A-League: HAL 7 (2011 - 2012 Season)
Week 25 Review - Mariners are Premiers
(Last of 27 games in the League)

25/03/2012
Jeremy Ruane
(with the compliments of www.sportswebsoccer.com)


'Mariners take home Plate as Sydney make play-offs'

Central Coast Mariners booked their place in the 2012-13 AFC Champions League competition on March 25 as winners of the Hyundai A-League Premiership by downing Wellington Phoenix 2-1 at Westpac Stadium in front of 9,802 fans.

The win confirmed Graham Arnold’s team as Premiers’ Plate winners for the 2011-12 season, and was earned thanks to goals either side of half-time from John Sutton - in first half stoppage time - and Bernie Ibini-Isei, his goal coming seven minutes into the second half.

Leo Bertos reduced the deficit with a free-kick nine minutes from time, but it was a rare highlight for the home fans in captain Andrew Durante’s 100th game for the club, whose play-off opponents were determined by the result of the New South Wales derby.

Sydney FC were the other big winners on the final weekend of round-robin action, their emphatic first half display at the Allianz Stadium paving the way for a 3-2 victory over Newcastle Jets which catapulted them into fifth place on the table.

It was the end of the season for whoever lost this match, and having seemingly been out of contention a couple of weeks ago, Sydney continued their late-season resurgence in front of 14,494 fans, who saw Bruno Cazarine head the home team in front in the twelfth minute.

Their advantage lasted fourteen minutes, but Michael Bridges’ equaliser for Newcastle prompted a swift riposte from Joel Chianese, who struck twice in three minutes inside the next seven minutes to propel Sydney to a 3-1 lead which they rarely looked like relinquishing.

That situation changed dramatically six minutes from time when Nikolai Topor-Stanley headed against Sydney’s crossbar, and Jobe Wheelhouse, following in, headed home the rebound to set up a grandstand finish, with Newcastle knowing that a draw would be enough to see them in the play-offs.

But parity proved to be beyond them, Jeremy Brockie squandering a late chance to complete the visitors’ comeback, much to the delight of the Sydney fans, a few of whom will doubtless grace Westpac Stadium when they visit Wellington for the first match in the play-off series on Friday evening from 8pm.

Perth Glory twice came from behind to claim third place by downing Melbourne Victory 4-2 in front of 9,724 fans at NIB Stadium, thanks to the one-man goalscoring machine that is Shane Smeltz.

He bagged all four goals for the home team to become the most prolific marksman in A-League history, with 62 to his name. But the first of his latest batch only came about while Melbourne were still celebrating Carlos Hernandez’s opener half-way through the first half.

Mark Milligan’s goal on the stroke of half-time for the visitors left Perth with it all to do in the second spell, but Smeltz was well and truly in the mood, and after equalising for a second time just three minutes into the second half, he potted a penalty just after the hour mark to put his team in front, before curling home the clincher three minutes later to book a home play-off against Melbourne Heart next Sunday.

They made it six games unbeaten when held to a 1-1 draw at Hindmarsh Stadium, despite having the better of proceedings against an Adelaide United team for whom Sergio Van Dijk opened the scoring from the penalty spot eight minutes before half-time.

Eli Babalj scored Melbourne’s long-overdue equaliser half-way through the second half as the play-offs contenders finally got the better of Adelaide goalkeeper Mark Birighitti, whose efforts throughout were greatly appreciated by the 6411-strong crowd, who saw the home team avoid the wooden spoon with this hard-earned point.

With the Premiership Plate having been won, and all other aspects of the league decided, the final game of the round saw Queensland pride at stake as reigning A-League champions Brisbane Roar visited Skilled Park to take on Gold Coast United in what is likely to be the final game in the brief history of the home team.

And, as they have done all season, Brisbane came with the late mail to clinch the points, coming from behind to prevail 2-1 in front of 6,102 fans, who saw United’s Daniel Bowles break the deadlock on the half-hour.

Brisbane, who rested a handful of regular starters for this match, weren’t to be denied, with a couple of the young replacements, Nick Fitzgerald and George Lambadaridis, turning the game around in the visitors’ favour, the latter netting the winner with a minute left on the clock.

So to next week’s finals series play-offs, with Wellington kicking things off at home to Sydney from 8pm on Friday night at Westpac Stadium. Saturday evening sees Brisbane entertaining Central Coast at Suncorp Stadium in the first leg of their clash, while Perth Glory welcome Melbourne Heart to NIB Stadium on Sunday evening. The Grand Final is due for Sunday 22 April, 2012.

This is the final round review for the 2011-12 Hyundai A-League season no. 7 - hope you’ve enjoyed them!

Details: Hyundai A-League, weekend 25 (games now up to 25 each - League season complete):

Adelaide United 1 FC (Sergio Van Dijk (37 pen)) - Melbourne Heart FC 1 (Eli Babalj (68)); HT 1-0
Gold Coast United FC 1 (Daniel Bowles (29)) - Brisbane Roar FC 2 (Nick Fitzgerald (58), George Lambadaridis (89)); HT 1-0
Perth Glory F 4 (Shane Smeltz (23', 48', 63' pen, 66')) - Melbourne Victory FC 2 (Carlos Hernandez (22), Mark Milligan (45)); HT 1-2
Sydney FC FC 3 (Bruno Cazarine (12), Joel Chianese (30, 33)) - Newcastle Jets FC 2 (Mark Bridges (26), Jobe Wheelhouse (84)); HT 3-1
Wellington Phoenix FC 1 (Leo Bertos (81)) - Central Coast Mariners FC 2 (John Sutton (45), Bernie Ibini-Isei (52)); HT 0-1

By Jeremy Raune, from NZ

Some FFA HAL 7 stats released today:

"The cumulative total of 1,416,157 fans for the season bettered the previous season-high total of 1,393,933 in Season 6 (2010/11).

The Season 7 aggregate was reached playing 30 less matches than the previous season with 135 matches being played across 25 weeks compared to 165 matches played in season 6.

Almost 50,000 fans attended matches in Wellington, Gold Coast, Perth, Adelaide and Sydney across the weekend to ensure the new mark was set.

The Season 7 average regular season attendance of 10,490 was bolstered by significant increases in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Central Coast, Newcastle and Wellington.

The Hyundai A-League 2011/12 season also saw some increases in other key areas including goals, TV audience and memberships.

Season 7 saw an average of 2.7 goals per match, watched by a TV audience that has increased by 46% from last season. Add to this the 23% increase in Club Members and the Hyundai A-League’s growth and potential is gaining momentum.

The league has also seen some decreases, most notably in the incidence of red card offences which has seen a significant 21 per cent drop with only 27 red cards being issued in the 2011/12 regular season".

Details: National Youth-League, Round 18:

League completed for the season - Central Coast Mariners FC were Premiers.

Details: Westfield womens W-League:

League completed for the season - Canberra United FC were Premiers, and Final winner.

 

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