A-League: HAL 8 (2012 - 2013 Season)
Round 20 Review
Jeremy Ruane
(with the compliments of www.sportswebsoccer.com)

'League Newcomers Lead Chase Of Front-Runners'

Hyundai A-League new boys Western Sydney Wanderers have climbed to second spot on the league ladder in their maiden campaign after overcoming Newcastle Jets 2-1 at Campbelltown Stadium on 9 February and now lead the pursuit of Central Coast Mariners, who are four points clear.

The table-toppers emphasised their ranking by slamming Wellington Phoenix 5-0 in the opening game of the round two days earlier, a match in which the struggling side were a distinct second-best at Bluetongue Stadium.

Just 6,774 (Thursday night) fans watched the Mariners’ five-star display, with one of the few surprises in the match being that it took the home team half-an-hour to overcome Wellington’s stubborn resistance.

Bernie Ibini-Isei’s opener prompted a response from the visitors which saw them go within a crossbar-width of the equaliser, Jeremy Brockie’s headed effort being denied by a combination of the woodwork and defender Trent Sainsbury, who headed the rebound to safety.

Central Coast hit the woodwork themselves through Pedj Bojic just shy of the hour mark, and Nick Montgomery rattled the post with the goal at his mercy inside the last ten minutes, by which time the game was long over as a contest.

John Hutchinson and Daniel McBreen struck in a four-minute spell half-way through the second half, while Ibini-Isei and substitute Mitchell Duke wrapped up the scoring inside the final five minutes of a result which served to emphasise the gulf in quality between teams at opposite ends of the table.

The following night, second-placed Melbourne Victory were edged 1-0 at Hindmarsh Stadium by an Adelaide United side which brought to an end the home team’s losing streak but did so in a manner more befitting of play witnessed in other codes.

Pretty this was not, Adelaide’s aggressive approach earning them a fistful of yellow cards in the first half, and saw coach Michael Valkanis ejected from the dugout. As he was heading down the tunnel, Jeronimo Neumann headed home the only goal of the game, three minutes before half-time.

12,025 fans witnessed a match which was far from being the greatest advert for A-League football ever, and which saw Melbourne reduced to ten men fifteen minutes from time when Adama Traore was sent off for a tough tackle, soon after Neumann had hit the post with a lobbed effort for the fourth-placed side.

Adelaide’s win paved the way for Western Sydney to take over in second spot, but they were made to work hard for the chance by a Newcastle team which was only prevented from taking the lead in the eighteenth minute by Nikolai Topor-Stanley’s deflection of an Emile Heskey shot onto the post.

The home team forced a couple of saves from Mark Birighitti in response, and finally got the better of the visiting goalkeeper in first half stoppage time through Youssouf Hersi, whose fourth goal in as many games this was.

Western Sydney weren’t able to make the game fairly safe until six minutes from time, when Mark Bridge struck in style, but a stoppage time goal from visiting captain Ruben Zadkovich ensured this closely contested New South Wales derby would go right to the wire in front of 10,589 fans.

Clashes between four of the six teams bidding to join the top four in the end-of-season play-offs concluded the round, with Melbourne Heart edging Perth Glory 2-0 in front of 6,096 fans at AAMI Park thanks to goals in each half from Nick Kalmar and Eli Babalj.

Perth have now failed to win any of their last eight matches, and their cause wasn’t aided when Chris Harold’s progress into the penalty area was impeded but not punished half-way through the first half.

Two minutes later, and at the other end of the park, Kalmar unleashed a sumptuous free-kick via the crossbar to give Melbourne the lead, one which Babalj doubled with the minimum of fuss just shy of the hour mark to end Perth’s hopes of climbing off the bottom of the table this week.

Sunday night’s fare saw Sydney FC climb back into the play-off spots with a 2-1 victory over reigning champions Brisbane Roar, with the 14,589-strong crowd roaring with delight when Alessandro Del Piero carved himself a place in the club’s history books as its most prolific marksman by opening the scoring in the seventh minute.

Sydney maintained that advantage until first half injury time, when Besart Berisha banged home a penalty to temporarily silence the Allianz Stadium faithful. But they were in joyous mood again with twenty minutes left, Peter Triantis pouncing on a poor clearance to restore Sydney’s lead, with only the crossbar preventing Del Piero from extending their winning margin in stoppage time.

Next week’s action kicks off on Friday night with the clash of Newcastle and Melbourne Heart at Hunter Stadium, which is followed by three matches on Saturday night.

Sydney and Adelaide get things under way at Allianz Stadium, before Melbourne Victory and Western Sydney lock horns in the match of the round at AAMI Park. Perth and Central Coast wrap up the triple-header at NIB Stadium, while on Sunday, Brisbane welcome Wellington to Suncorp Stadium.

Details: Hyundai A-League, Round 20:

Adelaide United FC 1 (J. Neumann (42)) - Melbourne Victory FC 0; HT 1-0
Central Coast Mariners FC 5 (B. Ibini-Isei (30, 86), J. Hutchinson (65), D. McBreen (69), M. Duke (90)) - Wellington Phoenix FC 0; HT 1-0
Melbourne Heart FC 2 (N. Kalmar (23), E. Babalj (57)) - Perth Glory FC 0; HT 1-0
Western Sydney Wanderers FC 2 (Y. Hersi (45), M. Bridge (84)) - Newcastle Jets FC 1 (R. Zadkovich (90)); HT 1-0
Sydney FC 2 (A. Del Piero (7), P. Triantis (69)) - Brisbane Roar FC 1 (B. Berisha (45)); HT 1-1

By Jeremy Raune, from NZ

Details: Youth-League, Round 16:

Melbourne Heart FC 3 (Garuccio 5, Batsis 23, Groenewald 48 pen) - Australian Institute of Sport 2 (Marino 56 pen, Kuzmanovski 80)
Sydney FC 2 (Slater 83, Mallia 89) - Brisbane Roar FC 2 (Do 61, Yeboah 90)
Adelaide United FC 0 - Melbourne Victory FC 6 (Cristaldo 13, 39, 52, Buceto 16, Markelis 79, 87)
Central Coast Mariners FC 1 (Brad McDonald 70) - Perth Glory FC 3 (Slobodan Vulin 5, Adrian Zahra 54, Ndumba Makeche 84)
Western Sydney Wanderers FC 0 - Newcastle Jets FC 4 (Marko Jesic 3, 13, 80, Kale Bradbery 48)

Details: Womens League:

Finished for 2012/13


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