R20 Review: Perth cling to lead after Wellington briefly claim it
by Jeremy Ruane:
with the compliments of www.sportswebsoccer.com
Perth Glory continue to cling to the Hyundai A-League lead after twenty rounds of action in the competition, but for a couple of hours on Saturday evening, the top rung on the ladder was the domain of Wellington Phoenix, as the New Zealand club lauded it over their Australian rivals.
In a round where the top four teams met each other, Wellington scored first blood by netting twice in the last fifteen minutes to overcome Adelaide United 2-0 at the Hutt Recreation Ground.
A match dominated by defenders was broken open by a Joel Griffiths goal eleven minutes from time, with Nathan Burns chiming in to seal the deal three minutes later and send the 7,819 fans present into a resounding rendition of “We Are Top Of The League! Say We Are Top Of The League!”
With Melbourne Victory and Perth meeting at AAMI Park, that win meant Wellington would end the weekend in second place behind the victor of the other top four clash, or Perth, the incumbents going into the round, if a stalemate was the outcome.
Parity prevailed, the hotly contested 1-1 draw, which was watched by 22,525 fans, doing neither team any favours. Perth opened the scoring on the stroke of half-time through Andy Keogh, who was wrongly adjudged to have been onside by match officials.
Melbourne’s response saw them being denied a penalty in first half stoppage time, as Costa Barbarouses’ goalbound shot struck a defender’s arm. But they gained deserved reward for their dominance when Daniel Georgievski levelled the scores in the 64th minute.
After this, Melbourne laid siege to the Perth goal, but the visitors turned to foul means as well as fair to keep their opponents at bay, former Melbourne player Mitch Nichols committing two bookable offences, thus getting himself sent off as Perth withstood the Fahid Ben Khalfallah-inspired home team’s pursuit of victory, Danny Vukovic, in particular, contributing to Perth’s cause with some fine saves.
Sydney FC took advantage of the stumbles by those above them to move into third place on the table, continuing their resurgence in form at Hunter Stadium with a 1-0 win over a youthful Newcastle Jets side which took the game to their more fancied rivals in front of 8,783 fans.
Marc Janko’s thirteenth goal of the season half-way through the second half – this was a record-equalling sixth successive game in which he has scored – saw Sydney home, after Seb Ryall had rattled the crossbar with a header during the first forty-five minutes. Edson Montano went closest to netting for the home team when grazing the post with a shot on the stroke of half-time.
Four points now cover the top five teams, all of whom are racing certainties to contest the end-of-season play-offs. But which of the other five clubs will join them in the top six come season’s end is fast becoming a showdown between Melbourne City and reigning champions Brisbane Roar.
On Sunday evening, City came a cropper at Central Coast Mariners, who were under new management following the sacking of coach Phil Moss during the week. Tony Walmsley, the club’s technical director, is the stand-in gaffer, and he oversaw a 1-0 win for the home team at Central Coast Stadium.
6,079 fans saw Fabio Ferreira’s free-kick settle the contest sixteen minutes from time, although the home team had to rely on Liam Reddy to produce another outstanding save to thwart Iain Ramsay’s attempt to equalise in stoppage time, as City paid the price for failing to convert the numerous chances they created throughout proceedings.
A repeat of last season’s Grand Final completed the round on Sunday night, and it saw the title-holders prevail 1-0 at Suncorp Stadium, courtesy Brandon Borrello’s goal eight minutes into the second half.
Wests came close to equalising in stoppage time when Tomi Juric rattled the underside of the crossbar, much to the consternation of the 12,095 fans present, who saw Borrello come within inches of a second goal half-way through the second spell.
Western Sydney play the first of their rescheduled fixtures on Wednesday when taking on Melbourne City at Pirtek Stadium. Twenty-four hours later, Adelaide entertain Central Coast at Coopers Stadium, before Wests are back in action on Friday night, with Melbourne Victory visiting Pirtek Stadium.
Melbourne City and Newcastle meet at AAMI Park on Saturday evening, prior to the top-of-the-table clash between Perth and Wellington at NIB Stadium, with the round concluding on Sunday evening at Allianz Stadium as Sydney and Brisbane lock horns.
Brisbane Roar FC 1 (B. Borrello (53)) – Western Sydney Wanderers FC 0; HT 0-0
Central Coast Mariners FC 1 (F. Ferreira (74)) – Melbourne City FC 0 HT; 0-0
Melbourne Victory FC 1 (D. Georgievski (64)) – Perth Glory FC 1 (A. Keogh (43)); HT 0-1
Newcastle Jets FC 0 – Sydney FC 1 (M. Janko (68)); HT 0-0
Wellington Phoenix FC 2 (J. Griffiths (79), N. Burns (82)) – Adelaide United 0; HT 0-0
P W D L F A GD Pts
Perth Glory 20 10 7 3 33 25 +8 37
Wellington Phoenix 20 11 3 6 37 23 +14 36
Sydney FC 20 9 8 3 35 25 +10 35
Melbourne Victory 19 9 7 3 40 25 +15 34
Adelaide United 20 10 3 7 34 23 +11 33
Brisbane Roar 18 7 4 7 24 24 0 25
Melbourne City 19 6 6 7 25 30 -5 24
Central Coast 20 4 7 9 18 33 -15 19
Newcastle Jets 20 1 8 11 16 41 -25 11
Western Sydney 18 1 5 12 15 28 -13 8