IT’S hard to put into words how big a challenge last Sunday’s game against Brisbane was for the players and coaching staff.
IT-S hard to put into words how big a challenge last Sunday-s game against Brisbane was for the players and coaching staff.
The lead-up started with a trip down the F3 to take on Sydney FC the Saturday prior followed by two nights in a Sydney hotel, a 10-hour flight to Japan on Monday, a two hour bus trip to Kashiwa, a three-hour time difference, one training session on the stadium to familiarize ourselves with the match venue, the game against a Reysol team that had two foreigners worth well over what our entire squad is worth and then the trip home (as per trip there plus a day in our hotel waiting for the return flight to depart and a sleepless night on the plane).
We flew in at 7.30am Friday morning and by the time we got back up the Coast it was pushing lunchtime - Friday morning is the busiest time of the week in Sydney Airport-s Customs Hall!
The players went home to recover, the coaches to prepare for Brisbane on Sunday.
No excuses, just the reality of combining A-League with ACL commitments.
The sole training session on Saturday morning was very sharp - to the players- credit - and that set the tone for the performance on Sunday.
So to come out of that week with three points against a desperate Brisbane Roar outfit shows the character, mentality and quality of our players.
It truly was a herculean performance and a result that put our season back on track and secured a coveted top-two spot that comes with the reward of a week off in the finals (at a time when we have further ACL commitments).
I-ve read this week that it was a nervous performance from us but I couldn-t disagree more.
We should have been 4-0 up by halftime on the back of some scintillating football but for some outstanding goalkeeping from Brisbane-s Michael Theo.
We took a 1-0 lead into the second half and had to defend both a very good football team and a howling wind coming directly off Brisbane Water into our face.
The wind picked up at half time just to makes matters a tad trickier for us - like we needed that as well!
There have been plenty of people quick to write us off since Western Sydney - who has not had to deal with ACL commitments - assumed top spot on the ladder but last week showed everyone how much desire, belief, energy and football we have in us.
Graham Arnold kept the tactical information very short and very much to the point - get back to our defensive structure and the rest will come. It was a masterstroke!
It was there for all to see that our “defensive structure” actually created five great chances in the opening 45 minutes!
So we now head to Adelaide tomorrow for Sunday-s game with our confidence restored and a normal week of preparation behind us.
The Reds are a dangerous side with the likes of Dario Vidosic and Geronimo Neumann capable of turning the match in the blink of an eye.
But the likes of Mariners counterparts Bernie Ibini-Isei, Daniel McBreen, Mitchell Duke and Nick Fitzgerald have looked very sharp this week on the training pitch.
It promises to be a fantastic game of football between two teams building towards the finals and I can assure you we are going there for all three points!
A quick congrats to goalkeeper Maty Ryan (Qantas Socceroos) and Mikey McGlinchey (NZ) on their national team call-ups this week - both fully deserved!