R25: Two Points Covers Four Teams In Race For Second

by Jeremy Ruane:

with the compliments of www.sportswebsoccer.com
Hyundai A-League – Round 25 Review

With two rounds to go in the Hyundai A-League, the race for second place couldn’t be tighter, with just two points covering four teams in the race for a place in the Asian Champions League after the last weekend in March.

Western Sydney Wanderers, the incumbents going into the round, came a cropper at reigning champions Central Coast Mariners, for whom Bernie Ibini-Isei struck a stoppage time winner to seal a 2-1 victory which allowed them to leap-frog the team they vanquished on the standings.

The 13,157 fans who piled into Bluetongue Stadium witnessed a cracking encounter between two well-matched teams, with Wests going closest to opening the scoring early on through Anthony Caceres, whose shot was tipped onto the post by Liam Reddy.

Central Coast opened the scoring just after the half-hour mark courtesy Joshua Rose’s splendid solo effort, but within eight minutes Western Sydney were back on level terms courtesy a Nikolai Topor-Stanley strike.

There were chances galore for both teams throughout a rip-roaring second half, but only one was taken, right at the death by substitute Ibini-Isei, whose strike confirmed Central Coast would again feature in the end-of-season play-offs.

Third-placed Melbourne Victory dropped down the table after being held to a 1-1 draw by Sydney FC in front of 20,447 fans at AAMI Park, where another stirring chapter in this intense rivalry unfolded.

There was plenty of perspiration throughout a vibrant first half, but the inspiration came after the interval, Sydney’s Joel Chianese turning home the rebound three minutes into the second half after Ali Abbas’ effort had only been parried by Melbourne goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas.

The home team eagerly sought parity, and were afforded it just after the hour mark by James Troisi, whose excellent finish set up a rousing last half-hour in which both teams sought the goal which would earn them all three points. But in the end, they had to settle for one apiece.

Adelaide United took full advantage of Melbourne’s stumble to climb into fourth spot, Marcelo Carrusca’s cheeky chipped penalty just before the hour mark earning them a 1-0 win at Westpac Stadium over a Wellington Phoenix side whose play-off hopes were dashed by this defeat.

Melbourne Heart’s play-off prospects also bit the dust in this round, victims of Brisbane Roar’s come-from-behind 2-1 victory at Suncorp Stadium, despite the newly crowned Premiership Plate winners once again finishing the match without their full compliment of players on the park.

The visitors could have been ahead from the penalty spot inside the opening minute when Aziz Behich was hauled down by Liam Miller, but referee Chris Beath overturned his decision after being alerted to an offside flag.

Melbourne weren’t to be denied, however, and after Patrick Kisnorbo had hit the post, either side of a couple of David Williams efforts, Behich opened the scoring in style to give the visitors a deserved lead after eighteen minutes.

It took Brisbane that long to get back on terms, Dimitri Petratos levelling the scores to the delight of the 10,101 fans present. The home team should have gone to the dressing rooms in front, but Besart Berisha spurned a great chance four minutes before the interval, one gifted to him by Melbourne goalkeeper Tando Velaphi.

The pair clashed four minutes into the second spell, and this time Berisha left the ground in tears after receiving his third red card of the season – he slid in on the ‘keeper as both went for the ball, and it was a case of boot meets head.

Cue Brisbane’s ten-man form – they seem to be even better when playing with reduced numbers. And they proved it again in this match, with substitute Henrique curling home a splendid winner seventeen minutes from time to end the visitors’ hopes of joining their conquerors in the play-offs.

The final game of the round saw two Perth Glory goals in as many minutes six minutes from time stun Newcastle Jets at NIB Stadium, where the home team came from behind to score a 2-1 win.

After squandering two good chances in the first half, Adam Taggart, the league’s leading marksman, fired the visitors in front just after the hour mark, a lead they retained until conceding a free-kick six minutes from time.

Nebojsa Marinkovic’s stunning strike turned the game on its head, however, and Newcastle were still reeling from the blow when Chris Harold headed home the winner two minutes later to extend Perth’s unbeaten streak over the play-off chasers to nine matches.

The penultimate round of round-robin action kicks off on Friday evening when Adelaide entertain Melbourne Heart at Coopers Stadium. That match is followed by a Saturday night triple-header, commencing with Melbourne Victory’s visit to Hunter Stadium to take on Newcastle.

Western Sydney and Brisbane lock horns at Pirtek Stadium in the match of the round, while Perth and Central Coast draw swords in the late encounter at NIB Stadium. And on Sunday, Sydney welcomes Wellington to Allianz Stadium.

Match details:

Brisbane Roar FC 2 (D. Petratos (36), Henrique (73)) – Melbourne Heart FC 1 (A. Behich (18)); HT 1-1

Central Coast Mariners FC 2 (J. Rose (32), B. Ibini-Isei (90)) – Western Sydney Wanderers FC 1 (N. Topor-Stanley (40)); HT 1-1

Melbourne Victory FC 1 (J. Troisi (63)) – Sydney FC 1 (J. Chianese (48)); HT 0-0

Perth Glory FC 2 (N. Marinkovic (84), C. Harold (86)) – Newcastle Jets FC 1 (A. Taggart (62)); HT 0-0

Wellington Phoenix FC 0 – Adelaide United FC 1 (M. Carrusca (58 pen)); HT 0-0

Ladder:

P W D L F A GD Pts

Brisbane Roar 25 16 3 6 42 22 +20 51

Central Coast Mariners 25 11 6 8 30 33 -3 39

Western Sydney Wanderers 25 10 8 7 30 26 +4 38

Adelaide United 25 10 7 8 43 32 +11 37

Melbourne Victory 25 10 7 8 36 40 -4 37

Sydney FC 25 10 3 12 34 36 -2 33
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Newcastle Jets 25 9 5 11 30 32 -3 32

Wellington Phoenix 25 7 7 11 34 43 -9 28

Melbourne Heart 25 6 7 12 32 37 -5 25

Perth Glory 25 6 7 12 24 34 -10 25

By Jeremy Ruane