R9 Review: Sydney lose ground as top three win

by Jeremy Ruane:
with the compliments of www.sportswebsoccer.com

Sydney FC were the biggest casualties in ninth round action in the Hyundai A-League on the first week in December, their unbeaten record going west – literally – as Perth Glory came from behind to win 2-1 and maintain their position atop the standings.

Following a generally cagey first half, the gloves came off twelve minutes into the second spell when Shane Smeltz potted a dubious penalty against his old club to give Sydney the lead at Allianz Stadium, to the delight of the 11,280 fans who ignored the weather.

A fine reflex save from Danny Vukovic prevented Terry Antonis from doubling Sydney’s lead soon afterwards, a denial that was to prove vital for the visitors, who silenced the natives with two goals inside the last seven minutes.

Rostyn Griffiths and Andy Keogh – from the penalty spot – turned the game on its head and gave Perth the points at the expense of their hosts, whose unbeaten start to the season was brought to a shuddering halt.

The Western Australians remain atop the pile by a point from Melbourne Victory, who scored three goals in eleven minutes just after the hour mark to account for Central Coast Mariners 3-0 at North Sydney Oval, a venue more suited to cricket than football at this time of year.

7,098 fans dodged the raindrops to watch a match which, after a rip-roaring first fifteen minutes, settled down into an intriguing battle, the deadlock of which was broken by Besart Berisha’s brutal strike in the 62nd minute.

Daniel Georgievski’s delicious curling finish six minutes later put the game beyond Central Coast, with Connor Pain delivering the coup de grace five minutes later to send Melbourne home with the chocolates.

Adelaide United ensured the top three would remain separated by just two points, goals in each half from Marcelo Carrusca and Fabio Ferreira clinching a one-sided 2-0 win over Western Sydney Wanderers in front of 12,122 fans at Coopers Stadium.

The visitors’ cause wasn’t aided by having captain Nikolai Topor-Stanley sent off just seventeen minutes into the contest. It certainly aided Adelaide’s, however, and they could have won by a far greater margin than two goals, so many were the chances they squandered.

It was the AFC Champions League winner’s second loss in four days, as reigning champions Brisbane Roar kick-started their campaign by winning their rescheduled midweek fixture 1-0 at Pirtek Stadium, Henrique’s fifth minute penalty ultimately proving decisive.

Nikita Rukavytsya’s stoppage time crossbar shaker was the closest the home team came to giving the 10,252 fans who braved the elements something to celebrate. Instead, they head to Morocco still searching for their first win of their domestic season.

Brisbane, meanwhile, took on Melbourne City in front of just 7,721 fans at AAMI Park on Sunday evening, and it was the home team which prevailed 1-0 thanks to Aaron Mooy’s penalty four minutes into the second half.

Matt McKay hit the crossbar for the visitors in the first spell, the closest they came to extending their unbeaten run under new coach Frans Thijssen, whose first loss eased the pressure building on fellow Dutchman John Van’t Schip, City’s gaffer.

Ahead of these two on the table are Wellington Phoenix, who maintained their grip on fifth spot with a come-from-behind 3-1 win over Newcastle Jets, who twice hit the woodwork in the first half through Joel Griffiths and David Carney.

In between these crossbar rattlers, Griffiths scored his fourth goal in as many matches against the visitors, who looked out of sorts and unlikely to back up last weekend’s five-goal haul with another three points.

All that changed inside six second half minutes, as Nathan Burns, Michael McGlinchey – who missed a hat-trick of sitters – and Roy Krishna, with a twenty-five yard screamer, turned the game on its head to wrap up the points with twelve minutes to spare, to the disbelief of the majority of the 9,152 fans at Hunter Stadium.

With Western Sydney’s FIFA Club World Cup commitments now dominating their schedule for the next fortnight, we’re back to reduced rounds of Hyundai A-League action in the lead-up to Christmas, with no Sunday fixtures scheduled this weekend.

Instead, there are double-headers on Friday and Saturday night, with Adelaide and Perth poised to record home wins when respectively entertaining Brisbane and Newcastle on Friday evening.

Saturday’s fare sees Wellington taking on Central Coast at Eden Park, before all eyes turn to Etihad Stadium for the top four clash of Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC – there should be fireworks aplenty in that encounter!

Match details:

Western Sydney Wanderers FC 0 – Brisbane Roar FC 1 (Henrique (5 pen)); HT 0-1
Round 9
Adelaide United FC 2 (M. Carrusca (36), F. Ferreira (55)) – Western Sydney Wanderers FC 0; HT 1-0

Central Coast Mariners 0 FC – Melbourne Victory FC 3 (B. Berisha (62), D. Georgievski (68), C. Pain (73)); HT 0-0

Melbourne City FC 1 (A. Mooy (49 pen)) – Brisbane Roar FC 0; HT 0-0

Newcastle Jets FC 1 (J. Griffiths (24)) – Wellington Phoenix FC 3 (N. Burns (73), M. McGlinchey (74), R. Krishna (78)); HT 1-0

Sydney FC 1 (S. Smeltz (57 pen)) – Perth Glory FC 2 (R. Griffiths (83), A. Keogh (87 pen)); HT 0-0

Table
P    W    D    L    F    A    GD    Pts

Perth Glory    9    7    1    1    15    10    +5    22

Melbourne Victory    9    6    3    0    21    8    +13    21

Adelaide United    9    6    2    1    15    7    +8    20

Sydney FC    9    4    4    1    12    7    +5    16

Wellington Phoenix    9    5    0    4    18    12    +6    15

Melbourne City    9    2    3    4    13    19    -6    9

Brisbane Roar    9    2    1    6    10    13    -3    7

Central Coast    9    1    3    5    5    13    -8    6

Newcastle Jets    9    0    4    5    8    19    -11    4

Western Sydney    9    0    3    6    6    15    -9    3