Any contributions should be given or faxed to Ricky Onsman (fx 9375 1446) by Thursday midday.

Here We Go, Here We Go, Here We Go ...

MATCH REPORT: by Ricky Onsman

Match: Balmain AA6B v Marrickville
Venue: Bennett Park, Roselands
Date: Saturday 10 April 1999
Time: 1.15pm kick-off

The Balmain line-up for the first match of 1999 boasted four off-season recruits: Carlos teamed up front with Sergio, while Sam, Garry and Joey joined Russell in midfield. The backline was more familiar, with Dave, Glenn, Richard, Bruce and Adam in goal. Marrickville were unknowns.

The first 15 minutes was a seesaw affair, with both sides making strong, if unproductive, forays into each other’s defensive territory. Both sets of defenders held firm, although both goalkeepers were called on to make early saves. Then, about halfway through the first half, Balmain started to dominate. The defenders started to look for, and find, midfield players willing to carry the ball towards the forwards. Sam and Joey, the outside halves, found room to take the ball down the wing before looking for Carlos and Sergio up front. Increasingly, play was taking place in the Marrickville half of the field, with the Balmain defence stopping several attacks on or near the halfway line.

As Balmain’s passing game improved, the pressure on the Marrickville defence increased. Finally, less than 10 minutes before the break, Sergio found himself in position to attack the goal directly and, under pressure from the defence, chipped the Marrickville goalie to put Balmain on the board. Garry and Russell were dispossessing the Marrickville players aggressively and cleverly in central midfield, while Joey made run after run down the right wing.

The grimaces of the Balmain players at half-time were testament to the physicality of the Marrickville players, and it was obvious that being a goal down would not make them more kindly disposed. However, Balmain’s dominant mood continued into the second half. The midfield passing game seemed to hold the key to attacking moves from both sides, and Balmain frankly outplayed Marrickville time and again. Ten minutes after the break, some more accurate and controlled passing released Sergio again, and he right-footed it past the keeper to make it 2-0. Sergio and Carlos found they were considerably faster and more agile than the Marrickville defenders, and, after several close attempts, it wasn’t long before Sergio beat the keeper again for 3-0 and another hat-trick for the Balmain Manager/striker.

Marrickville, however, did not roll over. If anything, their physicality increased. Balmain were getting free kicks aplenty - although the referee could certainly have shown a stronger hand in controlling some of the more excessive tackling - but the tenor of the game was changing. Marrickville started to throw all it could into attacking forays. Balmain’s midfield was tiring, and the accurate passing of earlier went missing in action. Joey’s replacement at right half with Ricky did nothing to help.

The turning point came with probably only 20 minutes left to play. A Marrickville surge, a melee in the Balmain goal square and Marrickville had a penalty. Adam dived the right way, but couldn’t reach it: 3-1.

Marrickville revived even more after this, and with the referee unwilling to punish some blatant fouling, it came to a Marrickville push down the left, a strong chip flicked on with a header that was either timed to perfection or very lucky, and Adam could only watch the ball arc into the net again to make it 3-2.

With less than 15 minutes to play, Marrickville continued to run hard at the Balmain defence, while its own defenders, clearly outpaced, chopped down any Balmain attacks. It seemed incredible, but somehow inevitable that, 5 minutes from time, yet another attack allowed a Marrickville forward to judge that Adam had come too far off his line and he successfully chipped the Balmain keeper.

So after all that, a 3-3 draw earns Balmain its first point for the season, with a slightly nasty aftertaste about letting the other two points slip away. It was the kind of game that pundits could analyse forever, but two clear things emerged for Balmain: 1) with this line-up of players (and others to come), we can play a successful passing game and take control of a match; and 2), given midfield control, we can score goals. Balmain does need to ask itself how it can prevent future collapses (3-2 with ten minutes to play, and we had no strategy!), but the draw ultimately flattered Marrickville and was no disgrace to Balmain.

The Pele Medal points go to:

Joey 3 points
Sergio 2 points
Carlos 1 point

The English F.A. Cup

Saturday 22 May

Manchester United v Newcastle United

... and a chance to sit around and talk football for a couple of hours.
Anyone like to volunteer to host a screening?
Let Ricky know - maybe we can provide refreshments.