R26: Stalemates abound in penultimate Round

by Jeremy Ruane:

with the compliments of www.sportswebsoccer.com

Hyundai A-League – Round 26 Review

There were draws galore in the Hyundai A-League’s penultimate round of round-robin action on the first weekend in April, but decisive wins for Sydney FC and Perth Glory further enhanced the play-offs race with just one round of action remaining in the regular season.

Adelaide United required a last-gasp equaliser from Fabio Ferreira to snatch a 2-2 draw with Melbourne Heart at Coopers Stadium, having opened the scoring just twenty-six seconds into this Friday night affair through Marcelo Carrusca.

In between times, they lost Michael Marrone in the fourth minute, the defender’s season concluded by a broken leg. Jeronimo Neumann also hit the post for the home team, while referee Ben Williams, who once again found reason to hand out cards like confetti, showed a red one to Tarek Elrich ten minutes before half-time, as he conceded Adelaide’s second penalty.

The first, two minutes previously, had been potted by David Williams, but when he took on Eugene Galekovic for a second time, the ‘keeper prevailed, only to be beaten for a second time three minutes before the interval when Mate Dugandzic gave the visitors the lead.

Adelaide had lost the plot by this stage, and had four players booked in five minutes late in the first spell. In the second half, they channelled their aggression in the desired manner, coming close to levelling the scores fifteen minutes from time when Jordan Elsey hit the bar.

They finally got back on level terms in stoppage time through Ferreira, then sat back and waited as the other teams in the race for second place took to the park twenty-four hours later.

Melbourne Victory was the first cab off the rank, and they too had to fight back to earn a 2-2 draw, this one at Hunter Stadium where Newcastle Jets’ Adam Taggart opened the scoring in the eighteenth minute.

Five minutes later, Newcastle led 2-1, Mark Milligan having equalised for Melbourne before Adrian Leijer put through his own net to restore the home team’s advantage, Newcastle captain Ruben Zadkovich having hit the crossbar before the game’s first goal.

A Milligan penalty five minutes from time earned the visitors a scarcely deserved share of the spoils from a match which Newcastle dominated, but couldn’t finish off, much to the disappointment of the 10,185-strong crowd. The home team paid the price for failing to do so, and now their play-off prospects hang by a thread.

Western Sydney Wanderers and Brisbane Roar also finished on level terms, 1-1 the outcome in front of 15,373 fans at Pirtek Stadium the result of a cracking contest between the last two winners of the Premiership Plate.

After weathering the home team’s start, Brisbane silenced the natives ten minutes before half-time through Liam Miller, but substitute Tomi Juric stirred the spirits of the vocal locals on the hour to set up a grandstand finish which had everything – including a splendid appreciation of the departing Shinji Ono – but a decisive goal.

Those results left the door wide open for reigning champions Central Coast Mariners to stake a decisive claim for second place, but their failure to do means just one point covers the teams placed second, third, fourth and fifth heading into the final round of action.

That this is so is because Perth bucked the trend in the round, recording a 3-1 win over the title-holders in front of 11,127 fans at NIB Stadium, all of whom were watching Perth captain Jacob Burns in action on home turf for the final time – he announced his retirement at season’s end during the week.

Both teams scored from the penalty spot inside the opening twenty minutes, Steven McGarry’s effort for Perth being replied to by Nick Fitzgerald for the visitors, who found themselves on the back foot as Sidnei Sciola Moraes led his side by example.

This included a goal which restored Perth’s lead twenty minutes from time, and the scorer was instrumental in the move which sealed Central Coast’s fate, Zac Anderson putting through his own net five minutes from time to fire the victors off the bottom of the table.

So to Sunday evening’s encounter at Allianz Stadium, where Sydney FC – and, in particular, Alessandro Del Piero – made light of the treacherous underfoot conditions to score an emphatic 4-1 win over Wellington Phoenix, a result which leaves the victors’ destiny very much in their own hands.

Urged on by 10,148 fans, and despite the atrocious playing surface, the Italian maestro produced all manner of tricks from his box, including a dive which earned him a yellow card in the second spell, and another which earned the penalty from which Del Piero opened the scoring in the 33rd minute.

Right on the stroke of half-time, Del Piero produced his piece de resistance, an absolute gem of a twenty-yard free-kick which arced over the wall and dipped into the top near corner of the net, leaving Wellington ‘keeper Glen Moss rooted to the spot, and rightly – a sublime strike.

Del Piero nearly repeated the dose in the second spell – this one hit the crossbar – before Carlos Hernandez dragged the visitors back into the contest from the penalty spot eleven minutes into the second spell.

Straight from the kick-off, Sydney restored their two-goal advantage, Sebastian Ryall working one-twos galore as he roamed in off the right flank, the last of which was with Del Piero, who presented the fullback with a pass which said ‘volley, far corner’.

Done deal, and, soon after, so were Wellington’s play-off hopes, Del Piero picking out Ali Abbas on the edge of the penalty area with a corner which gave the midfielder time to control the ball before unleashing an unerring strike into the top far corner of the net.

Next weekend’s final round of regular season play kicks off on Friday night with Newcastle entertaining Adelaide at Hunter Stadium. Another Saturday night triple-header follows that, with Wellington welcoming Melbourne Victory to Westpac Stadium.

That match is followed by Western Sydney’s visit to Melbourne Heart’s AAMI Park home, before the battle between Brisbane and Central Coast commences at Suncorp Stadium.

Sydney and Perth wrap up proceedings on Sunday evening at Allianz Stadium, after which the six teams whose season will progress into and beyond Easter weekend will be known.

Match details:

Adelaide United FC 2 (M. Carrusca (1), F. Ferreira (90)) – Melbourne Heart FC 2 (D. Williams (33 pen), M. Dugandzic (42)); HT 1-2

Newcastle Jets FC 2 (A. Taggart (18), “oggie” (23)) – Melbourne Victory FC 2 (M. Milligan (21, 85 pen)); HT 2-1

Perth Glory FC 3 (S. McGarry (8 pen), S. Sciola Moraes (71), “oggie” (85)) – Central Coast Mariners 1 (N. Fitzgerald (19 pen)); HT 1-1

Sydney FC 4 (A. Del Piero (33 pen, 45), S. Ryall (57), A. Abbas (60)) – Wellington Phoenix FC 1 (C. Hernandez (56 pen)); HT 2-0

Western Sydney Wanderers FC 1 (T. Juric (60)) – Brisbane Roar 1 (L. Miller (35)) HT 0-1

P W D L F A GD Pts

Brisbane Roar 26 16 4 6 43 23 +20 52

Western Sydney Wanderers 26 10 9 7 32 28 +4 39

Central Coast Mariners 26 11 6 9 31 36 -5 39

Adelaide United 26 10 8 8 45 34 +11 38

Melbourne Victory 26 10 8 8 38 42 -4 38

Sydney FC 26 11 3 12 38 37 +1 36

Newcastle Jets 26 9 6 11 32 34 -3 33

Perth Glory 26 7 7 12 27 35 -8 28

Wellington Phoenix 26 7 7 12 35 47 -12 28

Melbourne Heart 26 6 8 12 34 39 -5 26

By Jeremy Ruane