Los Angeles Soccer: Labinot Haliti
November, 27, 2010
By Scott French | ESPNLosAngeles.com
Landon Donovan gave the Galaxy a seventh-minute lead Saturday. Juninho made it 2-0 about a minute later.
Donovan's chest-in of a sweet, one-bounce cross from Sean Franklin gave L.A. the early advantage in its friendly against Australia's Newcastle Jets, but in an echo of one of the World Cup's great controversies -- and especially of Frank Lampard's blast against Germany -- Juninho's strike didn't count.
The Brazilian midfielder took a feed from David Beckham and unleashed a rocket off the underside of the crossbar just eight minutes in. The ball ricocheted down and bounced out, and referee Matthew Breeze
and linesman Rod Allen ruled it had not crossed the goal line.
Video replays demonstrated otherwise.
It was only a friendly, so no big deal in the grand scheme, but here's more evidence that it's time for goal-line technology.
A 2-0 scoreline so early might have shaken the Jets' young lineup, which instead rebounded quickly and dominated play the rest of the first half and much of the second en route to a 2-1 victory in Newcastle, Australia.
It was a deserved victory for the home team, except that it wasn't. A 2-2 scoreline would have been fair, but the better side did prevail.
The Galaxy lacked intensity in midfield -- what did we expect; their season ended two weeks ago, and vacation awaits -- and struggled to deal with the mobility of the Jets' outside backs and the quality of service from the flanks.
Sasho Petrovski scored the equalizer in the 39th minute with a fine header from Ali Abbas' cross, and Kosovo-born, Sydney-raised substitute Labinot Haliti scored the winner eight minutes into the second half with a precise finish after A.J. DeLaGarza failed to adequately deal with a long ball.
Donovan's goal was nice -- maybe not as nice as Juninho's, but who's quibbling? Beckham played a ball forward on the right, Edson Buddle touched it to Chris Birchall, who quickly sent it wide to Franklin, whose first-time cross bounced stealthily between goalkeeper Matthew Nash and a defender. Donovan, racing in behind, only had to put his chest to it, and voilą!
Other talking points:
- The Galaxy is 0-2 in friendlies on Australian soil. They fell to Sydney FC three years ago.
- Beckham went the full 90, probably 30 minutes more than he might have -- his lower back clearly was bothering him -- but he's who the sellout crowd of 23,317 came to see, and he wasn't about to leave. (DeLaGarza was the only other player to go 90 for the Galaxy.) He might have had a goal, too, with a blast from Donovan's feed just before halftime, smashing it just past the far post.
- In their final professional games, Eddie Lewis played the second half and Chris Klein got 28 minutes in. Galaxy coach Bruce Arena made sure everyone saw action except third-string goalkeeper Brian Perk and reserve defender Leonardo.
- Petrovski, 35, apparently lobbied Arena for a job next season. He then gave the kind of performance deserving of consideration.
- Donovan Ricketts was called upon to make one big save, keeping L.A. ahead with a reaction stop on a Petrovski header at the left post in the 14th minute.
- Man of the match: Jets midfielder Kasey Wehrman, who was key to Newcastle's midfield dominance, repeatedly got the better of Juninho in the one-on-one battles, pushed forward with vigor and delivered set pieces far more dangerous than Beckham's. It was from his long ball that Haliti netted the winner. Runner-up: Jets midfielder Abbas, an Iraqi-born attacker with free reign -- and his movement and service caused havoc for L.A.'s defense.
- Newcastle owner Nathan Tinkler donated $5,000 to charity for every goal scored. That's $15,000. Donovan suggested in the postgame presser that, in the spirit of fair play, Tinkler ought to add another $5K for Juninho's.