Thursday, 12 December 2013

Practice Match - South Melbourne (of sorts) 0 Selangor 4

With apologies in advance to all my new Malaysian internet friends for not being very  accommodating to you, by not knowing who any of your players are, taking some really awful unusable photos, and instead pursuing our usual rambling blog stylings.

Now, this fixture was advertised as being at Lakeside Stadium, last night at 6:00pm, with the private word being that it was a closed doors affair. And all of that was kind of true, except for the parts that weren't.

The match did not start at 6:00. It started at 7:20. The match was closed doors - they kicked everyone who was an athlete out at 7:00 or thereabout - except for all the parents and such of the kids playing in this game, and the odd South official such as Tom Kalas and Andrew Mesorouni. It was also good to see senior coach Chris Taylor keeping an eye on things as he prowled up and down the sideline.

And of course me and Gains, who managed to stay inside by the sheer fact that we got there so early that we blended seamlessly into the crowd. It wasn't quite the epicness of Steve from Broady walking in for free at Olympic Village a few years ago, but it was a start.

Now, I have recently purchased a smartphone, attempting to join the rest of you if not in the present, than at least somewhere in the not too distant past. However, because I am a very cheap person, I went for a phone with a pretty ordinary camera, and thus all my photos of anything further than a couple of metres away were just crap.

The various South juniors in their warm up.
Photo: Paul Mavroudis  (and why would anyone
else want to claim credit for it?)
Now, we had been informed by our friend Steve from Broady (who decided to boycott this match for reasons unknown) that there would be no senior players there, as most were on holiday/not in the country/washing their hair, and when we saw a ton of South under 21s and assorted juniors on the ground, we kind of figured out what was going to happen.

And that was that there would be a lot of different South junior players getting 15-30 minutes on the field. The only exception to this rule was the appearance for the first 30 minutes or so of Iqi Jawadi, who while of course qualifying for this team in terms of age, was also a regular senior player for South during the second half 2013 after his transfer from Dandenong Thunder.

Now, apart from the novelty of seeing a Malaysian team playing against us, I was interested in seeing what kind of style, if any, we would see from the South boys. What was our hotshot academy teaching them? Well, actually for the most part it was rather attractive football with some caveats.

They almost always tried to play the ball out from the back. There were very few long balls, especially desperation stuff over the top of the midfield. They did play some wide passes to the wing, especially the right hand side when there was space available, and generally tried to keep the ball. The skill level of the players was also quite good.

The caveats? Sometimes you just gotta clear the ball instead of piss farting around with in it defence. Selangor were on top in the early stages precisely because of this, and probably should have scored more than the one goal that they had at that stage.

After the first 5-10 minutes however our boys settled down, and started getting used to both the pace and style of their opponents. Several South boys commenting after their on field stint made note of the speed of their opponents.

Now, I'm no expert on South-East Asian football, but from what I have gathered, playing a higher tempo pressing game is not exactly the most effective thing to do in tropical conditions, so it was interesting to see Selangor use that approach. For the most part however, our boys handled that well.

While playing the ball out well, South would often get stuck in the transition between midfield and attack. Partly this was due to ostensibly playing with only one up front, but it was also due to the organised play of Selangor's defenders, who were able to cut off most of the wide attacking moves that we put together - and we had almost nothing going through the middle.

Selangor walk on to the field. Photo: Paul Mavroudis.
The thing is though, that against all the different combinations of South juniors, Selangor got very little of note happening in attacking sense - aside from careless South play in defence - until the last 15 minutes or so. Their second goal was their best bit of team work, winning the ball in midfield, and slicing through the middle of the over-committed and overexposed South defence, ending with a nice chip goal. It was interesting as well to see in this phase of play the South defenders lose their nerve and start diving in with tackles instead of trying to slow their opponents down with proper marking.

Part of the problem also for Selangor was their finishing. There were times when they should have just taken a shot, but instead their forwards preferred the extra pass or dribble. Just shoot the damn thing! Which they did for their third goal, an absolute rocket from maybe 25 metres out, which no keeper would have saved.

Selangor added a fourth goal just before the full time whistle. Overall, a pretty intense game for what was not much more than a bit of pre-season kick and giggle. No players from either side stood out, except the South keepers after the first one, and the Selangor player who went down and was actually injured as opposed the stereotypical Asian rolling around after a feather hit them nonsense (there was a little bit of that too, but not much, as it wasn't a very physical game).

To emphasise how low key this was - there weren't even any lines on the field. It would have been nice to be able to stay behind and maybe have a quick chat with Mehmet and some of the Selangor players and personnel, but the very late start kinda made that irrelevant, especially as I was keen to get some dinner at a not completely rubbish place.

No such luck.

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