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Archive for March, 2019

Kevin Muscat’s test to lift players for derby as Melbourne Victory slump continues

Misplaced passes and mistimed tackles. Poor finishing and some heavy touches, a lack of the killer punch that has seen off so many opponents in the past two seasons.

It wasn’t pretty when Melbourne Victory crashed to their third successive defeat in Wednesday night’s A-League catch-up match against Perth Glory, the first time in years that the competition’s powerhouse team has lost three matches in a row.

Coach Kevin Muscat has got plenty to work on and not much time to get the job done before Saturday night’s big derby clash with the rampant Melbourne City at AAMI Park.

It’s just as well for Victory that form is said to fly out of the window when derby games come around, because they are currently stuck in a mini rut, while City are flying with three wins on the spin.

Whereas City have scored 14 goals and conceded just two in their last three matches, Victory have not scored once in the same time, 2-0 defeats in Wellington and Western Sydney preceding Wednesday night’s 1-0 reverse in Perth.

It’s rare for the light blues to go into the Victorian derby as favourites, but they surely will this Saturday night.

Still, this is the A-League, where form reversals are par for the course, and it doesn’t take much for a team to climb out of a slump and look like contenders.

Victory will be delighted to finally be playing on their own ground, albeit in an “away” fixture, and will take some solace from the fact that on the last three occasions the two teams have met – including the semi final last season – they have come out on top.

A month ago it was Victory riding high and for all the world looking like title favourites while City were treading water, excellent one day, dreadful the next.

But this is new territory for the bulk of the Victory players, who are only used to sustained success, and for Muscat as a coach, who has not had to cope with a run of losses like this in the two years since he took over from Ange Postecoglou.

There are mitigating circumstances. Victory have had a horror schedule and had to play their last three games on the road, including the two longest away trips of the season, away to Wellington and away to Perth.

They have had to do so without their captain Carl Valeri, whose importance to the team becomes more apparent with each game he misses.

And several of their key men are not in the best of form, principally Fahid Ben Khalfallah, who took the competition by storm last year, his first in .

Rashid Mahazi has come in for Valeri and put himself about in the centre of the park against Perth but might consider himself lucky not to have been dealt with more harshly after some heavy, late challenges.

Giancarlo Gallifuoco, the ex-Tottenham and Swansea youngster, came in for his debut at centre half in place of Matthieu Delpierre, the defensive talisman who took no part in proceedings.

The Olyroo defender will take time to adjust to the Victory pattern of play, but he was given a challenging evening by Perth’s 17-year-old striker Jamal Reiners, making his first ever start for the Glory.

For all of the travel, the loss of Valeri and the fact that Muscat wanted to rotate some of his squad, this was still a pretty strong team that Victory fielded, with all of its “fab four” attackers – Ben Khalfallah, Besart Berisha, Kosta Barbarouses and Gui Finkler – on the field.

But they struggled to create chances. The closest they came to scoring being the gilt-edged opportunity fashioned for Berisha from a fine move which ended with the Albanian front man lashing into the bar.

Muscat believes that his side should have at least come away with a point, but the reality is that they have now taken nothing from their last three matches and have dropped to fourth spot on the table, one place below City.

“There’s no way we should have lost that tonight. But if you don’t get that first goal there’s a chance you will pay the penalty and that’s exactly what happened tonight.” he said after the game.

To his credit Muscat refused to use the travel as an excuse and said his team had done enough to win the game if they had taken one of their few opportunities.

“For long periods of that game we were well in control, we completely dominated the first half. Chances were few and far between. In large the performance was good.

“It won’t be tough getting people up at all (for the derby). The toughest thing is putting in a performance that is worthy of three points.”

Monitoring performances, not results, has been Muscat’s mantra. It has served him well for the past two years, but on Saturday night there is no doubt that he would rather take three points from a poor performance and a lucky goal than play City off the park and lose again. In the end, it’s a results-oriented business.

DERBY FACTS  (source: FFA)

-Melbourne Victory have won each of the last three Melbourne derbies in the A-League, including play-offs, the longest streak of either side.

-Melbourne Victory have scored nine goals in their last three matches against Melbourne City, conceding only two in the process.

-Melbourne City have won the last two Melbourne derbies in the A-League regular season when playing as the home team, keeping clean sheets in both of those matches.

-Each Melbourne side has kept five clean sheets over 17 editions of the derby in the A-League, including play-offs.

-Melbourne City have won eight and drawn three of their last 13 home fixtures in the A-League, including a 5-1 victory over Perth in their last home appearance.

-Besart Berisha has scored six goals in the five games he has played against City, scoring a goal in each of the last three consecutive encounters.

-No team has had more shots in the A-League this season than Melbourne City.

-Melbourne Victory are the only team to have two different players (Finkler and Bozanic) both score a goal from a free kick.

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Under-fire Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold furious at being cited

Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold. Photo: Getty Images Having been cited again by Football Federation for his post-match comments, Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold has declared enough is enough and told the governing body to let him speak honestly – or risk having him keep his opinions to himself.

However, the former Socceroos coach has revealed that his use of the word “criminal” – the term the FFA objected to – was not in reference to the injury-time penalty awarded to Adelaide by referee Strebre Delovski but seeing his own team concede so late in the match.

“In my opinion, I think it’s wrong to be cited when people assume what I said. My whole sincerity, 100 percent, when I went into that press conference, and saying it was “criminal” how the game ended, I had one thing on my mind,” he said.

“When people assume different things [they make mistakes]. I have text messages of apologies from journalists who wrote it the other way.”

“We played for 65 minutes with 10 men. My players worked extremely hard and to concede the way we conceded, it’s not about the penalty.”

“To concede not in general play but to concede by a penalty which, in my opinion, was 50-50 whether it was a penalty or not. Referees either give them or they don’t and he gave the penalty.”

Arnold said the repeated warnings, fines and attacks from head office were taking their toll.

“Do you guys [the media] like me coming in here and giving one word answers? I’ve always been a person who fights for what I believe in.

“I will fight for my players, I will fight for my club and I’ve always been a person that’s had an opinion,” he said.

“I’m disappointed that you can be publicly bashed and cited publicly because someone assumed you said certain words in a certain way. I think that’s wrong.”

The club has already promised to fight the citation on behalf of Arnold with the FFA and the manager believes there needs to be clarification over what can and can’t be said.

“The B-side of the citing is me saying (in the press conference after the Adelaide match) that I’m not allowed to have an opinion. So now I’m being cited for not having an opinion,” he said.

“I had an opinion three weeks ago about Sutherland Shire [potential expansion team] and I got smashed by the [ex-FFA] chairman [Frank Lowy], so I don’t know. They need to clarify to me what I can and can’t say or what my opinion can and can’t be.”

Arnold said he had no problems with Delovski – “who I think is probably the best referee in the league” – and that he agreed with the decision to send off Sydney defender Alex Gersbach.

“I agree 100 per cent it was a red card. In my view, Strebre’s performance in Adelaide last week was very good,” he said.

“With young Alex, it’s a learning experience. He’s 18 years old, it’s his first red card ever. He had a rush of blood. He lost control of that ball in midfield and tried to get it back. You learn from those experiences. Did I come down on him? No I didn’t. He’s a kid and kids learn.”

The Sky Blues head to Wellington for a clash with the Phoenix on Saturday night but will do so without captain Alex Brosque, who is battling a hamstring injury.

“It’s high-risk if you take him now to New Zealand, with the travel side of it, as well as the game,” Arnold said. “And normally it’s much colder over there. We’ll look at having him ready for Boxing Day.”

Sydney are presently averaging just one goal per game and their coach admits it’s simply “not enough” to win matches.

“Publicly, I’ll always stand up for my players, but behind closed doors they get the truth. And the truth is we need to improve in the goal scoring department,” he said. “We’re creating plenty of chances but we’re not putting them away. One day we will and someone will cop a spanking.”

Despite having their lengthy regular season unbeaten streak snapped by the Reds last week, Arnold sees no reason they can’t get back on the winners’ list in New Zealand.

“My experiences of going to Wellington have always been good. I think I’ve lost only one game over there in all my time as a coach,” he said. “It’s an easy trip. The conditions are always good and it’s a beautiful stadium with a great surface to play on. It’s always a friendly atmosphere. You go across there with no real pressure and enjoy the occasion.”

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Chris Gayle: I’m not just here for a good time

Chris Gayle: ‘Players gravitate to me. I don’t know why. It’s always fun.’ Photo: Pat ScalaNot every day is Christmas.

When I get asked about what went wrong the last time I played in , for Sydney Thunder, that is my answer.

I have better things to do than look over my record (check my Instagram if you don’t believe me), but since I keep getting asked about that season a few years ago for Sydney Thunder then I don’t think I have a choice.

The media met me for the first time on Tuesday, the day after I arrived from Bangladesh to join Melbourne Renegades. I thought people had long memories, but it seems not. “What about your poor record in ?” I was asked. You missed my 215 in the World Cup in Canberra against Zimbabwe?

Ah, you mean Big Bash. That last time, sure. No arguments. I only got to 30 once in the season. But it hasn’t all been bad here.

I had a few big innings in the old Big Bash for Western , like 92 off 40 balls at the Gabba. And the first season at Thunder could not have started better. Even though I got bowled early in the first match David Warner got a hundred, and then I got a hundred in the next game –  and we won both matches.

Then he went on international duty. A lot was depending on myself to go out there and win games, which was always going to be tough. It can’t be a one-man team. You’ve got to have the camaraderie in the teams to help you win games. I made a 75, then 53, but we lost both games, and then my runs stopped too.

When I was back at Thunder the next year Warner had changed teams. I was bad in the first game, and the second, and the third … we kept losing, badly, and because I was not doing my job I was getting a lot of the blame. That was fine. I’m a cricketer. My job is to spend time out in the middle, and I wasn’t doing it.

I don’t mind taking the stick or the pressure, because I know how to deal with it. But for the younger players, like those at Thunder, it can be heartbreaking and some of them might not know how to deal with it. They might feel a bit stuffed up, that the media have actually targeted them.

Compared to that year, it was a relief to be back in Sydney the next year, even though I did not have a Big Bash contract. That was because I did not have to go through the same thing again, those bad times at Thunder.

I know people thought I was just in Sydney to party (which I get, as is the place to be in summer). But the reason I was back, when I was supposed to be playing in South Africa, was that my body would not let me.

I was in Sydney doing recovery. Recovery is always good here in . The infrastructure is good as well. You can’t get these sort of things in the Caribbean. You have to go where it’s best, and is one of those places. You get the best training, the best facilities, the best doctors and physios to look after you. It’s really important.

Once my body improved, so did my scores.

I have proven myself in the IPL. I have proven myself in the Caribbean Premier League. I also did it in England earlier this year. Once every one of those T20 comps finished, it made me even more convinced that bad second season at Thunder was not really Chris Gayle. What I have done in all the other years is the real me.

I’ve been in the game long enough now to know how to handle these things, to know when to put it aside and actually carry on with my career and try and be a better cricketer and a better person. I realised it can happen to anyone. Not every day is Christmas, so you won’t be able to score runs all the time everywhere around the world.

People say everything I do is about money. I get paid very well – and I deserve to – but it’s not the only reason I do things. If it was all about money would I really have gone to play in Zimbabwe in 2011? Some countries have difficulties, so you can’t be too harsh on them. If you’re there, other players can earn a lot from you. It’s a way of giving back to the game. That is why I signed for the Tuskers for that season.

It’s a big thing for them to have Chris Gayle in the dressing room. It’s huge. Wherever I go around the world I always have a big, big impact. Players gravitate to me. I don’t know why. It’s always fun. But whether it’s a big name or a small name it doesn’t matter. I treat everyone on the same level.

Bold personality: Chris Gayle. Photo: Getty Images

Wherever I go in the world I just want to make an impact, make sure I have done something spectacular. I want to do that for the Renegades.

It’s always exciting to play cricket here in . It’s one of the best places to be, and to play cricket. Summer in is fantastic.

For me, my Thunder time is done. I want to start afresh again, to rebound and put my best foot forward. I want to be a better person and a better cricketer, and share my experience with youngsters.

I’m not looking to target any bowlers, but I’m sure you’ve got some new, upcoming bowlers I haven’t seen who’ll be wanting to target me. I’m going to have to prepare and be ready for those I haven’t faced before.

I’m excited to be part of the Renegades, and want to make an impact as early as possible. It’s a great all-round team, so there shouldn’t be too much pressure on me batting at the top with Aaron Finch given his experience.

Hopefully I can give the fans what they want, which is entertainment.

Another bonus is playing with Dwayne Bravo. We first played for the West Indies together in 2004, but apart from international cricket we’ve always been on different Twenty20 teams. He’s always wanted to play with me, so it’s about time this has actually happened. We’re looking forward to it. We’re going to push very, very hard to make it to the final together – and win it.

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MCG security fence stems from ‘ugly’ reality of terrorism

Fence construction underway at the MCG. Photo: Daniel PockettThe decision to erect a security fence around the MCG stems from an “ugly” reality, according to Victoria Police assistant commissioner Stephen Leane.

The Melbourne Cricket Club and the police confirmed on Thursday morning a trial of a bag check and “wanding” of patrons at a fence 20-25 metres away from the ground. The measures will be enforced for this summer’s international cricket and Big Bash League seasons at the venue, with discussions in place with the AFL around the perimeter being preserved for the 2016 football season.

Mr Leane said that the police had been working with the MCC for more than a decade to try and improve security at the ground, with the latest development not a direct response to last month’s Paris terror attacks. He emphasised that the police were not aware of any credible threats around upcoming cricket matches at the ground.

Nevertheless, the primary aim of moving the screening process away from the stadium is to limit the loss of life in case of a bombing. The example of the the explosion outside Paris’ Stade de France, during November’s friendly between France and Germany, was noted by both Mr Leane, and MCC chief executive Stephen Gough during a press conference outside the MCG on Thursday morning.

“From a counter-terrorism point of view, the further away you can be from solid objects, the better outcome it’s going to be for the people around,” Mr Leane said.

“From that simple point of view it’s quite ugly to think through it, but it’s the reality.”

The extra measures will be seen for the first time this summer on Sunday as the Melbourne Stars host the Sydney Thunder in the BBL in front of an estimated 20,000 fans, a softer opening before the greater logistical challenge of next week’s Boxing Day Test between and the West Indies. This sort of arrangement is not, however, without precedent, with similar measures used during the 2006 Commonwealth Games.

Mr Leane said that fans should not face significant disruption. “It takes as long as it does to do a bag search,” he said.

Mr Gough said that private screening would be available for those that wanted it, while an express lane will also be in place for patrons who don’t bring bags. Fans will not require tickets to get through the security area, with ticket inspection to occur at the gate. Questioned on how the authorities would measure the trial’s success, Mr Gough said “success will be ensuring that we still get people into the ground and out after the event”. The fence is a temporary structure, and will come down between events this summer.

Mr Leane explained that while there were no concrete plans in place for heightened security at other Melbourne stadia, the success of the operation could shape security elsewhere.

The MCG was the subject of a foiled terror plot planned around the 2005 grand final, and Mr Gough agreed that the ground was clearly still an “obvious” target for terrorists. “We are iconic in , we are a mass gathering place, so if you look at the culture of we are a significant part of it,” Mr Gough said.

The fence will limit the venue’s parking capacity by around 15 per cent, although Mr Gough said that the disruption was mitigated by a trend towards greater public transport use by MCG spectators.

In another initiative, cars will be held back in the Yarra Park car park for up to 20 minutes, allowing fans on foot to use Brunton avenue. Mr Leane said he wanted to lessen the amount of people driving to the Boxing Day Test. “We really just don’t want people to drive. The issues around drinking and driving are really important for us. The safest and most expedient way to get here is on public transport.”

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Snowden youngsters warm up for Magic Millions

MAGIC: Capitalist confirmed its favouritism for the rich Gold Coast feature with a dominant win at Wyong on Thursday. THE Snowden stable has strengthened its grip on the two richest races of the summer with dominant winners in the Magic Millions lead-up races at Wyong.

Breeders’ Plate winner Capitalist more than justified his odds-on favouritism for Thursday’s $200,000 Magic Millions race at Wyong and cemented his place at the top of the market for the $2 million two-year-oldsClassic on January 9.

His dominant win came after his elder stablemate Flippant returned to form in the $100,000 Wyong Stakes to confirm her standing as a leading contender for the other $2 million race at the Gold Coast, the three- and four-year-oldGuineas.

With Blake Shinn riding confidently, Capitalist ($1.28) tracked the leaders into the straight before cruising to the front to beat new stablemate Niccolance, which joined Peter and Paul Snowden less than a week ago, by two and three-quarter lengths.

“To look at he tote board, you’d think it’s easy, but all races are hard to win,” Peter Snowden said.”It’s a good result. He had the perfect run and he did everything right.”

Shinn was a little more effusive than the always measured Snowden.

“He has the X-factor about him,” he said.”He oozes class and was always in control.He has a great attitude and a great action. I’m looking forward to the Gold Coast.”

Snowden was pleased and relieved to see Flippant return to form after she came out of an unplaced run in the Brian Crowley Stakes with cardiac arrhythmia.

Capitalist is at $1.90 to win at the Gold Coast while Flippant is $6 Guineas second favourite behind Mahuta.

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