Rojas' play silences his critics

00:30, Nov 06 2012
Marco Rojas Andrew Durante
Marco Rojas fends off Wellington Phoenix player Andrew Durante during last night's game in Melbourne.

There were a lot of knockers when Marco Rojas ditched the Phoenix for the bright lights of Melbourne, but you probably won't hear a peep out of them now.

Rojas was unpopular among Phoenix fans before last season when he turned his back on Wellington - he got his big break at the club on a Yellow Fever-funded scholarship - and signed with Melbourne Victory.

But little more than a season on and everything appears to have fallen into place for the hugely talented All White, who appears to be forming the most exciting strike partnership in the A-League with Archie Thompson.

While he only started 15 matches last season, the arrival of two-time winning Brisbane Roar coach Ange Postecoglou at the Victory this season is just what Rojas needed.

All Whites fans would have been hoping Postecoglou could do for Rojas what he did at the Roar for Kosta Barbarouses, another highly talented young Kiwi footballer who didn't get a look-in at the Phoenix.

Frustrated at his lack of playing time in Wellington, Barbarouses went to the Roar and was a vital cog in their first title two seasons ago, scoring 11 goals in a system that suited his game, based around speed, skill, movement off the ball and a distinct lack of aerial attack.

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It did wonders for his game and confidence and resulted in him attracting interest from Russia, then Greek giants Panathinaikos.

The Postecoglou style is also custom-made for Rojas, who only got a look-in at the Phoenix when Paul Ifill got injured but made an immediate impression.

He's a first XI player now and with four goals from four matches, including a double in last night's comprehensive 3-2 in against the Phoenix, he's made an excellent start to the season.

When given space to get in behind defences - and quite incredibly the Phoenix allowed them far too much last night - he and the dynamic Thompson are virtually unstoppable.

Victory will take some time to fully adapt to Postecoglou's easy-on-the-eye style but there were signs last night they are well on their way - the interplay between Marcos Flores and Gui Finkler that led to the second goal was a delight to watch - and Rojas is an integral part.

That's great news for New Zealand football, if not the Phoenix.

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Wellington were defensively awful last night and two cracking late goals from Jeremy Brockie to open his account this season won't paper over those gaping cracks.

When you defend as flat and as high up the pitch and also stand off to allow the opposition midfield as much time as Victory had on the ball last night, it's a recipe for a humbling.

And that it was. Make no mistake, the 3-2 scoreline was hugely flattering to the Phoenix; they were hammered for the first 60 minutes. They simply didn't show.

Ben Sigmund, wrongly suspended for the match, was missed in the middle and Leo Bertos and Tony Lochhead were exposed out wide. Brockie's late brace restored respectability to the scoreline, but coach Ricki Herbert will know he has plenty of tactical work to do to get this team humming defensively again.

And with Central Coast coming to town this week fresh from putting seven past Sydney FC, he doesn't have a lot of time to do it.

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Victory's Brazilian midfielder Gui Finkler has astonishingly changed clubs 17 times in the past seven years. Ultimate journeyman-type figures, those, but on the evidence of his first few A-League matches, that rather unflattering tag seems unfair. He looks to be a very good buy.

The Dominion Post