McKain sticking by Valkanis

8 March 2013 09:50

Adelaide United’s Jon McKain insists the Reds must believe in coach Michael Valkanis’ game plan if they are to compete for an A-League title.

The Reds have dropped off the pace in the second half of the season, which has seen them win just twice from nine games in 2013.

The sudden departure of former coach John Kosmina in late January did not help the club either, and they were forced to thrust assistant and youth team manager Valkanis into the head coaching role until the end of the campaign.

Adelaide’s squad has so far failed to adapt to their new boss and his change in tactics, prompting several disjointed performances and the team to slide down to fourth having picked up just four points in five games since Valkanis’ caretaker role began.

Last Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Brisbane Roar was a glaring example of United’s recent struggles on the park.

McKain said that while the coaching transition has been difficult during the middle of the season, it was crucial the Reds rallied around Valkanis as they plan a grand final assault, after dropping out of contention for a second minor premiership.

“It’s down to buying into what the coach wants to do and I know for a fact the boys support what Mickey wants to do,” McKain said.

“We are all buying into it. It just hasn’t showed just yet … we know that’s unacceptable.

“It might get a bit confusing with what he wants to try and implement, but we are all professional players and we work on it each week.

“We’ve worked hard again this week and we as players know we have to take responsibility to do our job on the field and I’m sure you will see a different team this week (against Melbourne Heart).

“We are convinced if we keep at it, it’s going to turn. We’ve trained well and the intensity has definitely picked up the last few weeks because we feel like we haven’t performed like we should.

“Leading into these finals you want to get on a bit of run because you still have the chance to make the grand final … that’s the beauty of a grand-final format.”

After yet another spirited training session on Friday that produced a series of rough challenges between players, McKain rejected any suggestion the squad was not on the same page after a frustrating couple of months.

“Everyone is on board … if players don’t want to come along with that, no problem they can be left behind,” he said.

CONCACAF Champions League: Herediano 0 LA Galaxy 0

8 March 2013 05:55

The Los Angeles Galaxy claimed a valuable 0-0 draw in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final against Herediano.

The reigning MLS champions have only played one league match this season, while Costa Rican outfit Herediano are well into their campaign and were playing the first leg at home on Thursday.

But they failed to win all three points with a missed penalty from substitute Ismael Gomez proving costly.

Herediano went close to scoring in the first half when Christian Montero headed onto the crossbar shortly before half-time.

They should have scored just after the break as well, only for Yendrick Ruiz to shoot wide as he failed to make the most of a poor mix-up between Galaxy pair AJ DeLaGarza and Omar Gonzalez.

The end-to-end nature of the game continued as Los Angeles then wasted a chance, with Mike Magee turning Robbie Keane’s cross against the bar.

Magee thought he had scored the game’s first goal after 68 minutes and the decision to rule out his effort for offside looked like the wrong one.

Amazingly the stalemate continued when the woodwork was hit again, this time by Gomez with his 87th minute penalty.

Gomez won the spot-kick himself after Sean Franklin made minimal contact with him in the area, but the Argentine forward failed to convert the opportunity when his effort thudded off the frame of the goal and bounced away to safety.

The result means the Galaxy will take the upper hand into the second leg of the quarter-final, which will be played at the Home Depot Center on Wednesday.

Postecoglou done with Brisbane soap opera

8 March 2013 05:35

Melbourne Victory coach Ange Postecoglou says he harbours no resentment towards former club Brisbane, likening the storyline to a soap opera.

Postecoglou guided Brisbane to two championships in as many seasons, but was met with a hostile reception upon his return to Suncorp Stadium as Victory boss last October.

Victory face Roar in Brisbane again on Saturday, needing a win to keep in touch with the league-leading Western Sydney Wanderers and second-placed Central Coast Mariners.

“That story is done and dusted,” Postecoglou said on Friday.

“It ain’t the Bold and the Beautiful. We’re not making stories out of nothing.

“There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then and I think there are a lot more important things for people to focus on than my fragile feelings.”

Postecoglou said Marcos Flores will be given another week to recover from a quad strain.

The Argentine midfielder has been sidelined since February 16, but is expected back for Saturday week’s clash against Sydney FC.

“We really need to get him training the whole week,” Postecoglou said.

“It would be silly of us to try and rush people back at this stage.

“In terms of the injury I think he’s just about recovered, but we like to get them to train for a whole week and we know he’ll be absolutely tiptop for Sydney.”

Postecoglou said teenage defender Nick Ansell will return to training next week in his recovery from a groin injury.

Victory are eight points behind the Wanderers with four matches to play, and have set their sights on a strong run into the finals.

“The finish line is in sight and you want to be hitting that finishing tape with your chest out rather than crawling on your knees,” Postecoglou said.

“Once we get to finals we’ll feel good about ourselves, so from our perspective it’s about looking forward.

“I know we’re going to be finishing in that top four, but the most important thing is we’re charging into those finals.

“If we can sneak into a top-two, fantastic, if not, I’d rather go in there with a few wins in the last few games than limping over the line.”

Copa Libertadores wrap: Boca struggle, Mineiro win again

8 March 2013 05:27

The struggles of Boca Juniors continued as they slumped to a 1-0 home defeat against Nacional in the Copa Libertadores on Thursday.

Boca Juniors have won the tournament six times – only fellow Argentine side Independiente have won it more – while they have finished runner-up on four occasions.

Uruguayan side Nacional have also enjoyed plenty of success in the competition, winning three finals and losing another three, making this match a true clash of South American titans.

Boca made the Copa Libertadores final last year before being defeated by Corinthians of Brazil, but they have not made such a good start to this season.

They have won just one of their four league games in the Argentine top-flight, leaving them 15th on the table, and they conceded early against Nacional.

Andre Scotti scored the goal, converting Juan Albin’s assist after 20 minutes.

And Boca were unable to score an equaliser despite having a numerical advantage for the latter stages of the game.

Nacional defender Alejandro Lembo was sent off for a second yellow card with 16 minutes to play but the visitors held firm to claim a crucial Group 1 win.

The Uruguayan side have now claimed seven points from their three group stage fixtures, which sees them on top, while second-placed Toluca of Mexico (four points) remain ahead of the third-placed Boca (three points).

Brazilian side Atletico Mineiro made it three wins from as many matches in Group 3 with a 2-1 success against The Strongest of Bolivia.

After a goalless first half, former Manchester City striker Jo opened the scoring after 57 minutes.

And attacking star Ronaldinho doubled the advantage with 17 minutes to play, meaning Luis Melgar’s late goal was merely a consolation for the losers.

In the same group, Brazil’s Sao Paulo were held to a 1-1 home draw against Arsenal of Argentina while in Group 6, a pair of second-half penalties to Omar Perez helped Colombian side Santa Fe win 2-1 at Paraguayan club Cerro Porteno.

Pardew: We´re not favourites

8 March 2013 03:30

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew has dismissed suggestions his team are favourites to reach the Europa League quarter-finals.

The English Premier League side battled to a 0-0 draw in the first leg of their round-of-16 tie against Anzhi Makhachkala in Russia on Thursday.

But Pardew was unwilling to accept the favourites’ tag, saying Guus Hiddink’s side could still be a threat on the break at St James’ Park.

“I wouldn’t say we are favourites because they have got good counter-attacking abilities in the team, but it’s going to be a very different game at St James’ Park,” he said.

“But we really need to set it up on Sunday (against Stoke). Sunday is something we need to put right.

“If we can get a win there, then I think the mood in our stadium is going to be something that’s going to be very difficult for Anzhi to cope with.

“We didn’t really have to fight the crowd today and that probably helped us to settle.”

Dangerous Anzhi playmaker Willian came off after 23 minutes due to injury and not even an attack featuring Cameroon striker Samuel Eto’o could break down Newcastle.

Pardew felt his team were worthy of a point and praised goalkeeper Rob Elliot.

“We got what we deserved tonight. We came and gave a really disciplined display,” he said.

“Rob had to make two good saves and really and truly, if someone had said that to me before the game I would have taken that.

“That’s a really good display in the conditions and environment we were in.”

Hiddink missed the post-match press conference due to illness but Anzhi assistant Zeljko Petrovic said he was content with his side’s display despite the draw.

“We played tonight a very complicated game against a team from the Premier League, and you can see that between the teams that we played before Newcastle, there’s a big difference to the Premier League teams,” Petrovic said.

“We are not disappointed tonight because we played a good game, tactically a very strong game, and Newcastle actually didn’t play a Premier League game, they played a European game.”