Premiers and Wondergoals, Week 24 Wrap-up

A-League

Adelaide 3-1 Sydney FC

This intriguing match-up of playing styles started us off this week with swash-buckling Adelaide proving to be far superior than the pragmatic Sydney.  Both teams are desperate to clinch their Play-off spots and these match-ups will ultimately determine who is good enough for the Top 6 and who isn’t and based on the evidence of this match its clear that Adelaide are contenders and Sydney pretenders.  Sydney had no answer to Adelaide’s movement and guile and were undone as early as the 13th minute as the excellent Marcelo Carrusca split the defence with a ball to the flying Fabio Ferreira who ran away and finished.  Adelaide overwhelmingly dominated possession in this one and it was only a matter of time before they struck again and just after halftime another sweeping move resulted in Sergio Cirio poking home after a goal-mouth scramble to completely deflate Sydney.  Sydney did pull one back against the run of play when Matt Thompson finished off in the 75th minute but the 2-goal margin was restored at the death with Bruce Djite scoring and sending the large home crowd home happy.  The manner of this defeat will bite Sydney as they were completely outplayed and have to pick themselves up for the ‘Big Blue’ derby against Melbourne Victory next week, in what is fast becoming a must-win game for Sydney to make the Play-offs.  Adelaide though gets back to winning ways after a few lean weeks and they should clinch a Play-off spot sooner rather than later on the evidence shown here.

Talking Point: Will a loss to Melbourne Victory next week be terminal to Sydney’s Play-off hopes?

Newcastle Jets 5-0 Wellington Phoenix

On a match played on a shambolic pitch, Newcastle restored their own Play-off hopes with an emphatic victory over an outclassed Wellington.  This match was a classic case of taking your chances as Newcastle, despite conceding the possession stats, showed superior finishing abilities to win this in a canter.  Emile Heskey scored his first goal of the season with a brilliantly placed shot from an acute angle just before the break to start the rout.  Joel Griffiths then scored for the hosts early in the 2nd half to double the lead and Wellington capitulated after this with Adam Taggart earning a brace to move clear at the top of the goal-scoring charts.  Ex-Leeds man Michael Bridges then wound back the clock in stoppage time to score a magnificent low volley on the edge of the box to seal Newcastle’s biggest ever win.  Newcastle climb back into the Top 6 on the back of this whilst Wellington’s Play-off hopes look dead and buried

Talking Point: Can Newcastle finally build some momentum late in the season to take a Play-off spot?

Brisbane Roar 1-0 Melbourne Victory

Brisbane claim the Premiership

In what was easily the Match of the Round this match had so many talking points in the build-up.  Not only was this first vs. Second but Brisbane could seal top spot and the Premiership with a victory.  Melbourne for their part could reduce the gap at the top with a win themselves to keep alive their own Premiership hopes, but were coming off midweek Champions League action.  Then there was the by-line of Besart Berisha, who controversially is swapping Brisbane for Melbourne next season, but was suspended for this one (some are claiming a conspiracy!).  This had all the hallmarks of an epic battle and a good crowd gathered at Suncorp Stadium to witness this one.  The pitch was heavily damaged by a Rugby match the night before but it didn’t quell the desire of both teams to play with the ball on the ground and a gripping arm wrestle developed in the first half.  Brisbane dominated possession, as expected, but with Berisha on the sidelines they missed that focal point up front to make a telling impact.  Melbourne for their part were dangerous on the counter and their feared front 4 were causing havoc whenever they broke.  This game was as gripping as it was pulsating and had an air of Finals football about it.  The 2nd half continued in the same way with high quality play, lots of chances and only some excellent goal-keeping by both custodians maintained the deadlock.  Melbourne for their part didn’t show evidence of fatigue after their mid-week victory against Yokohama  in the Champions League and were holding their own and looked to have done enough to keep the champagne on ice for another week for Brisbane.  Brisbane, though, are not leaders for no reason and their quality finally paid dividends in the 90th minute.  Thomas Broich did the lead-up work, as usual, by going on a mazy run and drawing 3 defenders with him and this opened space up the centre of the field for Luke Brattan to make a run to the edge of the box. Broich did his part by finding Brattan, who then after making more space for himself with an excellent first touch unleashed a swerving shot into the corner of the net to send the home crowd into raptures.  It was cruel on Melbourne to lose in this manner but in the end Brattan’s run was not tracked and he had plenty of time to pick his spot.  Brattan is being talked about as a potential bolter for Australia’s World Cup spot and it’s not hard to see why.  Brisbane saw off the final few minutes before celebrating at the final whistle and being handed the Premiers trophy with 3 matches still to play.  No one in the league will deny Brisbane this moment as they have been the best team all season and this piece of silverware is richly deserved.  The motivation will now need to be kept high for the remaining 3 matches to build momentum for the Play-Offs and the chance to do the double.  For the Victory they will gain confidence that they can match it with Brisbane should they meet in the Play-Offs.

Talking Point: With nothing to play for in the remaining 3 fixtures, will the Roar rest some players or try and keep their momentum up?

Melbourne Heart 1-2 Central Coast Mariners

The Mariners won this game with two very well taken goals by Kim Seong-Yong and Bernie Ibini to reignite their attempts at getting second spot, but this game will be remembered by what happened in the 34th minute.  The move started with Central Coast on the attack down the Heart’s right hand flank and just as the ball was about to move into the final third Massimo Murdocca broke the play up and distributed the ball to Orlando Engelaar who was further forward and took the ball 15m inside his own half. Engelaar then took a touch further forward and looked up to see Central Coast goalie Liam Reddy off his line, and then amazingly shot from well inside his own half and saw the ball nestle into the back of the net some 60m upfield from where he shot.  Engelaar clearly had seen Wayne Rooney do a similar thing for Manchester United a few hours earlier and decided to top this with a truly stunning goal that has gone viral around the world and rightly so.  To the Mariners credit they didn’t let this rattle them and got the equaliser on the stroke of halftime and then the winner with 15minutes remaining to all but snuff out the Heart’s Play-off chances.  With the news that manager John van’t Schip has re-signed for a further 2 seasons I’m sure the deep pocketed owners of the Heart (Manchester City) are now furiously trying to sign Engelaar up for next season as well to steer the planned revolution forward.  This loss makes it very difficult for the Heart to participate in the Play-offs but for the Mariners it’s a crucial victory.

Talking Point: Will Engelaar’s goal be named Best of the Season?

Western Sydney Wanderers 3-0 Perth Glory

Western Sydney’s domestic form had been shaky of recent times but they’ve been performing well on the Continental stage and this week recorded a gutsy 1-0 win in the Asian Champions League against Kawaski Frontale during the week.  They continued this good form by easily beating cellar dwellars Perth 3-0 with goals to Jerome Polenz, Mark Bridge and Tomi Juric and move back into 2nd spot on the table.  They showed no ill effect of seeing the Premiership trophy, which they won last season, head up to Brisbane and dominated a lacklustre Perth from the go.  Perth are clearly thinking about post season holidays and didn’t show up at all for this one and they’ll need to fight harder than this in the coming weeks to avoid the wooden spoon.

Talking Point: Where to now for Perth?  Does the planning for next season start already?

The wash-up from this round is that Brisbane cannot be beaten to first place with 3 rounds remaining and take home the Premiership trophy for ending the regular season in first.  In most other league’s around the world that would be enough for Brisbane to be crowned Champions but in Australia they must win the Grand Final for this to be the case.  This happens during the elimination Play-Offs series and Brisbane will need to win 2 sudden death matches in the Play-Offs to do the double.  The battle for 2nd spot (which earns a week off in the Play-Offs) will go to the wire with Western Sydney, Victory, Central Coast and Adelaide separated by only four points with three games left.  The spot for sixth place looks to be a straight fight between Sydney FC and Newcastle.  For the victors go the spoils though and Brisbane will be delighted with the Premiership and Mike Mulvey, in his first full season, in charge has proven that there is light hafter Ange Postecoglou and fully deserves the accolades that are coming his way by the way his team have played this season and his unrelenting confidence in his players.

STANDINGS

140324 - A-League

League table courtesy of FIFA.com

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