Honda’s winning accord
KEISUKE Honda is already the ALeague’s assist king, but good judges have warned Melbourne Victory’s opponents that there is plenty more to come.
Ex-Socceroo Sasa Ognenovski declared that his multimillion-dollar signing has already paid off, while Victory coach Kevin Muscat revealed that much of his handywork goes unnoticed.
Honda has been involved in every Victory goal this season and his three assists and goal are supported by a strong body of work: 208 possessions (fourth in A-League), 13 shot assists (first), 54 completed passes in attacking third (fourth) and 26 attempted crosses (third).
Ognenovski, who lined up against Honda in several high-octane internationals, said Victory players should trust the midfielder more, likening him to former teammate Mark Bresciano.
“Honda has made an impact wherever he’s played — CSKA Moscow, AC Milan and Japan. And he’s already vindicated his signing. He’s putting bums on seats,’’ the Fox Sports commentator said.
“He’s quality — knows where to be, doesn’t turn the ball over, which you see too much of in the A-League. He keeps possession and knows when to pass or hold, go back, forwards or sideways.
“He’s very aware of players around him. He’s like Bresh, you can give him the ball in tight space to feet and even with a man up his backside, he’ll find space with his first touch into the space. It’s that Japanese technique.
“I don’t think Victory give him the ball enough. Last week he barely touched the ball for the first 30 minutes — he needs to get on the ball more and get into games quicker.
“He still hasn’t come to grips with the football and I don’t think he knows the strengths and weaknesses of his teammates, so when they actually settle we’ll see a lot more from him.”
The return of forward Ola Toivonen will also help, according to Ognenovski, and the Sweden World Cup star could debut off the bench in tonight’s clash with Central Coast Mariners at AAMI Park.
Muscat has played Honda on the right side of midfield but given him a licence to roam, and he’s thrilled with the impact.
“He comes under a lot of attention from opponents so it’s up to him to find space that will give him more time to make the killer pass that splits oppositions,’’ Muscat said. “A bit of a trend that we’ve noticed is teams want to limit his influence, which starts to open up other areas for other people. So sometimes he might not be visually directly involved, but indirectly he’s creating space for others.
“We want to get better at utilising him and (exploiting) the space he leaves in behind.”
VICTORY v CENTRAL COAST
AAMI Park, Tonight, 7pm Victory Draw Mariners Live on Fox Sports 1116SEN, ABC Grandstand Digital Kevin Muscat Acton (gk), 6 Broxham, 11 Toivonen, 16 Hope, 22 Ansell Mike Mulvey 12 Pearce (gk), 11 Pain, 18 Millar, 19 Simon, 22 Melling Victory will take confidence from last week’s win and its superior quality should be telling.
Keisuke Honda of Melbourne Victory shields the ball from Lachlan Jackson of Newcastle Jets. Picture: AAP TAB odds: $4.50, TV: RADIO: $1.45, $7 VICTORY 4-4-2 Coach: Subs: MARINERS 4-2-3-1 Coach: Subs: DAVUTOVIC’S VERDICT Assists ( Shot assists ( shots – all on target completed passes effective tackles