heartbreaking to know that, maybe, it just will not get any better in the A-League. Referees are imperfect creatures who make imperfect decisions. There are degrees of 'perfection', but even the best are not that much better than our part-time whistleblowers in Australia. Are they? Who knows?
As comforting as it is to lean on the part-time/full-time divide to validate one's criticism of A-League officials, maybe the reality is that we have already maxed out the ability of a human being to sit on the fence and call every foul made in a game of football. How depressing.
In an even competition, upsets happen
There is no greater scalp that Western Sydney could have claimed with their first win than that of defending champions Brisbane Roar at their Suncorp Stadium fortress.
The Wanderers were simply awesome. This was not so much a tactical battle as it was one of mentality and wit. As we see so often in football these days, it was 4-3-3 versus 4-3-3.
West Sydney set up to frustrate, to stifle the Roar's brilliant passing game. There was no space between the lines and they were always one step ahead of Brisbane.
Rado Vidosic's men had nothing in response. For 90 minutes they were Albert Einstein's definition of insanity, personified - they just kept trying to do the same thing, over and over again, but expected a different result.
It did not happen. It was not Brisbane's night. And this is the often-overlooked beauty of the A-League - any team can beat any other team on any given day.
Saying that sounds like a cliche but it really is a brilliant achievement that deserves to be recognized. Right now, four weeks into the competition, nobody knows what the hell is going on.
Brisbane have lost twice in four games but were sent on gruelling away trips to Perth and Wellington, and crushed Melbourne Victory 5-0 in between. So do we have a true gauge on them yet?
Central Coast are still finding their feet but lack a certain spark while Tom Rogic suffers from second-season blues. Perth keep telling us they are not a physical side, but then cop red and yellow cards like they are going out of fashion.
Adelaide and Newcastle are top of the league but it feels like either of them could implode at the back at any given moment. There is Wellington, who have made a brilliant start, but have only one win to show for it.
The two Victorian teams are rock bottom but both have shown glimpses. Sydney somehow have two wins to their name but probably have the biggest concerns out of the whole bunch.
And then, to top it off, it turns out the Wanderers are not really that crap, after all, despite starting as $11 outsiders against the Roar.
$11! Bookies have no idea about the A-League, but do we really know any better?
Quote of the week
"In my book, if he's dived, he's a cheat. I think the referees were shocking tonight.
Andrew Durante just said what everyone was thinking about Neumann, a guy who was on the way to becoming one of the best, most admired players in the league.
His name, his pace, his genius, his craft - it was all good, but it has all been poisoned by his newly-discovered penchant for pretending. The Wellington captain may be sanctioned, and maybe he should not have said it, but he made one thing for sure - the next meeting between newly-cast villain Jeronimo and the Phoenix will be one not to be missed.
Player of the Week
Emile. William. Ivanhoe. Heskey. Find La Regista a more in-form English striker, and we will show you a liar. With four goals in four games - including two against Victory on Friday - this lumbering, hulking, awkward beast of a man has destroyed the argument that he would struggle in the A-League. On the contrary. It is Heskey who is destroying the A-League, and it is everyone else who is struggling to come to terms with it. The fact that the apex [so far] of Heskeytime in Australia was captured by something called 'Heskeycam' just made for a delicious and hilarious slice of irony that was duly feasted on by incredulous, disbelieving newspapers and media agencies across the world. This is happening. Heskey for England. Like it or lump it. He is the cult hero the A-League has always needed.
Young Player of the Week
Aaron Mooy's star continues to rise. Against a Brisbane team obsessed with controlling the ball at all times, for the young Wanderers midfielder to have the impact that he did in Saturday's match is a fair indication of his talent. His link play with the likes of Shinji Ono and Youssouf Hersi was immense. Enjoy watching him now, because it will be long until Mooy is back playing abroad.
ALESSANDRO DEL PIERO MOMENT OF THE WEEK
He probably should not have played, and this was probably his worst match since joining Sydney FC. But what kind of person would make Alessandro Del Piero wait for his 800th professional appearance? If you had have told someone six months ago that he would hit that milestone on Australian soil, you would have been handed a straitjacket. Sydney were lucky to win, and the Italian legend himself was lucky to find the back of the net with another shaky penalty conversion, but this was a match to savour. Unless you are Steve Pantelidis.