R18 Review: Late goals, mother nature define A-League round

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


There were no changes to placings in the Hyundai A-League following the conclusion of eighteenth round action on February 22, with late goals deciding the outcomes of two of the four matches played.

The undeniable influence of Mother Nature saw the clash between Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory called off well before a ball was kicked in anger at Suncorp Stadium, which gave the other teams with play-offs aspirations the chance to steal a march on their sidelined rivals.

Sydney FC were first to take advantage, coming from behind to down Central Coast Mariners 4-2 in front of 14,239 fans at Allianz Stadium, where the home team opened the scoring through Marc Janko on the quarter hour.

Right on the stroke of half-time, Fabio Ferreira levelled the scores for the visitors, and fired them in front on the hour mark, the scorer relishing the chance to start a game again after transferring from Adelaide United.

But Sydney finished with a wet sail, Ryan Grant’s thunderous twenty-five yard equaliser half-way through the second spell supplemented by some Shane Smeltz magic nine minutes from time, the substitute jinking through three challenges inside five yards in the penalty area before slamming home past Liam Reddy.

Janko’s stoppage time clincher put the icing on the cake for the home team, and left the beaten team facing the task of scaling a mountain of Everest-like proportions if they harbour hopes of playing on Anzac weekend.

Western Sydney Wanderers’ hopes of making the top six are getting weaker by the week, this week squandering a lead in going down 2-1 at Adelaide in front of 9,212 fans at Coopers Stadium.

The visitors led through a Labinot Haliti goal after twenty minutes, and, like United, had chances to add to the scoreline before the interval of a match which kicked off in 36C heat.

It was Adelaide who turned up the temperature in the second spell, Bruce Djite equalising six minutes into the half. The home team’s stocks were further boosted seven minutes from time when Matthew Spiranovic was sent off for his second bookable offence, and they made the most of the extra man advantage in stoppage time.

Ante Covic had produced a string of saves to keep the visitors in the hunt, but he was beaten at the death by a Sergio Cirio effort which propelled the victors to within a point of the lead on Saturday night.

It was uninspiring fare at AAMI Park on Sunday afternoon as Melbourne City held leaders Perth Glory to a scoreless draw. Just 6,486 fans watched in humid 30C conditions as the visitors failed to fire a shot on target throughout the course of the contest, with City unable to find a way through the table-toppers’ miserly rearguard.

Across the Tasman, Wellington Phoenix played their ‘get out of jail’ card late on in their clash with Newcastle Jets at the Hutt Recreation Ground, the visitors storming to a two-goal lead in the first eighteen minutes before being pegged back to 2-2 seconds before the final whistle.

The stunned silence of 8,437 fans greeted the game’s opening goals, the first entering the net as both Manny Muscat and Roly Bonevacia attempted to head clear from a twelfth minute corner, only to succeed in doing anything but!

Six minutes later, another corner saw Scott Neville darting in to guide his header into the far corner of the net – 2-0 to Newcastle, and so nearly three three minutes before half-time, as Edson Montano’s diving header crashed off the post.

Wellington hadn’t been without their chances in between times, and contrived numerous others after the interval before finally grabbing a lifeline through Roy Krishna half-way through the second half.

Their cause was further boosted when Ben Kantarovski was sent off for his second bookable offence three minutes from time, but Wellington required four of the six minutes of stoppage time before they finally drew level, Jason Hicks’ sumptuous free-kick giving the home team a point they thoroughly merited from a game many expected them to win comfortably.

The final matches in February commence with the clash of Melbourne City and Adelaide, at AAMI Park on Friday. That’s followed by a triple-header on Saturday, kicking off with the M1 (formerly F3) derby between Newcastle and Central Coast at Hunter Stadium.

The Sydney derby follows that, with Wests enjoying home advantage at Pirtek Stadium, before Perth and Brisbane draw swords at NIB Stadium. And the first game in March, on Sunday, sees Melbourne Victory welcoming Wellington to AAMI Park.

Match details:

Adelaide United FC 2 (B. Djite (51), S. Cirio (90)) – Western Sydney Wanderers FC 1 (L. Haliti (19)) HT 0-1

Brisbane Roar FC v Melbourne Victory FC – postponed due to weather conditions in Qld

Melbourne City FC 0 – Perth Glory 0 FC

Sydney FC 4 (M. Janko (14, 90), R. Grant (68), S. Smeltz (81)) – Central Coast Mariners FC 2 (F. Ferreira (45, 58)); HT 1-1

Wellington Phoenix FC 2 (R. Krishna (68), J. Hicks (90)) – Newcastle Jets 2 (“oggie” (12), S. Neville (18)); HT 0-2

P    W    D    L    F    A    GD    Pts

Perth Glory        18    10    5    3    30    22    +8    35

Melbourne Victory    17    9    6    2    37    21    +16    33

Adelaide United    18    10    3    5    33    18    +15    33

Wellington Phoenix    18    9    3    6    32    21    +11    30

Sydney FC        18    7    8    3    30    22    +8    29

Brisbane Roar        16    6    3    7    21    22    -1    21

Melbourne City        17    5    6    6    22    28    -6    21

Central Coast        18    3    6    9    17    33    -16    15

Newcastle Jets        18    1    7    10    16    40    -24    10

Western Sydney    16    1    5    10    12    23    -11    8