As the coronavirus continues to challenge health authorities around the globe, Australian football is also feeling the pinch with the Matildas having their upcoming fixtures thrown into chaos.
Just two days after the reshuffling of the Matildas’ Olympic qualifiers, Football Federation Australia on Sunday confirmed yet more changes – this time to provide a level playing field for a Chinese national side that has been quarantined in Brisbane.
Though none of the squad or travelling support staff has exhibited any symptoms of the virus, despite the side staging a training camp in Hubei province before the shift of games to Sydney, quarantine protocols dictate they not be released from isolation until February 5.
That’s two days after the qualifying tournament begins.
The revised schedule will see Thailand and Taiwan open play at Campbelltown Stadium on Monday, before double headers occur at the same venue next Friday and Sunday.
The Matildas and China will then play the group’s final fixture on Wednesday week at Bankwest Stadium – although this fixture is set to be pushed back a day should an FFA request be accepted by FIFA, the AFC and players’ European clubs.
The New Daily understands that the W-League Melbourne derby, originally scheduled for Thursday week, is to be shifted to the weekend to accommodate the changes.
The entire affair is a logistical nightmare, but FFA deserves credit for the way it has been able to respond to the situation.
With FIFA no doubt watching on, the skilful handling of events will hopefully be taken into account when a decision is made on Australia and New Zealand’s joint 2023 Women’s World Cup bid.
Health cloud over Asian Champions League
Further afield, the spread of coronavirus is set to play havoc with A-League sides’ forays into the 2020 Asian Champions League.
All three of the Australian clubs in the competition have Chinese sides in their groups: Beijing FC in Group E with Melbourne Victory, Shanghai Shenhua sorted into Group F with Perth Glory, and Shanghai SIPG sharing a group with Sydney FC.
Already, Perth Glory’s game against Shanghai Shenhua on February 11 and Sydney FC’s match against Shanghai SIPG on February 12 have been rescheduled as a result of travel restrictions.
Wanderers in from the cold
Caretaker Western Sydney coach Jean-Paul de Marigny has hailed his team’s mental strength after it notched a 3-1 victory over Central Coast for the Wanderers ’first win in a month.
In the club’s first game since the sacking of Markus Babbel, de Marigny said the past two weeks have been spent ushering in a new attitude and style.
“We worked on the way that we want to be collectively and their mentality towards what we’re trying to achieve in a short period of time. It was pleasing to see,” the former assistant told AAP.
“The response was very good, was very positive. Not only the end result but the performance and the result.”
Adelaide United – Victorious over Victorians
Perhaps Adelaide United should ask to play sides from Melbourne every week.
The Reds, for the third week in a row, vanquished a club from Victoria’s capital on Saturday when they downed Melbourne City 3-1 at Coopers Stadium.
Following wins over Melbourne Victory and Western United, Adelaide’s three-game winning run has done wonders to shift the tone around the club, which had entered its Round 15 tie with Victory with five losses in its past six games.
Saturday’s win consolidates the Reds position in the A-League’s top six and leaves them – with a game in hand – just three points behind second-placed City.
Harrison Delbridge needs to get serious
Saturday evening was almost a total write-off for Melbourne City.
Comfortably defeated, it lost defender Jack Hendry, who had only arrived on loan from Celtic on January 21, to what coach Erick Mombaerts called “a big injury” in the dying seconds and then defender Harrison Delbridge received a straight red card in the 76th minute.
It is his third red card of the season and Delbridge is beginning to present a significant headache for Mombaerts.
On his day, he’s capable of being one of the best defenders in the A-League, but his all-too-frequent moments of madness are becoming a drain on a club attempting to stage a serious title challenge.
More composure is needed from the 27-year-old if player and club are to succeed.
Sydney FC’s new dynasty
With its Y-League grand final win over Melbourne Victory on Friday night, Sydney FC’s dominance of Australian football became complete.
Steamrolling Victory on their way to a 5-1 win in what could be the final Y-League game played under the competition’s format, the Sky Blues’ triumph meant that they became the first club to simultaneously hold the A-League, W-League and Y-League titles.
It might be infuriating for opposition fans, but entering a new decade the Sky Blues represent a standard previously unmatched in Australian football.
Friday: Sydney FC 1-0 Brisbane Roar
Saturday: Newcastle Jets 0-0 Western United; Adelaide United 3-1 Melbourne City; Perth Glory 2-2 Melbourne Victory
Sunday: Central Coast Mariners 1-3 Western Sydney Wanderers
Saturday: Newcastle Jets 2-0 Adelaide United