West still the benchmark
Tuesday, 21st September, 2010
The West Panthers have capped off a year of domination in men's soccer by winning both the A grade and B grade grand finals on Sunday.
Earlier in the day, Celtic ladies were crowned the team of 2010, winning all three cups on offer in the women's competition.
The men's grand final produced a fitting finale to another year of excellent local soccer, and unlike 2009, thankfully soccer was not page one news yesterday.
Congratulations to all who attended the finals, firstly for braving the cold weather, secondly for adhering to the alcohol ban and thirdly for putting up with the damn noisy "show" hooters. Maybe they can also be banned next year!
The final was everything that was expected of two very passionate clubs hell bent on holding the cup.
West gambled (and won) by playing with only 14, allowing Matt Ali to play in the B grade final.
Adelaide referee Steve Gregan did a fantastic job allowing the game to flow, and being decisive and calm with his decisions, which added to the spectacle.
Both teams played a very defensive game plan with West having Johnny Bugeja very deep in defence, whilst St Joes midfielders Matt Muscat and Craig Stephens were also playing very defensive roles. It was no surprise that the game was nil-all at halftime, with both goalies rarely called into action.
For West defenders Terry Delbridge and Jack Attrill had leather poisoning as neither was pressured on the ball.
For St Josephs Patrick Nash had so many defensive rebound headers in the first half the Panadol was in short supply at half time.
Joeys' captain Justin Ellice also had a huge game at left back, keeping out a rampaging Joey Langdon, Bryant Mitchell and Attrill down the right.
The tempo of the game lifted in the second half with Bugeja spending more time attacking and went close with a series of shots on goal, but from outside the 18.
West continued to dominate field position with Delbridge supplying dangerous long balls from the back which resulted in several half chances from corners.
Around the 70 minute mark St Josephs striker Simon Pedretti found himself one out with West's goalie Matt Lihou, but the soccer gods, were not in the Blues' corner and the Panthers dodged a bullet!.
Despite lots of half chances for both sides Lihou and Nathan Gageler were superb in goals and had good support from there defenders.
As the full time hooter blew the game was still deadlocked and the ref was in danger of missing his plane.
He quickly took control, removing the spectators, and had the game back under way.
The first 15 minute stanza unfolded without a goal and then, as in the 2009 final, and in much the same manor, West scored what was to be the winner.
Delbridge took a free kick from the right, blasted a long ball to the edge of the 18 where West had two unmarked players and bingo, Shane Hayward pounced and clinically slotted home a brilliant goal.
Try as they might the Blues could not find a way through what has been a brilliant West defence all year and as the final siren sounded (and those hooters) West were worthy grand final winners and St Josephs have, as predicted, been beaten by a whisker!
Best players for the winners (in my opinion) were Terry Delbridge, Attrill, Bugeja and Mitchell, whilst for St Josephs Justin Ellice won the Referee's medal, Nash, Dylan Trebilcock and Gageler were outstanding and Matt Muscat had his best game of the year.
I am not sure of the West premiership record, but it is three in row for sure, with wins over Celtic in 2008 (when trailing 1-0 until late in the game) and now two wins over St Joes, both in extra time.
That they have won the last three flags, that all could have been lost, speaks highly of their skill and never say die attitude.
Only hope is that Collingwood can do the same!