A-League: HAL 8 (2012 - 2013 Season)
Round 23 Review
03/03/2013
Jeremy Ruane
(with the compliments of www.sportswebsoccer.com)

'New Boys Go Top With Four Rounds To Play'

The fairytale debut season of Hyundai A-League newcomers Western Sydney Wanderers continued at Bluetongue Stadium on 2 March, as they edged incumbents Central Coast Mariners 1-0 to climb to the top of the table with four rounds remaining.

Labinot Haliti’s goal nine minutes from time proved to be the match-winner for the visitors, who were urged on by a terrific travelling support among the 18,721 fans present.

But it was a game Central Coast will feel they should have taken at least a point from, given goalkeeper Matthew Ryan saw his 52nd minute penalty saved by his opposite number, Ante Covic - one of a number of opportunities the home side carved out.

Later, Daniel McBreen hit the crossbar, just minutes before substitute Haliti settled the keenly contested encounter - nine players were booked - in Western Sydney’s favour.

The week kicked off with yet another change of coach being flagged, with Wellington Phoenix mentor Ricki Herbert stepping down from the helm at the bottom-placed club after an A-League record 154 games in charge.

While his resignation was anticipated at some stage, the timing of his departure meant caretaker coach Chris Greenacre had just 36 hours to prepare Wellington for their midweek encounter with Newcastle Jets, a game attended by just 4,025 patrons at Westpac Stadium.

And it was the visitors who deservedly prevailed by a 2-1 scoreline, Adam Taggart and Mark Bridges scoring first half goals which put Newcastle in the driver’s seat, an advantage halved by Jeremy Brockie on the hour as the bottom-placed team struggled to raise their game as their campaign concludes with a whimper.

Four days later, and the transformation in Wellington’s performance was staggering! Where has this team been all season? A formation tweak and a single personnel change were key elements in their 1-0 defeat of Melbourne Heart at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium, but the attitude of the locals was completely different to that shown in recent weeks - they really looked as if they were enjoying the game again.

Jeremy Brockie and Stein Huysegems both hit the crossbar inside the opening fifteen minutes as Wellington took the game to their play-offs-chasing rivals, while the latter player also hit the post in the 22nd minute, and earned himself an early shower six minutes from time for committing his second bookable offence.

By that stage, the game was long over as a contest, Brockie having volleyed home Paul Ifill’s nineteenth minute cross to seal the points at the expense of a team which does not travel well, and much to the delight of the paltry 3,060 fans present, Wellington’s lowest-ever home crowd.

Saturday evening’s triple-header kicked off with the clash of Adelaide United and Brisbane Roar at Hindmarsh Stadium, where the visitors should have won by more than just 1-0.

Ivan Franjic hit both post with an eleventh minute header for the reigning champions, while Besart Berisha also hit the upright from the penalty spot early in the second spell as they failed to take their chances.

Ben Halloran finally broke the deadlock eight minutes from time, much to the chagrin of the majority of the 6,878 fans present, who saw Adelaide’s Osama Malik sent off in stoppage time for a professional foul on Halloran.

The Brisbane substitute, in keeping with the odd nature of the match - no less than four match balls were deemed flat by the match officials, opted to run towards an untended target rather than shoot from anywhere over half-way, Eugene Galekovic having joined United’s last set-piece attack in a bid to level the scores.

Later that evening, Perth Glory kept alive their play-off hopes with a 2-1 victory over Sydney FC at NIB Stadium, despite the visitors benefiting from yet another stunning Alessandro Del Piero goal.

His swerving twenty-five yarder soared into the top corner on the half-hour, cancelling out Chris Harold’s opening goal for Perth struck ten minutes earlier, an effort which owed much to the inspiration of Liam Miller.

But Shane Smeltz delighted the x-strong home crowd when restoring his team’s lead ten minutes before half-time, and their grip on the game was further strengthened eleven minutes into the second half when Fabio’s dismissal, for a second bookable offence, reduced Sydney to ten men.

Soon after, Perth introduced fifteen-year-old Daniel De Silva to the fray, the substitute becoming the second-youngest player in A-League history in a match which saw home team goalkeeper Danny Vukovic do much to ensure his team scored all three points.

Melbourne Victory and Newcastle wrapped up the week’s action in their clash at AAMI Park on Sunday evening, with the home team tearing the visitors apart inside the first fifteen minutes of the match.

In that time, Marco Rojas and Adrian Leijer found the target as Melbourne set about putting Newcastle to the sword, and when Mark Milligan potted a penalty on the half-hour, the game was all but over as a contest.

Connor Pain hit the post for Melbourne in the 54th minute before Milligan potted his second penalty of the match just shy of the hour mark, with Taylor Regan responsible for conceding both spot-kicks.

Unfortunately for the defender, both were bookable offences - his day was done, leaving Newcastle to cope with a rampant Melbourne for half-an-hour with just ten men on the park.

Rojas doubled his tally for the match with some splendid fancy footwork before walking the ball into the net to make it 5-0 after 66 minutes, at which point the home team opted not to dip their bread any more, this win having guaranteed them a place in the play-offs.

Next weekend’s action kicks off with a key encounter between Newcastle and Perth at Hunter Stadium on Friday evening. On Saturday, Sydney and Central Coast do battle at Allianz Stadium prior to the battle of Brisbane and Melbourne Victory at Suncorp Stadium.

And on Sunday, Western Sydney welcome Wellington to Parramatta Stadium before the round concludes on Monday evening when Melbourne Heart entertain Adelaide at AAMI Park.

Details: Hyundai A-League, Round 23:

Wellington Phoenix FC 1 (J. Brockie (60)) - Newcastle Jets FC 2 (A. Taggart (19), M. Bridges (44)); HT 0-2
Adelaide United FC 0 - Brisbane Roar FC 1 (B. Halloran (82)); HT 0-0
Central Coast Mariners FC 0 - Western Sydney Wanderers 1 (L. Haliti (81)); HT 0-0
Melbourne Victory FC 5 (M. Rojas (8, 66), A. Leijer (15), M. Milligan (30 pen, 57 pen)) - Newcastle Jets FC 0; HT 3-0
Perth Glory FC 2 (C. Harold (20), S. Smeltz (35)) - Sydney FC 1 (A. Del Piero (29)); HT 2-1
Wellington Phoenix FC 1 (J. Brockie (19)) - Melbourne Heart FC 0 HT 1-0

By Jeremy Raune, from NZ

Details: Youth-League, Round 18 (last):

Central Coast Mariners FC - Melbourne Victory (postponed again due to foul weather) - this will be the Premiership deciding game if ever payed.

Details: Womens League:

Finished for 2012/13

 

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