Geelong Advertiser, Saturday 3 February 2007, p. 92.
Melbourne gets its first taste of A-League football finals at Telstra Dome when Melbourne Victory takes on Adelaide United in the second leg of the major semi-final tomorrow night.
Over 40,000 tickets have already been sold and the Australian record for a match between club teams, set earlier this year when 50,333 saw the Victory play Sydney FC, is likely to be exceeded.
The winner, and there must be one, goes straight into the grand final, while the loser has a chance to redeem itself in the preliminary final against Sydney FC or Newcastle Jets next week.
Adelaide last season and Victory this year have been on parallel courses leading into this match.
Both won the home and away league season comfortably with matches to spare and then lost momentum going into the finals. Then they played a scoreless draw in the first leg last week. Last year Adelaide failed to win a game thereafter crashing out in the preliminary final to Central Coast Mariners.
Victory coach Ernie Merrick is determined that history will not repeat itself and has responded to claims that his team will be under pressure by pointing to Adelaide’s dismal record last year.
The two coaches could not be more dissimilar.
Ernie Merrick is reserved, undemonstrative and unflappable, but a brilliant teacher and capable of finding positives in any situation.
His parents were involved in the circus, but while Merrick has learned to juggle players, he has never been a showman.
Indeed if there has been any criticism of him this season it is that he has been reluctant to ‘feed the chooks’ by giving the media the sound bites and one liners they crave for headlines.
Merrick prefers to proceed quietly and deliberately relying on meticulous preparation and sports science to bring his team to its peak for the finals.
John Kosmina by contrast is extrovert, lively, opinionated and prepared to be abrasive when necessary.
Mind games come naturally to him.
He has a rapier wit and, as he showed when he clashed with Victory skipper Kevin Muscat earlier in the season, he does not know how to take a backward step.
His club sent him to an anger management course after that incident.
Geelong’s former Socceroo Kris Trajanovski grew up watching Kosmina on television when he played for Australia and thought he was a really good player who scored lots of goals.
Later Kris was coached by Kosmina at Brisbane Strikers in the National Soccer League. ‘He wasn’t too bad as a coach. A bit crazy back then,’ Kris remembers.
Nothing much has changed.
Both teams should be at full strength though each has young players involved in the Olyroos squad which has been training for qualifying matches against Chinese Taipei this week.
Geelong’s Adrian Leijer picked up an injury and was exhausted at the end of a full-scale practice match to the annoyance of his coach, but he should be ready to resume his place in central defence for the Victory.
Victory needs to win to proceed, while any draw other than nil-all will see Adelaide go through on the away goals rule.
If the match is scoreless, there will be extra-time and if necessary penalty kicks to decide the winner.