Brisbane still top as Sydney FC take derby spoils, Week 22 Wrap-up

A-League

This week saw a spicy derby encounter plus the runaway leaders pull even further clear writes Rogier Waalder.

Melbourne Victory 3 (J Jeggo, J Troisi, K Barbarouses)

Central Coast Mariners 1 (Z Anderson)

Crowd: 15,031

This week’s round kicked off on Friday night with 2 clubs that have Asian Champions League commitments during the next week.  Both teams have been fairly inconsistent of late and after cancelling each other out for much of the first half it was Melbourne who hit the lead after 31 minutes when a counter attack saw the ball travel across the top of the box where James Jeggo was waiting to place his shot home and give his side a lead at the break.  Central Coast were better after the break and controlled possession and were rewarded on 63 minutes when a freekick just outside the box was met by Zac Anderson who thundered home from 5 yards.  The game ebbed and flowed then and was in the balance until it Zac Anderson’s turn to play villain as he handled Archie Thompson’s shot in the box and Melbourne were awarded a penalty, which James Troisi finished.  That goal was Troisi’s tenth goal of the season and no doubt his parent club, Atalanta, are keeping an eye on his development.  Central Coast had a few good efforts to try and salvage something from this game but at the death, when they had men pushed forward, Melbourne struck on the counter again as Thompson and Troisi combined to eventually feed the ball to Kosta Barbarouses to put the game beyond doubt.  Victory climb back to 3rd after this win whilst Central Coast need to form some form quickly as they teeter on the edge of the Top 6.

Talking Point – Can Melbourne gain confidence from this and get a home ACL win during the week?

Newcastle Jets 1 (A Taggart)

Melbourne Heart 0

Crowd: 10,117

Melbourne Heart lost their winning run away at Newcastle this week as a determined effort from the home side saw them keep their Play-Off hopes alive with a win here.  Newcastle are still adapting to Manager Clayton Zane’s 433 system but will be buoyed by this win against a Heart team who’ve been in red hot form.  Indeed it was the Heart who had the best of the first half chances and it took a combatative midfield performance from Ruben Zadkovich to halt Heart main man Orlando Engelaar from making a telling contribution.  Heart controlled the tempo and possession but lacked the finishing touch on a bumpy pitch to get the breakthrough they needed.  Newcastle had an ace up their sleeve though with star striker Adam Taggart, who has been in good form lately, and he proved the difference with a well taken goal on 53 minutes.  The Heart had some late chances to peg the Jets back but in the end their winning streak came to an end and they now pull clear from the bottom of the table.

Talking Point – Will this loss upset Heart’s winning momentum and see them slide down the table again?

Sydney FC 3 (M Jurman; R Garcia; A Abbas)

Western Sydney Wanderers 1 (S Ono)

Crowd: 40,285

Sydney upset the odds to beat their bitter cross-town rivals Western Sydney in a fiery derby in front of a raucous crowd on Saturday night.  This derby fixture may only be 2 seasons old but this hasn’t dampened the feeling between the teams and their fans, who created a wall of noise and colour. It was the noise and colour of the crowd that entertained the viewer in the first half as both teams seem to be struck by stage fright in front of the large crowd and no real clear cut chances were created.  After the break though, the game combusted and Western Sydney struck first when Shinji Ono tapped home from 5 yards in the 49th minute.  The Wanderers were spurred on by this goal and the huge backing they had in ‘enemy territory’ and won a penalty shortly thereafter.  This penalty would prove to be the turning point as former Sydney FC man Mark Bridge saw his spot kick saved by a flying Vedrad Janjetovic.  The Sydney goalie won the battle of the mind games in saving this penalty as he could clearly be seen telling Bridge were he thought he would place the ball and ultimately he guessed correctly and dived to that very spot to save the shot.  Sydney were given a lifeline they scantly deserved and took full advantage a short time later when the Wanderer’s goalie, Ante Covic flapped at a freekick and Matt Jurman was on hand to head home into an empty net to tie this one up.

Sydney then capitilised on another horrendous defensive error as Michael Beauchamp’s limp backpass was intercepted by Richard Garcia who finished with aplomb to send the home fans into delirium.  The Wanderers were rattled and despite being urged on by their supporters couldn’t find the equaliser and it was Sydney who rubbed salt into their wounds in stoppage time as Alli Abbas slotted home a penalty to give his fans the bragging rights and move his side to within 3points of their rivals.

This game was marred though by claims made at fulltime by the Iraqi Abbas who stated during his post-match interview that he’d been racially vilified by a Wanderers player.  Abbas was seen to be visibily upset during the final 10 minutes of the match and had to be restrained by his own players on a few occasions as he confronted some Wanderers players.  Sydney FC have made a formal complaint to the FFA regarding Abbas’ claims and if the allegations are true let’s hope the governing body take stern action against those responsible.  The Wanderers now have to travel to China midweek for the ACL game and this time away might be what’s needed to galvanise the squad.

Talking Points: This is now 3 games lost in a row for Western Sydney whose previous tight grip on 2nd spot is now under serious threat.  Can they hold on?

Wellington Phoenix 1 (K Cunningham)

Perth Glory 1 (W Gallas)

Crowd: 6,401

In what Mark Bosnich has dubbed the ‘distance derby’ Perth made the long journey east to the New Zealand capital and came home with a share of the points.  Wellington will wonder how they didn’t take all 3 points from this one as they dominated possession and took 20 shots for just the 1 goal in return.  Perth have been a shambles of late and have slumped to the bottom of the ladder and star man William Gallas, in particular, has been in terrible form.  Gallas made amends somewhat here with a wonderful goal where he ventured forward with the ball on a searching run midway through the first half before received a one-two pass back from his teammate at the top of the box and curling his left footed shot around a sprawling Glen Moss in the home goal.  Gallas was overjoyed with his first A-League goal but it was the performance of Perth goalie Jack Duncan that proved the difference here.  Duncan was playing his first game of the season after usual custodian Danny Vukovic went on loan to Japanese side Vegalta Sendai during the week and he put in a top class performance to repeatedly deny the Phoenix.  The home pressure paid off though in the end as on 83 minutes Kenny Cunningham popped up in the box to head home a deep cross to give the home fans something to cheer about.  It was too little too late for the Phoenix though who will rue not taking their chances in this one and they stay outside the Top 6.

Talking Point: Will this backs to the wall performance give Perth the impetus they need to go on a late season run of form to salvage some pride?

Brisbane Roar 2 (B Berisha (2))

Adelaide Utd 1 (J Neumann)

Crowd: 12,514

This game was labelled as potentially the game of the season owing to both sides playing a tiki-taka style of play and both occupying lofty positions on the ladder.  This was seen as a major test of Adelaide’s recent fine form as they headed to the home of the leaders to try and keep some pressure on Brisbane.  Brisbane had a disjointed lead up to this game with key men Matt McKay and Ivan Franjic travelling to and from London during the week for Australia’s game versus Ecuador and illness striking down Thomas Broich.  It was Adelaide that started the better and were comfortably controlling proceedings early on with Brisbane struggling to control the possession that they are so used to doing.  It was Brisbane though that showed their class midway through the first half when out of form striker Besart Berisha reminded everyone of his quality with a clinical finish after good lead up work from Dimi Petratos and McKay.  Adelaide responded by controlling the tempo and forced a few good saves from the Roar goalie, Michael Theo.  Ultimately though Adelaide’s possession counted for little against the quality of Brisbane’s attack and the home side should have been 2 up at the break but for a controversial refereeing decision.  Thomas Broich was the unlucky recipient of a poor call from the officials as his thunderbolt of a shot evaded Eugene Galekovic and struck the crossbar before bouncing back out onto the field of play.  The replays though showed that the ball actually comfortably crossed the goal line when it came down from the crossbar and the home crowd displayed their bemusement at the incorrect decision.  There is no goal-line technology in the A-League but the ball clearly crossed the line and the officials should have given a better account of themselves on this instance.  Brisbane channelled this frustration in the second half as they started to claw back the tempo from Adelaide and on 52 minutes Berisha went deep to receive the ball before gaining it back, after good interplay between McKay and Broich, to thunder home his 2nd of the game and put Brisbane in a commanding position.  Adelaide continued to prove worthy opponents and Sergio Cirio in particular looked dangerous whenever he had the ball but the Brisbane defence, marshalled by the excellent Matt Smith, held firm.  Adelaide got a consolation right at the death when Jeronimo Neumann smashed one home from the edge of the box but it was too little too late and Brisbane march 10 points clear at the top and seemingly on track to become Premiers with just 5 games remaining.  Adelaide will go home licking their wounds from this one and although they dominated possession Brisbane gave them a lesson in quality in the final third.

Talking Point:  Is it time for the FFA to consider bringing in goal-line technology to the A-League.

So the wash-up from this round is Brisbane seemingly destined to finish the regular season in 1st spot and take an advantage into the Play-Offs as well as automatic qualification for next seasons Asian Champions League.  With Western Sydney losing there is now a keen battle between the next 5 sides for 2nd spot on the table and the other automatic ACL spot.

STANDINGS

140308 - A-League

League table courtesy of FIFA.com

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