MASSIMO Luongo’s QPR recorded a shock 3-1 win at Mile Jedinak’s promotion hopefuls Aston Villa in the English Championship while Jackson Irvine played a key role in Hull City’s big away victory.
QPR won just their third league game of the season away from home with Luongo, who has started 33 games for Ian Holloway’s side, influential midfield against his Socceroos captain Jedinak.
There was no fluke about Rangers’ success, set up in the first half by Irishman Ryan Manning’s first strike of the campaign and Jake Bidwell’s first ever league goal.
The visitors completed Villa’s humiliation when substitute Luke Freeman scored in the 82nd minute.
Villa defender James Chester replied in the 88th minute but was was nothing more than a consolation goal.
The heavy defeat leaves Villas seven points behind second-placed Cardiff City, in the race for automatic promotion to the Premier League.
QPR are 15th in the 24-team league.
Irvine’s fine form for Hull continued with the assist for the game’s opening goal in their 3-0 win at Ipswich Town, The Socceroos midfielder headed the ball down from inside the penalty area for Markus Henriksen to fire home smartly on 18 minutes.
Harry Wilson and Jarrod Bowen added to the scoreline to lift the Tigers to 17th, nine points above the bottom three.
Irvine scored in Hull’s weekend win over Norwich City.
Elsewhere, Wolves maintained their lead at the top with a routine 3-0 win over Reading.
Defender Matt Doherty scored twice and on-loan Bournemouth striker Benik Afobe also netted at Molineux.
Cardiff won at Brentford, coming back from a goal down to prevail 3-1. Sol Bamba, Callum Paterson and Kenneth Zahore scored for Neil Warnock’s side after Neal Maupay had opened the scoring for Brentford.
Sheffield United closed the gap to the top six to two points with a 2-0 win over Burton.
Enda Stevens opened the scoring in the first half before David Brooks’ goal after the break helped lift them to seventh.
At the bottom Barnsley inched three points clear of the relegation zone after a 1-1 draw with mid-table Norwich.
Swansea loanee Oli McBurnie celebrated his first Scotland call-up with a neat volley just before half-time only for Josh Murphy to equalise.
Football in Australia has long attempted to have both, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that one is being compromised by the other.
The concept of both quality and equality comes from the other football codes. Share the love, spread the talent out via a salary cap, and you get a competitive league with the very best going head to head against each other each week.
It sounds utopian, doesn’t it?
(30 points, 5th)
(47 points, 2nd)
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(20 points, 9th)
(52 points, 1st)
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(34 points, 4th)
(30 points, 6th)
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(17 points, 10th)
(28 points, 7th)
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(26 points, 8th)
(35 points, 3rd)
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Except that in football, there is one tiny flaw. It’s global footprint.
Thus, unlike the other codes, the best talent tends to “bleed” out of the local competition and overseas in the chase for better wages, opportunities, or both.
Sydney’s struggles continue
Greed? No, it’s just the football economy, doing its thing. Players only have a short career, and if they can get better cash in Thailand or Saudi Arabia, then they owe it to themselves, and their families, to take it.
The A-League has long been said to have a “soft” salary cap – there are all sorts of exemptions to entice players to come (or stay). But perhaps it’s time the regulations were looked at again – or else we risk diluting the standard of the competition in favour of equality once more.
Across Asia, leagues in Japan, China, Korea, the Middle East, are all boosted by imports.
They are normally players fans want to see, and while no-one is pretending Australian clubs can match the financial muscle of the Chinese Super League, it remains baffling we make it so hard for clubs to retain their top foreign talent.
For example next season, Sydney FC must try to juggle two marquee spots between three players – Bobo, Milos Ninkovic and Adrian Mierzejewski – if they wish to retain the trio.
Where does that leave Jordy Buijs?
Defenders rarely draw marquee money, so he’s likely to be on his way. Turning 30 later this year, the Dutchman may only have two decent contracts ahead of him.
Yet between them, Bobo, Mierzejewski and Ninkovic have scored 39 of Sydney’s 55 goals, while Buijs has been one of the cornerstones of the league’s meanest defence.
It was the same story with Brisbane Roar’s back-to-back title winning team, where Thomas Broich and Besart Berisha played crucial parts. Roar lost Berisha to Victory for nothing, thanks to the same restrictive rules – which, in those days, allowed for only one foreign marquee.
Sporting excellence is being punished. It’s unfathomable.
It’s not just Sydney FC that stand to lose next season.
Melbourne Victory have already earmarked James Troisi as one of their marquees for next season – and Besart Berisha is more than likely to be the second.
All of which will leave Victory’s standout player, Leroy George, as the odd man out in the equation. He deserves better.
If George ends up returning overseas, then everyone loses – not least the fans – and while you can lay the blame at Victory’s door in part for pre-empting the marquee spots, this is why, in my opinion, all foreigners must come out of the cap, as a precursor to the removal of the cap entirely.
The arguments against are familiar ones.
High wages for players who don’t perform is one. But isn’t that always the risk clubs run when signing players, big money or not?
Disadvantaging Australian players is another.
Perhaps. Which is why I would be in favour of allowing one marquee spot to remain open for Aussies, while also reducing the foreign allocation to 3+1 to fall into line with Asian Champions League rules.
Less quantity, more quality – plus more spots available for local players, as we await long-overdue expansion.
But now to the crux of the issue: Would the clubs be able to afford it?
Some will and some won’t. Some will go for it and others will cut their cloth accordingly. Sound familiar? Yes, that’s what happens now under our salary capped league.
Central Coast Mariners have just three foreign players on their books at present, and no marquees. Wellington and Adelaide are also in the “nil” category at present when it comes to players outside the cap.
So why are we penalising those who push the boat out?
The new system would potentially help A-League clubs compete in Asia.
Our clubs have struggled on the regional stage, yet the margins between victory and defeat are mainly down to the foreign talent available to the non-salary capped leagues we compete against.
Man for man, are the Chinese players (for example) better than their Australian counterparts? I’d say it’s the foreigners who make the difference.
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To underline the point, seven of the nine goals conceded by Melbourne Victory in the group stage have been scored by foreigners, while four of the seven put past Sydney FC have also been scored by overseas-born players.
As of next season, the A-League is likely to be aligned to the “plus one” rule. Allowing clubs to pay outside the cap in this category would also help in the recruitment of Asian players, as it’s unlikely cheap AFC imports will help either the clubs, or the competition.
Ultimately of course, there is no doubt that the introduction of such a system would mean the bigger clubs dominating at the expense of the smaller clubs.
But is that so wrong about that?
It happens in leagues all around the world – and in case you missed it, it is already happening here too. There is nothing inherently bad about having big and small clubs – and we already have a significant equalisation measure in place, called the top six. You can still win the A-League – even with a negative win, loss ratio.
But the bigger clubs need to be allowed to grow, and be the drivers of excellence in the A-League. Better players stimulate interest in the market, not just at the host club, but among competitors too. That is what we should be striving for, surely?
To do that in a global game costs money. If clubs can afford to spend it, why should they be stopped? If they can’t, or don’t want to – no problem. But let the clubs decide, not the regulations.
Because equalising back down towards the lowest common denominator, rather than encouraging the rest of the competition to catch up, doesn’t raise the overall standard.
Equality over quality? In a global game operating in a highly competitive sporting market, it’s a concept that simply doesn’t work.