Date: 28 January 2001
Venue: Litis Stadium, Perth, Western Australia
Western Australia: Corey Hugo, Troy Bernard, Aaron Cole, Scott Broadley, Craig Surtees, Paul Cooke, Doug Ithier, Sandy Robertson (Jamie Kuzmanovic 78), Steve White, Trim Morgan, Louis Parkinson (Kevin Correia 78)
Red Star Belgrade: Aleksander Kocic (Dejan Pesic 46), Jovan Markoski (Vladimir Matijasevic 46), Petar Djenic (Nenad Lalatovic 46), Goran Bunjevcevic (Stevo Glogovac 46), Ivan Gvozdenovic (Mirko Bunjevcevic 46), Dejan Ilic (Naned Miljkovic 46), Leo Lerinc (Marjan Markovic 46), Blaze Georgioski (Branko Boskovic 46), Milenko Acimovic (Goran Drulic 46), Ivan Vukomanovic (Vladislav Mirkovic 46), Mihajlo Pjanovic (Dragan Stevanovic 46)
Referee: Eddie Lennie
This was always going to be a tough match for a young WA side, their opponents ranks brimful of star players including five current Yugoslavian internationals - including $30 million Goran Drulic - one Croatian and a couple of Yugoslavian Under-21 players amongst their ranks. None the less, home coach Paul Wormley was confident that his troops would be able to contain Yugoslavia's Red Star Belgrade, arguably one of the strongest European sides to ever make the trip west. But some of Wormley's optimism turned to disappointment just half an hour before kick-off when informed Red Star would be making full use of their entire 22-man travelling party over the course of the game while - unprepared for this turn of events - his side limited to their five-man bench which included back-up 'keeper Alan Dunlop.
Right from the opening kick Red Star showed that it was via their flanks that they would cause most havoc through Ivan Gvozdenovic (left) Dejan Ilic (right) who made some penetrating runs deep into the WA half. Building their attacks slowly from the back, Red Star always made sure they had plenty of men behind the ball before getting into their final third of the pitch. With both sides creating some very early half chances for themselves, it was the visitors that made the most of theirs to take the lead after only four minutes. The WA defence were still settling in and becoming accustomed to the pace of the game when Red Star sliced their way into the heart of the home area with a string of crisp passes which was finished off by Mihajlo Pjanovic who stabbed the ball home from 12 metres.
Not content with a one goal lead, Red Star continued to surge forward at will. Three minutes after the goal, Milenko Acimovic was allowed to drift in unmarked at the far post where he tapped-down Pjanovic's high ball only to find Hugo at his feet before he could think to shoot. A 12th minute Acimovic corner was not properly cleared, the home defense breathing a collective sigh of relief when Blaze Georgioski skied over from 15 metres. Sixty seconds later Pjanovic centred to Leo Lerinc, he dummied to allow the ball to run to Acimovic who flashed it wide of the far up-right.
After some early jitters which saw the ball unceremoniously hoofed to safety, the WA defence settled in to weather what would prove to be a tumultuous storm. They would spend the better part of this match in their defensive half but as it progressed they grew in confidence and were more controlled under pressure. Red Star pulled no punches in the tackle and it wasn't long before their opponents started to play with the same aggression. Cooke was lucky not to have been carded in the 16th minute when he heavily bought down Pjanovic as he raced forward. Play resumed after a stern talking to from referee Eddie Lennie, but shortly after the largely-Yugoslav crowd was up in arms again after Doug Ithier laid out an opponent with a similar determined challenge.
Hugo produced a great reflex save to deny Ivan Vukomanovic from close range after 19 minutes after the WA defense were caught napping. From the resulting corner the same player found himself with a golden opportunity to score, the forward was somewhat taken by surprise when the ball came to him inside the 6 yard box and before he could react Hugo had snatched it from under his feet. Shots on goal were coming in from all over the park - Georgioski hammered wide from long range after 24 minutes and a couple of minutes later it was Pjanovic whose shot from an tight angle was kept out by a superb flying save from Hugo.
Paul Cooke and Sandy Robertson were showing some promising signs on the left where WA's more enterprising moves were originating. It wasn't until the 28th minute that the home side carved out their first real chance on goal when Louis Parkinson raced onto a searching clearance from Troy Bernard. The young striker brilliantly turned Goran Bunjevcevic near the right corner flag before looping it back to Robertson just outside the area, he trapped the ball with his thigh before smashing a 20-metre volley which momentarily had Yugoslav national 'keeper Aleksander Kocic concerned, but he ended up watching it sail high.
Minutes later Hugo was back in action when he kept out a low, long-range attempt from Lerinc after he out-witted two defenders. WA came more involved as the half came to a close, Robertson, White and Ithier seeing more of the ball. Five minutes from the break Ithier was unable to get on the end of an in-swinging cross from Craig Surtees which landed just beyond the midfielders reach inside the area. The home defence were working hard to force their opponents into shooting from outside the penalty area and Georgioski blasted high in the 43rd minute. On those occasions Red Star did get inside the area, Hugo saved the day such as when Ilic and Georgioski teamed to get past Aaron Cole, the latter Red Star player seeing his low cross into the 6 yard box quickly pounced upon by the WA 'keeper.
As promised pre-match, Red Star emerged from the tunnel for the second half with a completely different line-up, coach Slavoljub Muslin opting to replace all eleven players. It looked as though the changes would work in the home side's favour and they stepped up their efforts to get back on level terms. A few minutes after the re-start a long-range bomb from Robertson skimmed the wrong side of the crossbar, followed shortly after by Surtees' speculative 35-metre shot which deceived second half 'keeper Dejan Pesic, who obviously expected it to land somewhere in the crowd. But the ball dropped late, clearing the back-peddling Pesic and crashing into the under-side of the bar before, unfortunately, rebounding back into play.
WA's period in control was short-lived, the new-look Red Star side taking ten or so minutes to settle into their rhythm before again running the show from the middle of the park where Branko Boskovic was influential. He had the visitors first chance of the half, pouncing on a stray backpass from Ithier to stream forward only to finish poorly. A minute later it was Stevo Glogovac who took advantage of some sloppy defensive work and was allowed time to line-up the target after his initial shot was blocked by Bernard but, like Boskovic, the final shot left a lot to be desired.
The Yugoslav club were quick to break on the counter attack, catching their opponents out of position with some superb one- and two-touch passing and turning defence into attack with a minimum of fuss. But once forward, they found the WA defence to be a tough nut to crack and were often hurried into offloading their shots from outside the penalty box. Having soaked up the first hours' pressure, the home backline were now able to accurately forecast their opponents attacking moves and acted quickly to limit their effectiveness. Bernard was super-cool throughout in his role as sweeper, making a number of crucial tackles, cutting-out dangerous through-balls and growing in confidence as the game progressed. In front of him Broadley and Cole were doing a credible job of keeping Vladislav Mirkovic and Dragan Stevanovic in check, while flank players Surtees and Cooke were always quick to lend a hand at the back.
But for all their good work the WA defense were not making life any easier for themselves by fiddling around with the ball when under pressure deep in their half. Rather than knock it early to feet, they often took their time on the ball only to be forced into playing it to a teammate under just as much pressure as themselves. Stemming from such a situation, Boskovic turned the ball over in the 62nd minute before chipping it over Hugo, but the midfielders shot had a little too much carry and it landed on the top netting.
A minute later Boskovic was again in the thick of the action, weaving his way past three opponents to get deep inside the area only to slam the ball into the side netting from a tight angle. The Yugoslav side continued to surge forward at every opportunity and it was only due to some great work at the back that the margin was not extended. A perfectly timed slide by Surtees saw him intercept a through ball which was destined for Stevanovic, who would have then gone one-on-one with Hugo. And not long after a determined Cole-Bernard combination conspired to thwart Drulic on top of the area.
Sensing WA legs were tiring, Red Star lifted for the final 15 minutes in their quest for a second goal. A flying run down the right by Marjan Markovic saw him knock the ball past Hugo from a narrow angle and across the face of goal, only to find no one on hand to tuck ball into the net. In the 78th minute Mirko Bunjevcevic and Nenad Lalatovic combined on the left with the latter sending a high cross to the far post where Markovic volleyed disappointingly wide.
With Red Star orchestrating play from the middle of the park, their defence was rarely put under pressure, but on those occasions they performed admirably. WA only created a couple of chances in the closing stages with poor finishing not bringing Pesic into the action. In the 65th minute Cooke should have done better than to hit the ball wide from 16 metres, and eight minutes from full-time substitute Kevin Correia shot disappointingly after good lead-up work from Jamie Kuzmanovic. On both occasions the ability of the Red Star defence to close down their opponents with a minimum of fuss made all the difference.
The star of the final stages was young 'keeper Hugo who highlighted just why he is rated at the State's No.1. In the 83rd minute he thumped a dangerous through ball to safety as Red Star players raced through the WA off-side trap. Four minutes later a thunderbolt from Boskovic was deflected off the boot - with it looping goalward and Vladislav Mirkovic closing in fast, Hugo hurled himself at the ball to knock it around the post. Shortly after he proved his reflexes were at their best by pulling off a spectacular one-handed save to keep a powerful close range header from Nenad Miljkovic out.
But there was little the WA custodian could do to prevent Red Star from netting their second goal of the evening in the final minute of play. Hugo did well to get a hand on Lalatovic's high ball played in from the left, only for it fall to Drulic who. Taking advantage of a tired and disorganised defence, the midfielder fed the ball to Stevanovic who slammed it over the line from close range with what would prove to be the last kick of the match.
First impressions were that it was an impressive 90 minute display from Red Star side, Pjanovic featuring heavily in the first half, delivering a killer blow after just 4 minutes and coming close to extending the margin on several other occasions. After the break midfielder Boskovic was seemingly involved everytime the side went forward that was the stand-out player. But, putting the game in perspective, Red Star didn't really live up to the pre-match hype. While they were without a doubt the dominant side on the park, they never really showed the dazzling skills against a WA team playing out-of-season and with only three weeks preparation under their belt.
Although outplayed, full marks go to the young WA side who showed real determination against their hugely credentialled opponents. Hugo was without a doubt the home side's best player, saving the team on numerous occasions, while Bernard was reliable behind the centre-backs. Others who impressed included Cooke on the left, and midfielders White and Robertson, although they were overshadowed by their opponents for long periods. Special mention must also be made of the refereeing by Lennie - he controlled what at times was a when very physical match in which a lesser official would have been dealing out the cards from the opening minutes.
Post-match, Wormley said he was disappointed to have conceded goals early and late in the piece, but was pleased with his sides performance. "It's a crying shame we conceded that late goal because I think 1-0 would have been a lot more respectable result when you look at it down the track," he said. "I thought it was a supreme effort all round, especially when you consider the guys have had just two and a half weeks in training ... It really shows the character of our guys because they did contain Red Star for parts of the game."
Date: 29 Feburary 2001
Venue: Litis Stadium, Perth, Western Australia
Western Australia (squad): Corey Hugo, Troy Bernard, Aaron Cole, Scott Broadley, Steve MacDonald,Doug Ithier, Todd Howarth, Paul Cooke, Craig Surtees, Jamie Kuzmanovic, Todd Harnwell, Steve White, Sandy Robertson, Kevin Correia, Louis Parkinson, Trim Morgan
On Tuesday night it was the turn of the WA professional side to take on Sarawak, this time at the Litis Stadium. In a tight contest, there was little to get excited about in a goalless first half which saw the visitors focus on defensive duties after conceding four goals a few days earlier - unfortunately this meant they put together few attacking moves to leave Cory Hugo a virtual spectator in the WA goal. The only two decent goal-scoring chances of the period fell to WA striker Kevin Correia - the first after just 7 minutes was deflected over the bar, while in the 35th minute his shot flew wide of the mark.
After the break Sarawak relied on some effective work on the counter-attack to get forward and on several occasions sweeper Troy Bernard was called upon to make some well-timed tackles for WA the deadlock was finally broken after 61 minutes when Sandy Robertson converted a penalty after Sarawak goalkeeper Mazlan Wahid up-ended Craig Surtees in the box. Five minutes later it was two-nil after Trim Morgan used his body to shield the ball in the box, then teed-up midfielder Steve White who blasted home from close range. Driven largely by Ramos Sari and Ramles Sari, Sarawak almost caught out WA on a couple of occasions before substitute Safri Amit pegged a goal back with ten minute remaining.
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