Marquees stand up

Five rounds in, this was the weekend that the Hyundai A-League’s big guns all stood up at the same time.

Five rounds in, this was the weekend that the Hyundai A-League-s big guns, the likes of Harry Kewell, Brett Emerton, Archie Thompson, Carlos Hernandez and Nicky Carle all stood up at the same time.

While Carle, playing as a second striker for Sydney FC and banging in the goals, has been performing consistently well in the opening month of the season, the others had hitherto offered only sporadic moments.

Here they were all on song, with Thompson and Emerton, in particularly, driving their teams forward with man-of-the-match displays on Saturday and Sunday respectively.

But they weren-t alone; Kewell, like Emerton, was no doubt emboldened by his Qantas Socceroos call-up for this week-s World Cup qualifiers, and a few stern words from national boss Holger Osieck, and others.

It was time for a reaction, and that-s exactly what we got.

It was a weekend when the big-game mentality, and will-to-win, at both the Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC, really stood out.

First to Etihad Stadium, where the Victory-s incredibly organised nine-man unit managed to hang on for a much deserved point against the flying Brisbane Roar.

Who said Ange Postecoglou-s men are untouchable?

The Victory showed that a united mentality, combined with a well-organised game plan, can be enough to upset anyone, even a team flowing with the confidence of 32 games undefeated.

Even the much-talked-about second red card to Matthew Foschini didn-t dampen the Victory-s motivation to get the job done. Indeed, it appeared to add to the motivation.

The strategy from the under fire Mehmet Durakovic worked, even after the first minute dismal of his goalkeeper, Ante Covic.

While the initial plan may have been to utilise Kewell in behind Thompson, in a 4-4-1-1, looking to hit the Roar on the counter through the pace of Thompson and prompting of Kewell and Hernandez, the early send-off meant Durakovic shifted to a 4-4-1, with Tom Pondeljak the unlucky one to make way.

It meant Kewell shifting to the left side of midfield and Hernandez to the right side, with Diogo Ferreira and Leigh Broxham occupying the middle.

What the flat four-man midfield did, with Kewell and Hernandez working hard on the flanks, was stop the Roar fullbacks from contributing to the attack.

Instead of pressing the Roar high, the Victory applied a half-field press, waiting for Brisbane to venture into their half, then pressing them aggressively. Aggressive pressing was a tactic which worked so well for the Victory against Brisbane last season.

When they won the ball, they had real sting in the attack, looking to hit the Roar swiftly. There was no better example of this then in the Victory-s second goal, with Kewell threading a swift ball through Matt Smith into the path of the dynamic Thompson, who went to work on both Matt Jurman and Michael Theoklitos.

When Foschini was sent off before the break, the Victory reverted to a 4-3-1, with Ferreira switching to right back. In truth, with the Roar dominating possession and Thompson dropping deeper and deeper, to the head of a midfield diamond, it shaped more like a 4-4-0.

By then the Victory were hanging on, defending deep and compactly, restricting the space in the middle and in behind. Try as they did, the Roar were unable to drawn them out, stretch them, or get in behind.

It was a wonderful all-round performance from the Victory, proving again that well constructed tactics, combined with belief, can achieve much.

At the heart of it were some big games from the big names, with the experience of Adrian Leijer and Rody Vargas in the centre of defence, Leijer-s early mistake notwithstanding, complimenting the work of Kewell, Thompson and Hernandez in front of them.

It was the same less than 24 hours later in Sydney, where superb performance from the experienced quartet of Emerton, Carle, Pascal Bosschaart and Karol Kisel contributed to an outstanding Sydney fightback against the Gold Coast, even with a spot of fortunate in stoppage time.

While Carle and Bosschaart have been contributing in a big way for much of the campaign, this was the evening that Emerton burst to life, his penetrating runs on both flanks in the second half lifting the Sky Blues off the recently re-laid SFS surface.

This was the Emerton we-ve grown to know, bursting into the space in behind the United fullbacks, on either side. When he got his foot on the ball, he was invariable looking to jink and link, a deft cross here, a first time ball across the 18 yard box, a cut-back to the edge of the box.

All the while he was being prompted by both Carle and Kisel. The latter showed remarkable poise and experience at the penalty spot deep into stoppages, taking the responsibility, gathering his composure, tucking away a priceless winner.

It was a reminder that, for all the joy and fantasy of the Brisbane Roar, both the Victory and Sydney still pack some serious quality, and experience, attributes that should keep them thereabouts.