Jonathan Howcroft

Author's details

Name: Jonathan Howcroft
Date registered: October 26, 2015
URL: http://www.theguardian.com/football/a-league

Latest posts

  1. A-League premiers plate proves Graham Arnold to be an oblique strategist | JP Howcroft — April 16, 2017
  2. Western Sydney emerge as unlikely title contenders with Antonis pulling strings | Jonathan Howcroft — April 2, 2017
  3. Melbourne City give reminder that for football to flourish it has to entertain | Jonathan Howcroft — March 19, 2017
  4. Graham Arnold the architect builds impressive Sydney FC machine | Jonathan Howcroft — March 5, 2017
  5. A-League is providing the thrills, but FFA’s inertia is cause for serious concern — February 12, 2017

Author's posts listings

Apr 16

A-League premiers plate proves Graham Arnold to be an oblique strategist | JP Howcroft

There is nothing much left to say about Sydney FC’s winningest A-League season, but Graham Arnold’s methods are worthy of unconventional appraisal

Congratulations Sydney FC. The runaway premiers enjoyed the first of what should be two presentation ceremonies this season on Saturday, hoisting the premiers plate aloft after a typically methodical dismantling of Newcastle Jets.

It’s good manners in moments like this to laud the best team in a competition, especially one a record margin ahead of its nearest challenger. But what more is there to say about the winningest team in an A-League season that hasn’t been said already? We’ve talked up the coach, drooled over the marquee No10, and marvelled at the collective ability to seize the moment. Anything else you care to factor into Sydney’s peerless achievement has been raised somewhere between October and now during the 27 unbroken weeks the Sky Blues have topped the ladder.

Related: A-League: 16 goals as Glory beat City and Brisbane pip Wellington

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2017/apr/17/a-league-premiers-plate-proves-graham-arnold-to-be-an-oblique-strategist

Apr 02

Western Sydney emerge as unlikely title contenders with Antonis pulling strings | Jonathan Howcroft

Heading into the finals, the Wanderers are the only team with both the current form and the head-to-head record to suggest Sydney FC can be stopped

Only Sydney FC have picked up more A-League points than Western Sydney Wanderers since Terry Antonis first appeared on one of Tony Popovic’s teamsheets. The three points earned in Newcastle on Saturday keep the Wanderers in the hunt for an Asian Champions League qualification spot, a remarkable turnaround after winning only two of their opening 15 matches.

The Bankstown-born Antonis, on loan from Greek Superleague side PAOK, is not the only variable to factor into the Wanderers’ upturn in fortunes. The anguine Vedran Janjetović has corrected a glaring pre-season oversight in goal, while Brendon Santalab’s finishing has deserved the many headlines. But it’s Antonis’s role greasing the wheels in between that has provided the platform for the Wanderers to emerge as an unlikely championship contender.

Related: Canberra City: a blueprint for current A-League expansion hopefuls | Joe Gorman

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/apr/03/western-sydney-emerge-as-unlikely-title-contenders-with-antonis-pulling-strings

Mar 19

Melbourne City give reminder that for football to flourish it has to entertain | Jonathan Howcroft

Watching City briefly reach a level comparable to last season brought home how many A-League teams have stagnated or declined year on year

On Saturday night, a funny thing happened: Melbourne City entertained their home crowd for a full 90 minutes. The 4-0 rout of Newcastle Jets was only the second time City have scored more than twice at AAMI Park this season and the first occasion they’ve won at home by more than a single goal.

Related: A-League: Tim Cahill sparks Melbourne City rout of Jets

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/mar/20/melbourne-city-give-reminder-that-for-football-to-flourish-it-has-to-entertain

Mar 05

Graham Arnold the architect builds impressive Sydney FC machine | Jonathan Howcroft

The Sky Blues coach deserves credit not only for his tactics but also his squad-assembling after his side effectively secured the A-League’s Premiers’ Plate

The best team in the A-League defeated the second-best on Friday night to, barring the most spectacular of late-season implosions, confirm the destination of the Premiers’ Plate. The premiers-elect have won the most games this season, scoring the most goals and conceding the fewest along the way. The latest win was the third time in 18 weeks Sydney FC have overcome Melbourne Victory.

Related: A-League: Bobo strike seals Sydney FC victory in Big Blue

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/mar/06/graham-arnold-the-architect-builds-impressivel-sydney-fc-machine

Feb 12

A-League is providing the thrills, but FFA’s inertia is cause for serious concern

A-League should be gearing up for all-action climax to the season, but the absence of hype is demoralising and momentum is being lost

Living near Australia’s east coast, the first thing I do in a morning is pour myself a steaming hot mug of bias. This fuels the daily search for A-League news, which consists of an exhaustive trawl through sources from Victoria all the way to New South Wales. But today, to my surprise, I was confronted by a disturbance in the force, the unavoidable presence of Perth Glory.

Under the cloak of west coast anonymity Glory have won four of their past six matches to move level on points with fourth-placed Melbourne City, just two behind next week’s visitors to nib Stadium and occupants of the third and final Asian Champions League qualification spot, Brisbane Roar. During this run Glory have scored at least twice in every match, culminating in the season’s biggest shellacking on Friday night.

Related: A-League: Castro nets twice as Perth Glory thrash Adelaide

Related: Sydney FC looking like A-League Invincibles after emphatic Phoenix win

Related: Depleted Melbourne City come back to earn draw against Brisbane Roar

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/feb/13/a-league-is-providing-the-thrills-but-ffas-inertia-is-cause-for-serious-concern

Jan 22

Sydney FC’s premiership procession rolls on while A-League falters

In a season for the true believers, the A-League delivered a round full of certainties, but there is a fine line between dependable and boring

Good old dependable A-League, there when we need it most. While a skittish world fixated on events in Washington D.C. Australia’s professional football league delivered a comforting round full of certainties.

Sydney FC won (of course), Adelaide United and Central Coast Mariners lost (as they’ve become accustomed to) and Melbourne Victory continued their miserable run of form against Perth Glory (now eight games without a win). There was an unjust game-changing red card, Liam Reddy saved another penalty, and Kenny Lowe rattled off enough post-match zingers to warrant his own Netflix stand-up special. Sweet reassuring familiarity.

Related: David Squires on … fan behaviour at the Sydney derby

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2017/jan/23/sydney-fcs-premiership-procession-rolls-on-while-a-league-falters

Jan 08

Michael Valkanis dressed for success on Melbourne City coaching debut | Jonathan Howcroft

The caretaker boss ditched his tracksuit as he took his bow in charge of City against Western Sydney – and the symbolism was impossible to ignore

Given the opportunity, would you be a tracksuit or a business suit football manager? This dilemma used to be a schoolyard staple, and I can recall arguing the relative merits of the unkempt groundsman look of Brian Clough, a man of the people in his green sweater, compared to say the aristocratic tailoring of George Graham, stiff-backed and dapper, on a state of permanent readiness for a royal visit.

A University of Portsmouth research team published a paper in the International Journal of Sport Psychology in 2010 investigating the competing merits of the two sartorial approaches on football teams. The lead researcher, Dr Richard Thelwell, revealed: “We have found that the clothing that coaches wear can have a direct effect on the players’ perceptions of the coach’s ability.

Related: Defenders shine for Melbourne City in victory over Western Sydney

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/jan/09/michael-valkanis-dressed-for-success-after-melbourne-city-coaching-debut

Dec 11

Melbourne Victory’s football made at times to look elegant in its simplicity | Jonathan Howcroft

The neatest build up play, dominance of possession and tactical nuance is irrelevant without a killer pass at the end of it

For the second time in a month Tony Popovic won the tactical battle against Kevin Muscat but lost the war. Two 3-0 scorelines in five rounds against the same opponent indicates a gulf in class, but in both encounters Western Sydney Wanderers enjoyed more possession, attempted more shots, and appeared the side in greater control of the mid-pitch exchanges. But history is written by the winners, and Melbourne Victory’s ruthless efficiency in front of goal is a story worth telling.

It’s a tale that will deservedly focus on Besart Berisha. The Albanian is the most decisive player in A-League history. At Brisbane Roar and now at Victory he has set a peerless goalscoring pace. On Saturday night he bagged a perfect hat-trick, one with his left foot, one with his right, and one with his head. It’s that header that excited me the most.

Related: Besart Berisha puts Wanderers to the sword, new Nix era starts brightly

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/dec/12/melbourne-victorys-football-made-at-times-to-look-elegant-in-its-simplicity

Nov 13

Can the real Wanderers please stand up: Western Sydney facing identity crisis | Jonathan Howcroft

This season’s team may sport the same crest on their shirts, but that’s about all they have in common with the side Tony Popovic created four years ago

Almost from day one Western Sydney Wanderers assumed a distinctive identity. Thanks to Tony Popovic the red and black hoops quickly came to represent hard work, organisation and resilience. Shinji Ono shone as a marquee playmaker but even he bought into Popovic’s mission. “We work tirelessly on our formation and our defence, and that all comes out of his mind,” the Japanese international said in 2013.

In their first A-League season the Wanderers conceded the fewest goals in the competition. The following year they conquered Asia through sheer bloody mindedness. This season’s squad may sport the same crest, but that’s about all they have in common.

Related: Debutant Max Beister seals Melbourne Victory win over Western Sydney

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/nov/14/can-the-real-wanderers-please-stand-up-western-sydney-facing-identity-crisis

Nov 06

The Big Blue: strutting alpha clubs in battle of wills as much as football | Jonathan Howcroft

The game was always going to be the first major test of Sydney FC’s campaign – one they passed – while it feels like Melbourne Victory’s season is yet to begin

Immediately after full-time, the post-match analysis of Saturday’s Big Blue began with a dissection of Rhyan Grant’s absent-mindedness in the buildup to Melbourne Victory’s goal. Shortly afterwards Sydney FC’s right-back was deservedly named the man of the match. It was a topsy-turvy night.

It was as much a battle of wills as it was football. A pair of strutting alpha clubs and their headstrong coaches refusing to take a backward step in an interstate pissing contest. But what at times may have seemed like posturing and hot air mattered nonetheless.

Related: David Carney double gets Sydney FC past Victory, Krishna fires Phoenix

Related: FFA to review pitchside equipment after Michael Zullo’s table collision

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/nov/07/the-big-blue-strutting-alpha-clubs-in-battle-of-wills-as-much-as-football

Oct 23

Kenny Lowe’s entertaining theatrics belie his clever gameplan for Perth Glory | Jonathan Howcroft

The coach will be reprimanded for setting a bad example against Melbourne City but these displays of passion are part of what makes sport so engrossing

Kenny Lowe’s one-man revue at AAMI Park on Friday night was a bravura performance – five stars. From the moment he took his seat on the Perth Glory bench to the final utterance of his post-match press conference, Lowe was compelling in a perfectly structured three-act show.

It opened with the wiry Teessider jigging about the touchline with the anxiety-riven demeanour of a man remembering, then forgetting, then remembering again that he’d locked his keys in his car – all the while braving Victoria’s wet and wintry conditions in just a polyester tracksuit top and business slacks.

Related: Ernie Merrick: the A-League’s elder statesman still burning for success | Richard Parkin

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/oct/24/kenny-lowes-entertaining-theatrics-belie-his-clever-gameplan-for-perth-glory

Oct 16

Tim Cahill in headlines but Neil Kilkenny really making Melbourne City tick | Jonathan Howcroft

The A-League debutant’s goal ensured he was centre-stage, but his less-celebrated fellow new arrival is emerging as key to the new, improved City

Tim Cahill deserves the headlines. Inside just 27 minutes of his A-League debut he delivered Football Federation Australia’s sizzle reel pitch to commercial free-to-air television. A single nonchalant swipe of his right boot making the hoo-ha surrounding his recruitment feel like an undersell. Believe the hype.

Luke Brattan deserves his $500 Officeworks-laminated ironically proportioned man of the match award. For the second game in a row Brattan was perpetual motion, passing and moving, passing and moving. Unfussy, unhurried, he does the simple things well and it’s pleasing he’s recognised for it.

Related: Tim Cahill’s debut brings Melbourne coaches together in admiration

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/oct/17/tim-cahill-in-headlines-but-neil-kilkenny-really-making-melbourne-city-tick

May 01

Adelaide United beat Western Sydney Wanderers in A-League grand final – as it happened

9.28am BST

Related: Adelaide United crowned A-League champions after grand final win over Western Sydney

9.28am BST

That’s probably all you need to know from me for now. Thank you for joining us at Guardian Australia today, and throughout the season. It’s been a belter.

9.25am BST

And it’s Eugene Galekovic who receives the trophy from the FFA chairman. He makes a little speech beforehand, referencing the perilous position of his team after round eight, and then eschews the traditional platform to join his team-mates in front of a perfect photo-op and hoists the golden toilet side into the air.

“Campiones, campiones ole ole ole!” rings out as golden confetti spurts out over the players.

9.20am BST

Nikolai Topor-Stanley said a few words on behalf of his team. Poor bloke must be devastated.

Adelaide’s players now receiving their medals, Michael Marrone on crutches.

9.18am BST

This one was never in doubt from the moment the Spaniard’s free kick sent Adelaide two-nil up. His performance was more than just one swing of the boot though. Defensively he was vital, intercepting, tackling, disrupting. Going forward he kept Adelaide in motion, albeit without their regular fluency.

9.16am BST

It was gripping, breathless, and not entirely according to script. Neither side really asserted their preferred playing style on the match but a marvellous spectacle ensued regardless.

Western Sydney Wanderers gave their all but lacked composure in the final third to convert their rapid and frequent attacks into clear threats on goal. A third grand final goes begging for Tony Popovic.

9.09am BST

Scenes of jubilation around Adelaide Oval. Delirious supporters, captain Eugene Galekovic in tears, leader Bruce Djite celebrating his special ‘family’.

Winnahs!!! #ALeagueGF #COYR #ADLvWSW @TheAdelaideOval pic.twitter.com/jL6VTppgms

9.04am BST

Ladies and gentlemen, Adelaide United are your A-League champions.

9.03am BST

92 min: Adelaide Oval is rocking now. Victory is secured. The premiers become champions. They were made to work in the second half but they rode their luck and fought back in style.

9.01am BST

Game over! Pablo Sanchez seals it for Adelaide United. An unerring strike past Redmayne inside the box. There was nothing on until the substitute robbed Baccus on the edge of the penalty area, strode forward and smashed home the winner.

WATCH @AdelaideUnited BECOME 1ST TIME CHAMPIONS OF AUSTRALIA!Sanchez sealed the 3-1 epic victory #ALeagueGF #ADLvWSW https://t.co/zQ4Wj0pTGQ

8.59am BST

90 min: A minimum of three minutes of added time to be played.

8.59am BST

89 min: Kamau remains Adelaide’s outlet on the break and he’s run his socks off to help his team hem the Wanderers in towards the right-hand corner flag. Not long left for the visitors now.

8.57am BST

87 min: Mauk fires in a snapshot from the edge of the box that fizzes past Redmayne’s left-hand post. Wanderers still pressing, still on top, but Adelaide resisting.

Unreal atmosphere #ALeagueGF pic.twitter.com/Xy1IeWuJQX

8.55am BST

85 min: Baccus has done well since he came on and his crisp through ball reaches Castelen and he forces a corner. Dimas takes it and Topor-Stanley thumps a good header goalwards that’s dealt with by the safe hands of Galekovic.

Pablo Sanchez replaces Marcelo Carrusca for Adelaide.

8.52am BST

81 min: Dimas the latest Wanderer into the book, probably more for his explosive reaction to being adjudged to have fouled Goodwin. Another chance for Adelaide to break up the play.

It almost leads to a goal too as Carrusca whips in a cross that Redmayne struggles to deal with. Kamau then goes to ground far too easily again and the Wanderers escape.

8.49am BST

79 min: Pressure relieving corner for Adelaide and Carrusca milks the clock to stem the flow. The header from the dangerous delivery flies behind. Final 10 minutes of a gripping game.

8.48am BST

77 min: 88%-12% possession in favour of Western Sydney over the last five minutes. It hasn’t converted to goals yet though as another chance goes begging. This time Neville’s pullback trickles agonisingly through the Adelaide box.

Andreu off for Kearyn Baccus – second Wanderers substitution.

8.46am BST

75 min: Adelaide can’t retain possession high up the field. Kamau the latest to be bullied off the ball. Consequently the ball keeps heading back at speed, carried by a man in white. Vidosic and Bridge are increasingly influential. Castelen is seeing plenty of the ball but he’s not been as penetrating as he was against Brisbane, so far…

8.43am BST

73 min: Substitution for Adelaide. Elrich a more than handy replacement for the injured Marrone. Amor will presumably instruct the Socceroo to push his defence up the field. They are sliding further and further to wards Galekovic and inviting the Wanderers to attack them.

8.42am BST

72 min: Proper cup tie stuff now. The crowd at fever pitch. Adelaide panicky in possession. Wanderers pressing. Glorious theatre.

8.40am BST

70 min: Disallowed goal for Adelaide! Corner from the right leads to a scramble and the ball ricochets its way in but the linesman’s flag is up for offside. It looks debatable. Cirio adjudged to be offside and interfering with play while he was on the ground nearby Redmayne. Replays confirm a brilliant call from the assistant referee. It took eagle eyes and bravery to make that call, credit where it’s due.

8.38am BST

69 min: Backs to the wall by Adelaide. One punch away from a knockout just 10 minutes ago, now they’re fighting to remain ahead.

Chances are coming at both ends though as the game stretches. Djite almost scores from a deep cross from the left but his header is repelled by Redmayne scrambling towards his far post. This is dynamic stuff now.

8.37am BST

67 min: Another Wanderers attack leads to a half chance for Castelen and his volleyed effort forces a corner. Jamieson again can’t beat the first defender. Double forfeit for him for a second offence.

The full-back has a chance to redeem himself in open play but his first-time cross just eludes the leaping Santalab, the return ball finds Vidosic but he heads tamely towards Galekovic.

8.35am BST

64 min: Vidosic is stationed on the left with Bridge occupying the number 10 role vacated by Nichols. The change has worked too with pockets of space opening up all over the place.

The space is also there for Adelaide too and Cirio exploits it, speeding towards the Wanderers’ penalty area only to be met with a sumptuous tackle from Alberto. think Bobby Moore versus Pele in the 1970 World Cup.

8.32am BST

It’s a full house…

61’ | CROWD | It’s a massive Adelaide Oval crowd for the GF! 50,119 are watching this pulsating clash. 2-1 #ALeagueGF #BeautifulGame

8.32am BST

61 min: Suddenly everything has changed. Wanderers are breaking through midfield at pace. Castelen the latest to fashion a chance. The energy levels have upped from the visitors and they’re somehow finding space where none could be located in the first half.

8.30am BST

Here come @wswanderersfc! #ALeagueGF pic.twitter.com/MhGPikV12g

8.29am BST

Wallop! Out of nowhere the Wanderers have one back. A small period of pressure sees Castelen and Santalab link up well on the right and feed Scott Neville to smash home his first goal for the club, arrowing one across Galekovic into the top corner.

The comeback is on again!

8.26am BST

56 min: When Western Sydney look like mounting an attack a red shirt always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Both full-backs have made telling tackles and Isaias is shepherding everything at the base of midfield. It would take something special to deny the Spaniard the Joe Marston Medal you’d think.

Vidosic on – Nichols off. Popovic has made his first move (maybe he’s been reading this blog?).

8.23am BST

54 min: The visitors are on the ropes. Adelaide are relentless. Attack after attack since half-time met with nervous clearances. Can United deliver the knockout blow?

8.22am BST

52 min: Good example of Amor’s tactical success. Goodwin forcing Castelen to defend in his own corner, not once but twice, and eventually Djite spins in the box to fire in a shot that runs out for a corner. Not a great sign for Popovic if that head to head down the Western Sydney right is in such defensive territory.

8.20am BST

Commentators in love with Adelaide Oval but it looks like the absolute worst place to watch with rectangular field. #ADLvWSW #ALeagueGF

8.20am BST

49 min: During the interval the lights took hold at Adelaide Oval and the glare and shadows of the first half are no more.

All Adelaide in these opening exchanges, Redmayne forced into another save, this time from Cirio, after a good move down the right. Jamieson is unimpressed and whacks Isaias to become the third Wanderer in Gillett’s notebook.

8.17am BST

47 min: No changes from either coach at the break.

The second period begins at a much more acceptable pace than the first. United take advantage and Mauk shoots from distance forcing a save from Redmayne.

8.15am BST

Second half underway at Adelaide Oval.

8.15am BST

Some half-time news for you. It appears the South Australian border does not screen for idiots.

Related: Western Sydney facing points deduction after flare lit at A-League grand final

8.14am BST

I know you’re all thinking, “what would Howcroft do at half-time?” Well, funny you should ask.

If I was Amor, I’d do very little. I’d probably tell Mauk to sit closer to Isaias and not allow Western Sydney to overrun them in midfield.

8.04am BST

By the way, if you’re following this along with the delayed coverage on SBS, welcome to the future. If only Australian broadcasting regulations would join us there.

8.02am BST

I’ve still got #WSW ahead on inside 50s if that helps. #ALeagueGF @JPHowcroft

There’s only one stat that matters, and that’s the one on the glorious old scoreboard behind the goal Adelaide United found twice.

8.00am BST

A decisive first half for Adelaide United. A feisty contest without much composure changed after 22 minutes when Kamau finished off Carrusca’s good work. One of the all-time grand final highlights followed 12 minutes later with Isaias’ free kick putting daylight between the best two teams in the A-League.

Wanderers have looked lively, getting behind United on a number of occasions but their final ball has been disappointing. Plenty for Popovic to think about during the interval.

7.56am BST

45 min: What should Popovic do? And when?

He’ll welcome half-time and a chance to tell Castelen to be more direct. Again the winger dithers after he’d looked like he’d beaten his man.

7.55am BST

43 min: The ball is hot again in midfield, neither side owning it for any length of time. When Adelaide do string passes together they look dangerous though, almost getting in behind Jamieson.

7.52am BST

41 min: Chances for Adelaide. Isaias is starting to run the midfield and his trickery feeds Djite and his power creates space in the area but his cross fails to hit its target, Mauk shooting over from the clearance.

Andreu the second name in the book for a bad foul on Djite.

7.50am BST

39 min: Wanderers are still creating half chances but their composure is letting them down, Castelen this time not appraising the situation effectively.

7.49am BST

WOW! #ALeagueGF pic.twitter.com/ID0BjVfVYH

7.48am BST

Spot on Phil…

@JPHowcroft The main difference for WSW this week is that Adelaide can actually defend

7.48am BST

36 min: That was a strike befitting the venue and the occasion. Nothing Redmayne could do about it. Can the Wanderers get out of jail again? It will be much harder against the league’s best defence.

7.46am BST

Well… We did it last week #WSW #ALeagueGF

7.46am BST

Isaias steps up, wraps his right boot around the ball and sends it arcing over the wall, past the post, and into the side netting of Redmayne’s goal. Centimetre perfect from the Spaniard.

7.44am BST

33 min: Kamau tripped on the edge of the D by Topor-Stanley. First yellow card of the game and a free-kick in a very dangerous situation.

7.43am BST

31 min: Suggestions the ball’s bobbling a little on the Adelaide Oval surface. Not that Castelen seems to mind, dribbling with purpose past Goodwin and into the box. A corner results that again fails to beat the first man, Dimas the culprit.

An immediate corner is much better and loops to the edge of the six yard box in the centre of goal but Santalab can’t steer his stooping header on target. ONe of those chances that looks tough at full speed but wasteful in slow motion.

7.41am BST

#ADLvWSW 1-0 Kamau 22′, first goal by an Adelaide team in a grand final since 1 May 1994 – exactly 22 years ago @aleague #ALeagueGF

7.40am BST

29 min: It’s now Western Sydney that are attacking with speed, Adelaide more methodical in possession, defending their lead. The visitors look like creating chances when they break but the final ball has so far evaded their forward targets. Neither side really operating as you might have imagined pregame. Both midfields pressuring the six role, forcing the fullbacks to play the first release pass.

7.38am BST

Brilliant play Carrusca, started the move & final delivery perfect – classy finish Kamau. Great atmosphere at the ground. #ALeagueGF

7.38am BST

26 min: Chance for Wanderers! Excellent breakaway down the left and the cross just eludes the diving Santalab at the far post. This has livened up nicely in recent minutes.

Amor can feel satisfied with Kamau’s goal. Had he opted to select Elrich at left-back, Kamau would have been the likely started shuffled out.

7.36am BST

24 min: An early home goal is perfect for the spectacle. The Wanderers were disrupting play successfully in the early exchanges, now they’ll have to commit to attacking.

By the way, that’s the second fastest grand final goal and just the sixth first-half effort in the decider.

7.33am BST

Adelaide Oval erupts as Bruce Kamau opens the scoring. A lovely move down the left sees Carrusca in behind the Wanderers’ defence. His cross is perfectly timed for the onrushing Kamau to nip in front of his marker and steer past Redmayne.

22′ | GOALLLL BRUCE KAMAU! @chelocarrusca with way too much space down the left for a well-timed cross and finish. 1-0! #ADLvWSW #ALeagueGF

7.32am BST

21 min: Corner to Wanderers now and a better set-piece finds Santalab who volleys acrobatically over the bar.

Who do we sing for?! #WSW pic.twitter.com/Lx36dsVS1i

7.30am BST

19 min: Another unnecessary corner conceded, this time by Scott Jamieson. A dreadful short corner routine comes to nought though, despite some penalty area pinball from the second and third phase play.

Good refereeing from Gillett allows an advantage to the counterattacking Wanderers but Mark Bridge’s final ball fails to hit a target.

7.28am BST

17 min: Wanderers will be the happier of the two sides so far. The broken nature of the midfield battle has denied United any time on the ball. They’re not going to suffer the same fate as Melbourne City.

7.26am BST

15 min: Pinball in midfield pretty much the pattern of the opening quarter of an hour. This one still waiting for the adrenaline to ebb away and a real football match to materialise.

7.24am BST

13 min: Some nervy defending from Adelaide gifts Western Sydney a corner but it doesn’t beat the first man. If I ruled the world that would be an immediate forfeit for the corner taker. Maybe ten press-ups, or being prevented from having their parting shaved into their head for the rest of the year.

7.23am BST

12 min: Can we call a brace of Bruces, Bruci?

7.22am BST

11 min: Adelaide attacking as quickly as they can, looking for both Bruces with long passes. One almost reaches Djite but Alberto manages to hook a despairing leg around the ball to clear.

7.19am BST

8 min: This one hasn’t settled down yet. Lots of misplaced passes, poor control and plenty of physical contact. Both teams leaving boots in, throwing elbows around and making sure their presence is being felt. Needs a cool head or two to calm this one down.

7.18am BST

6 min: First corner of the game goes to the home side and it’s a decent delivery from Carrusca that Redmayne does well to punch clear.

Santalab almost breaks the United offside trap. For the second time today Adelaide’s high line has looked vulnerable. Almost immediately afterwards Santalab clatters Sergio Cirio and receives a stern talking to. In twenty minutes that will be a booking.

7.15am BST

4 min: First chance of the game goes to the away team and they butcher it. A counterattack ends with a three on two and Nichols in possession but he picks the wrong option in Castelen and his shot blazes over. Warning signs for the United back four.

7.13am BST

2 min: If you’re interested in this sort of thing, Adelaide are kicking towards the Cathedral End, the one with the old scoreboard, which means the Wanderers are attacking the Bradman Stand end.

The pitch is partly in shadow, particularly the right-back region of the Wanderers’ half of the pitch. There is the potential for the low sun to be an issue for the goalkeepers.

7.11am BST

Jarred Gillett’s whistle pierces the air and heralds the final kick off of the A-League season.

Vamos!

7.09am BST

What an occasion #ALeagueGF pic.twitter.com/MoO160TsRm

7.08am BST

Bonnie Anderson with the national anthem – and it’s a solid, unfussy, a cappella affair. It ends, of course, with a huge roar from the crowd.

7.05am BST

Just a couple of minutes away from kick-off at Adelaide Oval and it is an impressive scene. A beautiful stadium packed to the rafters with plenty of away fans contributing to the atmosphere.

As you’d expect, United are in all red with a yellow trim, Wanderers in their away kit of white shirts, black shorts and white socks.

6.56am BST

OK, time to put my reputation on the line…

I’m tipping Adelaide United 1-0 with a second-half winner. Stefan Mauk to win the Joe Marston Medal.

6.50am BST

Where do you think the grand final will be won and lost? Here’s a selection of areas I’ll be looking out for.

6.34am BST

Adelaide oval looks and sounds tremendous! #ALeagueGF #sbsaleague pic.twitter.com/G9g5qiqkop

6.30am BST

Conditions are perfect for football in Adelaide today. The sun is shining, the temperature will be around 18C throughout and the light westerly breeze will die down after kick off.

Football posts in front of that famous, beautiful scoreboard. Feels right. #ALeagueGF pic.twitter.com/9GNcnSlGrH

6.22am BST

Grand final stat attack:

6.19am BST

Less than an hour to go. It’s the (grand) final countdown.

6.16am BST

Your referee today is Jarred Gillett.

6.07am BST

So this is Autumn in Adelaide. ⚽️ #ALeagueGF pic.twitter.com/bPUgX3spv5

6.05am BST

Tony Popovic is also sticking with a winning formula, backing the XI that did the business against Brisbane Roar. That means injury doubts over Mitch Nichols have been allayed and semi-final hero Dario Vidosic will have to make do with a place on the bench.

Bench: Liam Reddy (GK), Brendan Hamill, Kearyn Baccus, Shannon Cole, Dario Vidosic #WSW #ALGrandFinal

5.56am BST

No news is good news for Adelaide United with the home side unchanged for the fifth match in row. Arguably the only decision Guillermo Amor had to make was over Tarek Elrich’s involvement at left-back but a winning team has not been tinkered with.

Structurally this should play out as a 4-1-1-1-3 with Stefan Mauk linking Isaias and Marcello Carrusca in midfield.

#AUFC SUBS: Pablo Sanchez, Mells, Hall (RGK), Elrich, Elsey #ADLvWSW #ALeagueGF #ForeverUnited

5.46am BST

Remember, this is more fun for everyone when you join in and interrupt my rambling stream of consciousness. Dropping me a line on Twitter – @JPHowcroft – is the easiest way to see your thoughts in print. If you require more than 140 characters, send an email to jonathan.howcroft.freelance@guardian.co.uk.

5.42am BST

Western Sydney Wanderers kicked off the 2015-16 A-League season way back on a Thursday night in early October. They lost 3-1 at home to Brisbane Roar. The following evening Adelaide United hosted Melbourne Victory in a forgettable 0-0 draw. Twenty-six rounds and four playoff matches later the best two teams in the competition will go head to head to decide this year’s champions.

If you have a confident prediction for who’s going to leave Adelaide Oval with the toilet seat, you’re either clairvoyant or bluffing. It’s hard to imagine a match-up of professional football teams anywhere in the world being this close. All three matches between the pair this season have ended in draws, the most recent two goalless ones. Historically the record is even too with four wins apiece, balanced by four draws. In their 28 games both have scored 49 goals. They were separated on the ladder by just one point.

5.37am BST

Hey ho, let’s go!

6.49am BST

JP Howcroft will be with you shortly but in the meantime, check out David Squires’ grand final preview cartoon. It’s another screamer.

Related: David Squires on … the 2016 A-League grand final

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article: http://www.theguardian.com/football/live/2016/may/01/a-league-grand-final-adelaide-united-v-western-sydney-wanderers-live

May 01

Adelaide United beat Western Sydney Wanderers in A-League grand final – as it happened

9.28am BST

Related: Adelaide United crowned A-League champions after grand final win over Western Sydney

9.28am BST

That’s probably all you need to know from me for now. Thank you for joining me and the rest of the Guardian crew today, and throughout the season. It’s been a belter.

9.25am BST

And it’s Eugene Galekovic who receives the trophy from the FFA Chairman. He makes a little speech beforehand, referencing the perilous position of his team after round eight, and then joins his teammates on front of a perfect photo-op and hoists the golden toilet side into the air.

Campiones, campiones ole ole ole rings out as golden confetti spurts out over the players.

9.20am BST

Adelaide’s players receiving their medals, Michael Marrone on crutches. Nikolai Topor-Stanley said a few words on behalf of his team. Poor bloke must be devastated. Simon Lowy looks a lot surer footed on the dais than his old man.

9.18am BST

This one was never in doubt from the moment the Spaniard’s free kick sent Adelaide two-nil up. His performance was more than just one swing of the boot though. Defensively he was vital, intercepting, tackling, disrupting. Going forward he kept Adelaide in motion, albeit without their regular fluency.

9.16am BST

It was gripping, breathless, and not according to script. Neither side really asserted their preferred playing style onto the match but a marvellous spectacle ensued regardless.

After two previous grand final defeats Adelaide United finally tasted victory courtesy of two moments of first half brilliance. The second, from Isaias, was the standout incident of the game.

9.09am BST

Scenes of jubilation around Adelaide Oval. Delirious supporters, captain Eugene Galekovic in tears, leader Bruce Djite celebrating his special ‘family’.

Winnahs!!! #ALeagueGF #COYR #ADLvWSW @TheAdelaideOval pic.twitter.com/jL6VTppgms

9.04am BST

Ladies and gentlemen, Adelaide United are your A-League champions.

9.03am BST

92 min: Adelaide Oval is rocking now. Victory is secured. The premiers become champions. They were made to work in the second half but they rode their luck and fought back in style.

9.01am BST

Game over! Pablo Sanchez seals it for Adelaide United. An unerring strike past Redmayne inside the box. There was nothing on until the substitute robbed Baccus on the edge of the penalty area, strode forward and smashed home the winner.

WATCH @AdelaideUnited BECOME 1ST TIME CHAMPIONS OF AUSTRALIA!Sanchez sealed the 3-1 epic victory #ALeagueGF #ADLvWSW https://t.co/zQ4Wj0pTGQ

8.59am BST

90 min: A minimum of three minutes of added time to be played.

8.59am BST

89 min: Kamau remains Adelaide’s outlet on the break and he’s run his socks off to help his team hem the Wanderers in towards the right-hand corner flag. NOt long left for the visitors now.

8.57am BST

87 min: Mauk fires in a snapshot from the edge of the box that fizzes past Redmayne’s left-hand post. Wanderers still pressing, still on top, but Adelaide resisting.

Unreal atmosphere #ALeagueGF pic.twitter.com/Xy1IeWuJQX

8.55am BST

85 min: Baccus has done well since he came on and his crisp through ball reaches Castelen and he forces a corner. Dimas takes it and Topor-Stanley thumps a good header goalwards that’s dealt with by the safe hands of Galekovic.

Pablo Sanchez replaces Marcelo Carrusca for Adelaide.

8.52am BST

81 min: Dimas the latest Wanderer into the book, probably more for his explosive reaction to being adjudged to have fouled Goodwin. Another chance for Adelaide to break up the play.

It almost leads to a goal too as Carrusca whips in a cross that Redmayne struggles to deal with. Kamau then goes to ground far too easily again and the Wanderers escape.

8.49am BST

79 min: Pressure relieving corner for Adelaide and Carrusca milks the clock to stem the flow. The header from the dangerous delivery flies behind. Final 10 minutes of a gripping game.

8.48am BST

77 min: 88%-12% possession in favour of Western Sydney over the last five minutes. It hasn’t converted to goals yet though as another chance goes begging. This time Neville’s pullback trickles agonisingly through the Adelaide box.

Andreu off for Kearyn Baccus – second Wanderers substitution.

8.46am BST

75 min: Adelaide can’t retain possession high up the field. Kamau the latest to be bullied off the ball. Consequently the ball keeps heading back at speed, carried by a man in white. Vidosic and Bridge are increasingly influential. Castelen is seeing plenty of the ball but he’s not been as penetrating as he was against Brisbane, so far…

8.43am BST

73 min: Substitution for Adelaide. Elrich a more than handy replacement for the injured Marrone. Amor will presumably instruct the Socceroo to push his defence up the field. They are sliding further and further to wards Galekovic and inviting the Wanderers to attack them.

8.42am BST

72 min: Proper cup tie stuff now. The crowd at fever pitch. Adelaide panicky in possession. Wanderers pressing. Glorious theatre.

8.40am BST

70 min: Disallowed goal for Adelaide! Corner from the right leads to a scramble and the ball ricochets its way in but the linesman’s flag is up for offside. It looks debatable. Cirio adjudged to be offside and interfering with play while he was on the ground nearby Redmayne. Replays confirm a brilliant call from the assistant referee. It took eagle eyes and bravery to make that call, credit where it’s due.

8.38am BST

69 min: Backs to the wall by Adelaide. One punch away from a knockout just 10 minutes ago, now they’re fighting to remain ahead.

Chances are coming at both ends though as the game stretches. Djite almost scores from a deep cross from the left but his header is repelled by Redmayne scrambling towards his far post. This is dynamic stuff now.

8.37am BST

67 min: Another Wanderers attack leads to a half chance for Castelen and his volleyed effort forces a corner. Jamieson again can’t beat the first defender. Double forfeit for him for a second offence.

The full-back has a chance to redeem himself in open play but his first-time cross just eludes the leaping Santalab, the return ball finds Vidosic but he heads tamely towards Galekovic.

8.35am BST

64 min: Vidosic is stationed on the left with Bridge occupying the number 10 role vacated by Nichols. The change has worked too with pockets of space opening up all over the place.

The space is also there for Adelaide too and Cirio exploits it, speeding towards the Wanderers’ penalty area only to be met with a sumptuous tackle from Alberto. think Bobby Moore versus Pele in the 1970 World Cup.

8.32am BST

It’s a full house…

61’ | CROWD | It’s a massive Adelaide Oval crowd for the GF! 50,119 are watching this pulsating clash. 2-1 #ALeagueGF #BeautifulGame

8.32am BST

61 min: Suddenly everything has changed. Wanderers are breaking through midfield at pace. Castelen the latest to fashion a chance. The energy levels have upped from the visitors and they’re somehow finding space where none could be located in the first half.

8.30am BST

Here come @wswanderersfc! #ALeagueGF pic.twitter.com/MhGPikV12g

8.29am BST

Wallop! Out of nowhere the Wanderers have one back. A small period of pressure sees Castelen and Santalab link up well on the right and feed Scott Neville to smash home his first goal for the club, arrowing one across Galekovic into the top corner.

The comeback is on again!

8.26am BST

56 min: When Western Sydney look like mounting an attack a red shirt always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Both full-backs have made telling tackles and Isaias is shepherding everything at the base of midfield. It would take something special to deny the Spaniard the Joe Marston Medal you’d think.

Vidosic on – Nichols off. Popovic has made his first move (maybe he’s been reading this blog?).

8.23am BST

54 min: The visitors are on the ropes. Adelaide are relentless. Attack after attack since half-time met with nervous clearances. Can United deliver the knockout blow?

8.22am BST

52 min: Good example of Amor’s tactical success. Goodwin forcing Castelen to defend in his own corner, not once but twice, and eventually Djite spins in the box to fire in a shot that runs out for a corner. Not a great sign for Popovic if that head to head down the Western Sydney right is in such defensive territory.

8.20am BST

Commentators in love with Adelaide Oval but it looks like the absolute worst place to watch with rectangular field. #ADLvWSW #ALeagueGF

8.20am BST

49 min: During the interval the lights took hold at Adelaide Oval and the glare and shadows of the first half are no more.

All Adelaide in these opening exchanges, Redmayne forced into another save, this time from Cirio, after a good move down the right. Jamieson is unimpressed and whacks Isaias to become the third Wanderer in Gillett’s notebook.

8.17am BST

47 min: No changes from either coach at the break.

The second period begins at a much more acceptable pace than the first. United take advantage and Mauk shoots from distance forcing a save from Redmayne.

8.15am BST

Second half underway at Adelaide Oval.

8.15am BST

Some half-time news for you. It appears the South Australian border does not screen for idiots.

Related: Western Sydney facing points deduction after flare lit at A-League grand final

8.14am BST

I know you’re all thinking, “what would Howcroft do at half-time?” Well, funny you should ask.

If I was Amor, I’d do very little. I’d probably tell Mauk to sit closer to Isaias and not allow Western Sydney to overrun them in midfield.

8.04am BST

By the way, if you’re following this along with the delayed coverage on SBS, welcome to the future. If only Australian broadcasting regulations would join us there.

8.02am BST

I’ve still got #WSW ahead on inside 50s if that helps. #ALeagueGF @JPHowcroft

There’s only one stat that matters, and that’s the one on the glorious old scoreboard behind the goal Adelaide United found twice.

8.00am BST

A decisive first half for Adelaide United. A feisty contest without much composure changed after 22 minutes when Kamau finished off Carrusca’s good work. One of the all-time grand final highlights followed 12 minutes later with Isaias’ free kick putting daylight between the best two teams in the A-League.

Wanderers have looked lively, getting behind United on a number of occasions but their final ball has been disappointing. Plenty for Popovic to think about during the interval.

7.56am BST

45 min: What should Popovic do? And when?

He’ll welcome half-time and a chance to tell Castelen to be more direct. Again the winger dithers after he’d looked like he’d beaten his man.

7.55am BST

43 min: The ball is hot again in midfield, neither side owning it for any length of time. When Adelaide do string passes together they look dangerous though, almost getting in behind Jamieson.

7.52am BST

41 min: Chances for Adelaide. Isaias is starting to run the midfield and his trickery feeds Djite and his power creates space in the area but his cross fails to hit its target, Mauk shooting over from the clearance.

Andreu the second name in the book for a bad foul on Djite.

7.50am BST

39 min: Wanderers are still creating half chances but their composure is letting them down, Castelen this time not appraising the situation effectively.

7.49am BST

WOW! #ALeagueGF pic.twitter.com/ID0BjVfVYH

7.48am BST

Spot on Phil…

@JPHowcroft The main difference for WSW this week is that Adelaide can actually defend

7.48am BST

36 min: That was a strike befitting the venue and the occasion. Nothing Redmayne could do about it. Can the Wanderers get out of jail again? It will be much harder against the league’s best defence.

7.46am BST

Well… We did it last week #WSW #ALeagueGF

7.46am BST

Isaias steps up, wraps his right boot around the ball and sends it arcing over the wall, past the post, and into the side netting of Redmayne’s goal. Centimetre perfect from the Spaniard.

7.44am BST

33 min: Kamau tripped on the edge of the D by Topor-Stanley. First yellow card of the game and a free-kick in a very dangerous situation.

7.43am BST

31 min: Suggestions the ball’s bobbling a little on the Adelaide Oval surface. Not that Castelen seems to mind, dribbling with purpose past Goodwin and into the box. A corner results that again fails to beat the first man, Dimas the culprit.

An immediate corner is much better and loops to the edge of the six yard box in the centre of goal but Santalab can’t steer his stooping header on target. ONe of those chances that looks tough at full speed but wasteful in slow motion.

7.41am BST

#ADLvWSW 1-0 Kamau 22′, first goal by an Adelaide team in a grand final since 1 May 1994 – exactly 22 years ago @aleague #ALeagueGF

7.40am BST

29 min: It’s now Western Sydney that are attacking with speed, Adelaide more methodical in possession, defending their lead. The visitors look like creating chances when they break but the final ball has so far evaded their forward targets. Neither side really operating as you might have imagined pregame. Both midfields pressuring the six role, forcing the fullbacks to play the first release pass.

7.38am BST

Brilliant play Carrusca, started the move & final delivery perfect – classy finish Kamau. Great atmosphere at the ground. #ALeagueGF

7.38am BST

26 min: Chance for Wanderers! Excellent breakaway down the left and the cross just eludes the diving Santalab at the far post. This has livened up nicely in recent minutes.

Amor can feel satisfied with Kamau’s goal. Had he opted to select Elrich at left-back, Kamau would have been the likely started shuffled out.

7.36am BST

24 min: An early home goal is perfect for the spectacle. The Wanderers were disrupting play successfully in the early exchanges, now they’ll have to commit to attacking.

By the way, that’s the second fastest grand final goal and just the sixth first-half effort in the decider.

7.33am BST

Adelaide Oval erupts as Bruce Kamau opens the scoring. A lovely move down the left sees Carrusca in behind the Wanderers’ defence. His cross is perfectly timed for the onrushing Kamau to nip in front of his marker and steer past Redmayne.

22′ | GOALLLL BRUCE KAMAU! @chelocarrusca with way too much space down the left for a well-timed cross and finish. 1-0! #ADLvWSW #ALeagueGF

7.32am BST

21 min: Corner to Wanderers now and a better set-piece finds Santalab who volleys acrobatically over the bar.

Who do we sing for?! #WSW pic.twitter.com/Lx36dsVS1i

7.30am BST

19 min: Another unnecessary corner conceded, this time by Scott Jamieson. A dreadful short corner routine comes to nought though, despite some penalty area pinball from the second and third phase play.

Good refereeing from Gillett allows an advantage to the counterattacking Wanderers but Mark Bridge’s final ball fails to hit a target.

7.28am BST

17 min: Wanderers will be the happier of the two sides so far. The broken nature of the midfield battle has denied United any time on the ball. They’re not going to suffer the same fate as Melbourne City.

7.26am BST

15 min: Pinball in midfield pretty much the pattern of the opening quarter of an hour. This one still waiting for the adrenaline to ebb away and a real football match to materialise.

7.24am BST

13 min: Some nervy defending from Adelaide gifts Western Sydney a corner but it doesn’t beat the first man. If I ruled the world that would be an immediate forfeit for the corner taker. Maybe ten press-ups, or being prevented from having their parting shaved into their head for the rest of the year.

7.23am BST

12 min: Can we call a brace of Bruces, Bruci?

7.22am BST

11 min: Adelaide attacking as quickly as they can, looking for both Bruces with long passes. One almost reaches Djite but Alberto manages to hook a despairing leg around the ball to clear.

7.19am BST

8 min: This one hasn’t settled down yet. Lots of misplaced passes, poor control and plenty of physical contact. Both teams leaving boots in, throwing elbows around and making sure their presence is being felt. Needs a cool head or two to calm this one down.

7.18am BST

6 min: First corner of the game goes to the home side and it’s a decent delivery from Carrusca that Redmayne does well to punch clear.

Santalab almost breaks the United offside trap. For the second time today Adelaide’s high line has looked vulnerable. Almost immediately afterwards Santalab clatters Sergio Cirio and receives a stern talking to. In twenty minutes that will be a booking.

7.15am BST

4 min: First chance of the game goes to the away team and they butcher it. A counterattack ends with a three on two and Nichols in possession but he picks the wrong option in Castelen and his shot blazes over. Warning signs for the United back four.

7.13am BST

2 min: If you’re interested in this sort of thing, Adelaide are kicking towards the Cathedral End, the one with the old scoreboard, which means the Wanderers are attacking the Bradman Stand end.

The pitch is partly in shadow, particularly the right-back region of the Wanderers’ half of the pitch. There is the potential for the low sun to be an issue for the goalkeepers.

7.11am BST

Jarred Gillett’s whistle pierces the air and heralds the final kick off of the A-League season.

Vamos!

7.09am BST

What an occasion #ALeagueGF pic.twitter.com/MoO160TsRm

7.08am BST

Bonnie Anderson with the national anthem – and it’s a solid, unfussy, a cappella affair. It ends, of course, with a huge roar from the crowd.

7.05am BST

Just a couple of minutes away from kick-off at Adelaide Oval and it is an impressive scene. A beautiful stadium packed to the rafters with plenty of away fans contributing to the atmosphere.

As you’d expect, United are in all red with a yellow trim, Wanderers in their away kit of white shirts, black shorts and white socks.

6.56am BST

OK, time to put my reputation on the line…

I’m tipping Adelaide United 1-0 with a second-half winner. Stefan Mauk to win the Joe Marston Medal.

6.50am BST

Where do you think the grand final will be won and lost? Here’s a selection of areas I’ll be looking out for.

6.34am BST

Adelaide oval looks and sounds tremendous! #ALeagueGF #sbsaleague pic.twitter.com/G9g5qiqkop

6.30am BST

Conditions are perfect for football in Adelaide today. The sun is shining, the temperature will be around 18C throughout and the light westerly breeze will die down after kick off.

Football posts in front of that famous, beautiful scoreboard. Feels right. #ALeagueGF pic.twitter.com/9GNcnSlGrH

6.22am BST

Grand final stat attack:

6.19am BST

Less than an hour to go. It’s the (grand) final countdown.

6.16am BST

Your referee today is Jarred Gillett.

6.07am BST

So this is Autumn in Adelaide. ⚽️ #ALeagueGF pic.twitter.com/bPUgX3spv5

6.05am BST

Tony Popovic is also sticking with a winning formula, backing the XI that did the business against Brisbane Roar. That means injury doubts over Mitch Nichols have been allayed and semi-final hero Dario Vidosic will have to make do with a place on the bench.

Bench: Liam Reddy (GK), Brendan Hamill, Kearyn Baccus, Shannon Cole, Dario Vidosic #WSW #ALGrandFinal

5.56am BST

No news is good news for Adelaide United with the home side unchanged for the fifth match in row. Arguably the only decision Guillermo Amor had to make was over Tarek Elrich’s involvement at left-back but a winning team has not been tinkered with.

Structurally this should play out as a 4-1-1-1-3 with Stefan Mauk linking Isaias and Marcello Carrusca in midfield.

#AUFC SUBS: Pablo Sanchez, Mells, Hall (RGK), Elrich, Elsey #ADLvWSW #ALeagueGF #ForeverUnited

5.46am BST

Remember, this is more fun for everyone when you join in and interrupt my rambling stream of consciousness. Dropping me a line on Twitter – @JPHowcroft – is the easiest way to see your thoughts in print. If you require more than 140 characters, send an email to jonathan.howcroft.freelance@guardian.co.uk.

5.42am BST

Western Sydney Wanderers kicked off the 2015-16 A-League season way back on a Thursday night in early October. They lost 3-1 at home to Brisbane Roar. The following evening Adelaide United hosted Melbourne Victory in a forgettable 0-0 draw. Twenty-six rounds and four playoff matches later the best two teams in the competition will go head to head to decide this year’s champions.

If you have a confident prediction for who’s going to leave Adelaide Oval with the toilet seat, you’re either clairvoyant or bluffing. It’s hard to imagine a match-up of professional football teams anywhere in the world being this close. All three matches between the pair this season have ended in draws, the most recent two goalless ones. Historically the record is even too with four wins apiece, balanced by four draws. In their 28 games both have scored 49 goals. They were separated on the ladder by just one point.

5.37am BST

Hey ho, let’s go!

6.49am BST

JP Howcroft will be with you shortly but in the meantime, check out David Squires’ grand final preview cartoon. It’s another screamer.

Related: David Squires on … the 2016 A-League grand final

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article: http://www.theguardian.com/football/live/2016/may/01/a-league-grand-final-adelaide-united-v-western-sydney-wanderers-live

Apr 24

An A-League finals fiesta that validates the knockout model

Viewers of both semi-finals were treated to football masterclasses, the drama and urgency of which come as a massive fillip to the close-season playoff model

By any yardstick this was a “football, bloody hell!” weekend.

14 goals in two games of contrasting brilliance. The first a tactical masterclass, ripe for deconstruction by digital magnet board. The second, total and utter chaos with all the common sense of a Donald Trump husting. Both were glorious in their own way. The latter is destined for legend.

Related: Western Sydney Wanderers into A-League grand final after nine goal thriller

Related: Adelaide United blast through to A-League final, downing Melbourne City

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article: http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2016/apr/25/an-a-league-finals-fiesta-that-validates-the-knockout-model

Apr 22

Adelaide United down Melbourne City in A-League semi-final – as it happened

  • Adelaide United through to the A-League final, downing Melbourne City
  • Bruce Djite scores twice as home side romps to 4-1 win

That’s all from me for tonight, thank you for your company.

Sunday’s second semi-final will be covered in a similar way, Richard Parkin should be on deck for that barn burner.

What a night for Adelaide United. They dominated from the off, created chances throughout and in the second half put Melbourne City to the sword. Eugene Galekovic has told Fox Sports his team “destroyed” their opponents and his bullish opinion is well founded.

City couldn’t handle Adelaide’s pressing to retain or recycle possession often enough. The intricacy of United’s front four was too much for the visiting defence, especially with the bolting Goodwin to contend with too. Fornaroli can rarely have had less of an impact in a match which is testament to the performances of McGowan and La Rocca. In every facet of the game from the coaching strategies down, Adelaide United proved superior.

And they’ve done it! @AdelaideUnited are into the GF with 4-1 win over @MelbourneCity! #ADLvMCY #ALFinals https://t.co/dp3kBYVZob

That’s the final kick of the game with Delovski blowing the final whistle to cue triumphant celebrations for Adelaide United.

Icing on the cake. Djite turns provider this time and his looped cross from the left beats the City defence and Sanchez side-foots through Sorensen’s legs to seal a memorable night for Adelaide United.

90+2 min: Elsey the incoming sub, I should point out.

So, we now know next week’s grand final will be in Adelaide, we just don’t know who United will be facing.

90 min: Put a fork in this, City are done. Clisby has limped off injured so they’re down to ten men. Adelaide are rampant and big Bruce is hunting his hat-trick.

Mauk, in odd coloured boots (both in their mismatched nature and their oddness – pink and yellow) subbed off after a mighty shift.

87′ | Goal Adelaide.

McGowan finds himself loose in the box and side-foots past Sorensen. A devastating blow. 3-1. #ADLvMCY

Game over! Corner from Carrusca and it somehow finds its way to the middle of the six yard box where McGowan is on hand to guide it with his instep beyond Sorensen. Good finish, poor defending.

87 min: Lovely passing down Adelaide’s right inside, outside, behind the fullback and it takes a last ditch challenge from Clisby to deny Sanchez. Clisby hurt himself in that clearance. Cramp? Hammy? Either way it’s a corner to Adelaide and a good header from Sanchez almost loops in but Marino heads it clear off the line.

85 min: The lively Kamau is replaced by Pablo Sanchez. This contributes to a number of stoppages that have taken the sting out of the game, much to the home side’s benefit.

83 min: The ball keeps bouncing City’s way in Adelaide territory but they can’t fashion clear chances from it. Mooy’s corner finds Malik, who slips, then Fitzgerald tries an optimistic punt from range.

The atmosphere is less jubilant now, much more tense, but the home side are still in the box seat.

81 min: Both midfields have gone missing and the ball is pinging from one forward third to the other.

Important substitutions coming up. Elrich returning for Goodwin and Melling coming on for Kisnorbo. That will mean a reshuffle for City, presumably to a back three.

78 min: Mooy is everywhere at the moment. His pass to Formaroli feeds the striker into the box but his twists and turns can’t create space. The 50:50s falling to City now, the second balls and mishit passes landing their way. Not only to cpaitalise on some rare momentum though.

76 min: Belief for City and it shows in Mooy’s gorgeous pass to Marino but the youngster can’t beat the first defender with his shot.

Adelaide whiplash down the other end and Goodwin hits a shot as hard as a ball can ever conceivably have been hit. It thunders just over the bar though and out for a corner.

74 min: A-Grade commentator’s curse there. City with a decent spell of possession down their right, the ball finds Fitzgerald with half a yard of space on the edge of the box and he makes no mistake. That makes the final 15-minutes interesting.

Fitzgerald picked up the only goal for @MelbourneCity and what a beautiful strike it was #ADLvMCY #4-1 #ALFinals https://t.co/QpUQjJF2FC

Hang on a minute! Fitzgerald grabs one back for City with a lovely stroked finish into the corner of Galekovic’s net.

71 min: Adelaide just stroking the ball around their manor now, showing off their skills. A couple of passes go astray though but City can’t capitalise. United’s ability to regroup quickly is a major feature of their success. Such energy, commitment and discipline.

70 min: It’s hard not to wonder ‘what if?’ for City. Zullo, Franjic and Novillo would all improve this XI. The fullbacks in particular have been weak spots.

Mauk the latest into the book, sixth of the match so far.

67 min: Caceres into the book for a desperate challenge on the counterattacking Mauk. Delovski, as expected, has had his work cut out tonight. He’s got the big decisions right though, no complaints over the penalty.

64 min: The home side are all over the visitors now. Isaias with a sumptuous lobbed pass over the advancing defensive line for Kamau but his shot is deflected for a corner. This could get ugly for City at a packed and delirious Coopers Stadium.

62 min: It would take something miraculous for City to pull this one back now. Van’t Schip is rolling the dice, Retre off for Connor Chapman and Garuccio replaced by Marino.

60 min: Djite sends Sorensen the wrong way from the spot and it’s clear air for Adelaide United.

59 min: Quick free-kick to Kamau on the right hand side of the box and he has his legs taken from under him by Clisby.

58 min: Clear booking for La Rocca. Classic Fornaroli, waiting for the ball to feet with his back to goal, rolls the defender and the shirt-grab has the Red seeing yellow. Nothing comes of the free-kick though.

City look a bit bereft of ideas going forward. They certainly miss Novillo’s power and unpredictability.

55 min: It’s worth repeating that Marc Marino is the only attacking option on City’s bench. Not much wriggle room for Van’t Schip.

Good deep corner from Mooy beats Galekovic but Malik can’t force it home at the far post. Another good corner finds Malik but he’s unprepared and the ball’s cleared. Can City keep up this pressure?

53 min: City pressing. Mooy taking the game on like Steph Curry with bodies bouncing off him in Adelaide’s half. Fitzgerald whips in a cross that reaches Fornaroli’s head but it runs behind for a goal kick.

50 min: Quality finish from the big man. Power and precision with the inside of his right foot. One of those using the momentum of the ball coming into him to aim beyond the far post and watch it drift in late.

Now, what can City muster against the stingiest defence in the league?

What a start to the second half by @BDjite! #ALFinals pic.twitter.com/O1uRAlmljL

48 min: It took just three minutes of the second half for Adelaide to score the goal they so richly deserved. And it’s a beauty from Bruce Djite, curling the ball home from the edge of the box beyond Sorensen’s dive.

47′ | GOALLL BRUUUUUUUUUUCE! @BDjite tears the house down with an absolute screamer from outside of the box! SCENES! #ADLvMCY

Second half underway and it almost starts with an audacious goal from Fornaroli. Adelaide fail to deal with a long ball, Galekovic is off his line but the Uruguayan’s instinctive finish rebounds off a defender.

That’s the first 45 minutes taken care of. Somehow Melbourne City reach the interval without conceding a goal. Adelaide United dominated the half and missed a string of good chances.

It’s been a terrific, frenetic game so far, what will happen in the second half?

HT | #AUFC 0-0 @MelbourneCity. A very dominant display but we’re unable to capitalise. #ADLvMCY #ALFinals pic.twitter.com/666yKCnnu0

45 min + 2: Poor couple of phases by Mooy. First his corner from the left fails to clear the first defender, then he’s caught offside as the second ball heads his way. Two minutes of added time at the end of the half.

45 min: Ooooh! Djite wallops a left-footer from miles out and it only just misses the left-hand post. Sorensen was all over it but when you see a shot fly so fast around knee-high it sets the heart racing.

City just running the clock down a little as half time approaches.

43 min: Adelaide’s attacking play has dropped off in the last few minutes. Kamau the latest to misplace a pass in the final third.

Highly open and entertaining this finals match. Adelaide on top. Melb City need to fix their left side of defence. #ADLvMCY

41 min: When City have the ball Adelaide get numbers into defence quickly. All 11 behind the ball as City’s centre halves look to pick a pass inside United’s half. After that initial manic press it’s a deep claustrophobic retreat.

39 min: City enjoying their best spell of possession for the game, albeit only a couple of minutes on the ball. Shifting from one flank to the other a chance has to come and it does, a volley from 25 metres to Mooy who absolutely murders one off the laces but straight at La Rocca and it ricochets to safety. Wonderful technique from the Socceroo.

37 min: This is brilliant stuff. First from Kamau to work his way to the byline, then from Mooy to rob the ball and then release Garuccio on the counter. his cross-field defence splitter reaches Fitzgerald and he’s eventually felled by Goodwin, who is subsequently booked. Breathless finals football.

35 min: How did that not go in!? Adelaide have to score. Superb build up from their own defence (including a smart advantage by Delovski) results in Kamau one on one with Sorensen but the Dane does just enough, Kisnorbo darting in to clear the ball off the line. That was a glorious move, deserved a goal.

Is this going to be one of those nights in front of goal for the Reds?

33 min: Chance for City! Caceres has grown into the game and he links up well with Garuccio down the left. His cross reaches Fornaroli near the penalty spot but his left footed shot is unexpectedly weak and cleared.

Adelaide go down the other end straight away and Carrusca tries an early curler from 20 metres but it dips just past the right-hand post.

31 min: Adelaide dominating with 62% possession during the opening third of the match. They’ve had chances to make that count on the scoreboard too but City remain on terms.

28 min: Garuccio has to do better from a counterattacking opportunity down the left. Poor control sees a decent opportunity go begging.

Other things to note – Djite is playing well with his back to goal, shielding the ball from Kisnorbo and Wilkinson, and Carrusca has no natural opponent in the hole behind City’s midfield. That combination is causing havoc but as yet not delivered a finishing touch.

26 min: Rare counterattack from City leads to Fitzgerald shooting straight at Galekovic from a narrow angle. Fornaroli the provider but the Uruguayan has been quiet so far.

24 min: Another good cross, this time for the other fullback looks dangerous but Sorensen commands his area well.

Adelaide again get straight back into things and create another gilt edged chance! Djite this time fed through by Cirio smashes one towards the near post and Sorensen makes another good diving stop.

22 min: Contentious moment here with Djite winning what looked like a 50:50 with Sorensen on the edge of City’s box but Delovski found a free kick to the keeper.

Adelaide get on with the game and create the best chance of the match so far. Superb cross from the sprinting Goodwin beats two defenders and finds Kamau at the far post but Sorensen rushes over to make a decent save. The resulting corner comes to nought.

20 min: Poor giveaway in midfield by Retre allows Adelaide to break but nothing comes of it, again. The tempo has slowed a little out there after that frenetic start, thanks largely to City and in particular Mooy, finding some possession.

18 min: City edging their way back into this contest with Fitzgerald lively and Mooy unfurling one of his trademark long passes. United’s pressure is the story of the game so far though, but how long will it last?

16 min: City just can’t string any passes together out there. Red shirts swarming all over them whenever they take possession. Another turnover leads to a rapid break but again the chance goes begging. Carrusca this time leaning back and side-footing over the bar from the D.

14 min: Retre becomes the first name taken by Delovski for bringing down the onrushing Carrusca on the left corner of his penalty box. It was a needless challenge but the kind of nervy one you make when a player as tricky as Carrusca is running at you.

Isaias curls the free-kick just over the bar. Chances going begging here for United, will they come to rue them?

12 min: Delovski thinks about booking Kisnorbo after the veteran cleans up Kamau near the right hand side of City’s penalty area. Another dangerous set piece opportunity, but another one wasted, this time Carrusca curling it into Sorensen’s mitts.

A poor clearance from the Dane typifies the opening exchanges though. Malik receives possession under pressure, hassled off the ball but the resulting transition ends limply.

10 min: First corner of the night goes to Adelaide and it falls to Goodwin on the edge of the box and he larrups a volley just over the bar. Think Paul Scholes v Bradford in the early 2000s. Goodwin involved in a lot here early on.

8 min: Adelaide have settled the better of the two sides and finding more targets with their passing. A good break down the right leads to a decent delivery into the box but City clear. Good signs for the home side.

Mooy makes himself known with a strong sliding challenge on Michael Marrone, perhaps aggrieved at his opponent’s man bun.

6 mins: I wouldn’t call them man marking jobs but Mauk is staying close to Mooy and Caceres is nearby Isaias. Mauk does well to release Goodwin but the fullback’s burst ends with a weak turnover.

4 mins: If this is Delovksi’s final match in the A-League he’s going to be made to work for it. Fouls all over the pitch as the early tempo refuses to relent. Mauk’s already had a talking to.

2 mins: It’s a full blooded start from the outset with bodies flying all over the place, including Kisnorbo taking out Mauk after just 20 seconds. Dangerous free-kick opportunity for Adelaide and Goodwin. And it’s a solid strike from the left-footer, over the wall but straight at Sorensen.

City go straight down the other end and Mooy fashions a chance for Caceres in a central position on the edge of the penalty area but he fires into Galekovic’s gloves.

We’re underway at Coopers Stadium…

The teams have made their way out onto the pitch to a cacophony of noise. It looks to be a fantastic atmosphere.

So, where do you think this semi final will be won and lost?

I think Melbourne City are the key variable in this equation. Will they look to contain, like they did in round 23, or will they look to take the game to Adelaide, like they did against Perth on Sunday? If they play a game of patience that places a lot of responsibility on Garuccio and Nick Fitzgerald to defend without the ball and attack with precision with it? Do Mooy and Fornaroli have more moments of unstoppable individual brilliance in them?

Don’t forget you can join in and make this an interactive experience by doing a Twitter to @JPHowcroft or by doing an email to jonathan.howcroft.freelance@guardian.co.uk .

Stat Attack – courtesy of FFA:

Both Clint Bolton and Grant Brebner described to me during the week how few grounds in Australia generate as much atmosphere from a player’s point of view as Hindmarsh Stadium. It will be full to the brim tonight, largely of partisan locals, and it should provide the perfect backdrop to the biggest game of the season so far.

It should be a dry and chilly night in South Australia with temperatures in the low teens courtesy of a southerly breeze.

Is this THE best football-specific stadium in Australia? #ADLvMCY #ALFinals pic.twitter.com/xkCGEJGpWk

Strebre Delovski is your man in the middle in what may prove to be his final match as a professional referee. The experienced arbiter is hanging up his whistle at the end of the season, but he is still a chance to be selected for the grand final.

I’m a big fan of Delovksi’s. He’s made his fair share of high-profile errors, but show me a referee that hasn’t. Unlike most other A-League refs he shows an understanding of the game from a player’s perspective. An intuition that often helps games flow where others may become mired in pernickety fouls and bookings. He talks to players and makes his decisions clear. He deserves a good send off for a job well done.

The visitors also line up unchanged with the same 11 that took care of Perth Glory starting against Adelaide United. This means Paolo Retre, Jack Clisby and Ben Garuccio all retain their places. Notably, Marc Marino offers the only attacking threat from the bench so if City are chasing the game in the second half Van’t Schip won’t have many options up his sleeve.

Our starting XI is unchanged for tonight’s massive Semi-Final against Adelaide! #ADLvMCY #ALFinals pic.twitter.com/iyqgAOyAmK

The Reds go into tonight’s match with an unchanged team for the fourth game in a row. Tarek Elrich is fit enough to make the bench but Amor has not changed a winning side. This means Craig Goodwin lines up at left back, alongside Iacopo La Rocca, Dylan McGowan and Michael Marrone, the four men tasked with somehow repelling goal machine Bruno Fornaroli.

Here’s how your #AUFC are lining up for tonight’s semi final clash against @MelbourneCity. #ADLvMCY #ALFinals pic.twitter.com/RI6r03kmlL

Good evening and thank you for joining me for the first A-League semi final of the season from Coopers Stadium in Adelaide.

Tonight’s match promises to be a beauty. Adelaide United were deserved premiers thanks to Guillermo Amor’s ability to find the right balance week to week, home and away – once that wretched eight-game winless start to the season had been overcome. Melbourne City may have only finished fourth but they have the two best players in the competition (apologies to Diego Castro fans but his stunning impact since Christmas does not compare to that of Aaron Mooy and Bruno Fornaroli over the entire season) and a squad studded with experienced big match players.

JP will be along soon to take you through all of the live action but in the meantime, why not check out his preview of this weekend’s A-League semi-finals, which bodes particularly well for Adelaide United fans.

Related: Friday Focus: home ground advantage could sway A-League finals | JP Howcroft

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/live/2016/apr/22/adelaide-united-v-melbourne-city-a-league-finals-action-live

Apr 17

A-League: elimination finals deliver with late drama and pure brilliance

In their respective fashions both elimination finals showcased the best the A-League has to offer; tension, drama and moments of pure brillianceGoing by scorecards alone this was a textbook elimination final weekend. Typical of A-League finals the high…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2016/apr/18/a-league-elimination-finals-deliver-with-late-drama-and-pure-brilliance

Mar 20

A-League: Graham Arnold’s Sydney FC are neither winning nor thrilling | Jonathan Howcroft

Despite tactical experimentation and creative selection policies, Sydney FC and coach Graham Arnold are currently failing to inspire A-League fans

Fox Sports cameras captured the defining moment in Sydney FC’s moribund season during Saturday evening’s broadcast. It wasn’t Vedran Janjetovic losing grip of his imaginary bar of soap at the exact moment Harry Ascroft’s goalbound shot came within reach and it wasn’t Shane Smeltz fluffing his lines with the score at 2-0. 

It was a couple of seconds of a tortured-looking Graham Arnold, shortly after the final whistle, grimacing, placing his left hand to his face, drawing it back and over his head as if peeling off a mask and revealing a much more resigned likeness beneath.

Related: Friday Focus: a Q&A with PFA chairman and SBS football analyst Craig Foster

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2016/mar/21/a-league-graham-arnolds-sydney-fc-are-neither-winning-nor-thrilling

Mar 06

Talking points: Adelaide United in pole position for final A-League title assault

Guillermo Amor’s side don’t have an imposing aura, a formidable spine or a transcendent star. But they are well-placed to exploit their rivals’ inconsistency

Saturday 28 November 2015: Melbourne Victory’s North Terrace active supporters march out of Etihad Stadium before half-time in protest at the treatment of A-League fans by sections of the Australian media and the meek response from football administrators. They turned on their heel and set the week’s agenda emboldened by a 2-0 lead against old enemies Adelaide United. They journeyed home with their side on top of the A-League ladder and their winless rivals rooted to its bottom. It remains a defining moment in the season.

Impossible to interpret at the time, the match would prove significant on the field as well as off it. Over three months later it stands as the turning point in one of the more remarkable A-League stories, one that now sees the once hopeless Reds top the table after thrashing Wellington Phoenix 4-0 and extending their unbeaten run to 14 matches.

Related: Adelaide thrash Nix, extend unbeaten A-League streak to record 14 games

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/mar/07/talking-points-adelaide-united-in-pole-position-for-final-a-league-title-assault