R23 Review: Two points cover top five with four rounds to play

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

Round 23 Review

Two points cover the top five teams with four rounds remaining in this season’s Hyundai A-League, after table-toppers Wellington Phoenix were unceremoniously dumped 3-0 by Sydney FC at Westpac Stadium.

The natives were stunned when Jacques Faty took advantage of a poorly defended corner to open the visitors’ account in the ninth minute, and doubled their advantage on the half-hour when Shane Smeltz returned to haunt his old club with a goal.

Five minutes before half-time, Sebastian Ryall made it three following another corner, with an out-of-sorts Wellington denied a riposte before the interval when Vince Lia’s header was cleared off the line by Christopher Naumoff.

The main talking points in the second spell were the red cards issued by referee Peter Green. He deemed Wellington midfielder Albert Riera guilty of a second bookable offence in the 68th minute, after the Spaniard appeared to win the ball fair and square, while two minutes later Smeltz followed him down the tunnel following an off-the-ball clash with his long-time All Whites team-mate Ben Sigmund.

Melbourne Victory maintained their pursuit of the Premiers’ Plate with a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Central Coast Mariners in front of 18,205 fans at AAMI Stadium on Friday evening.

The visitors gave Nathan Coe plenty of work to do before they found a way past him just after the half-hour, Isaka Cernak doing the damage after Nick Fitzgerald’s header had been parried by the ‘keeper.

This goal roused the home team into life, and within minutes, Guilherme Finkler levelled the scores with a shot which found the net via the post. And thirteen minutes from time, he curled home a beauty from the edge of the penalty area to clinch the points for the victors, and end the play-off hopes of the vanquished.

Perth Glory arrested their recent run of indifferent form with a come-from-behind 3-2 win over Western Sydney Wanderers, to the delight of the 9,415 fans looking on at NIB Stadium.

Romeo Castelen gave the visitors a thirteenth minute lead which they retained until ten minutes into the second half, when Sidnei Sciola’s equaliser finally got Perth on te board – they spurned numerous chances to equalise throughout the first half.

That goal gave the home team the momentum to go on and take the lead through Rostyn Griffiths thirteen minutes later, but not before Labinot Haliti claimed “Miss of the Season” honours when failing to turn home a Castelen cross just two yards from goal.

Kerem Bulut, who hit the woodwork prior to Griffiths’ goal, made amends by restoring parity eighteen minutes from time to set up a grandstand finish, which Joshua Risdon delivered in fine style two minutes from time, his thunderous twenty-five yarder screaming past Ante Covic to clinch Perth’s first win since January 2.

A Marcelo Carrusca goal just shy of the half-hour mark at Hunter Stadium was suffice to earn fifth-placed Adelaide United a 1-0 win over Newcastle Jets and close to within two points of the league lead on Sunday.

The offside flag denied Oscar Malik a goal before Carrusca struck, but the scorer was forced from the park with a leg injury before half-time. His replacement, Nigel Boogaard, fared no better in the second spell, leaving the match in a neck brace thirteen minutes from time after landing heavily.

Newcastle weren’t without their chances to level the scores, with both Edson Montano and Ben Kantarovski denied by the woodwork in the second spell, while Adelaide ‘keeper Eugene Galekovic made a number of key saves, ably assisted on one occasion by Mitch Cooper, who cleared off the line to deny Doug McGowan.

The prospects of Brisbane Roar retaining their A-League title are hanging by the proverbial threat after they copped a 4-1 pounding from Western Sydney at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday.

Just 6,813 fans turned up to see the under-strength title-holders under the cosh from the outset against the bottom-placed side, who took the lead in the twentieth minute through Nikita Rukavytsya.

Four minutes before half-time, Brisbane equalised via a Jonathan Aspropotamitis own goal, but parity was short-lived, Kerem Bulut restoring Wests’ lead prior to the interval.

Any hopes Brisbane harboured of pegging back their rivals evaporated when Romeo Castelen crashed home Wests’ third goal via the underside of the crossbar just before the hour mark, with Bulut icing the cake with his second goal of the match moments before the full-time whistle.

Three days later, another loss – 1-0 at Melbourne City’s hands in front of 9,561 fans at AAMI Park – all but put paid to Brisbane’s play-off prospects, Jonatan Germano’s fifth minute goal one of few highlights in an uninspiring contest which left sixth-placed City eight points clear of the title-holders with four rounds remaining.

Next week sees the Easter weekend round of action kicking off on Thursday evening with Brisbane and Central Coast meeting at Suncorp Stadium. On Good Friday, Western Sydney and Melbourne City clash at Pirtek Stadium, while on Saturday night, Sydney and Adelaide square off at Allianz Stadium.

Easter Sunday features the clash of the top two as Wellington welcome Melbourne Victory to Westpac Stadium, while on Monday, Newcastle and Perth wrap up the round in a Hunter Stadium encounter.

Match details

Brisbane Roar FC 1 (“oggie” (41)) – Western Sydney Wanderers FC 4 (N. Rukavytsya (20), K. Bulut (44, 89), R. Castelen (58)); HT 1-2

Melbourne City FC 1 (J. Germano (5)) – Brisbane Roar FC 0; HT 1-0

Melbourne Victory FC 2 (G. Finkler (40, 77)) – Central Coast Mariners FC 1 (I. Cernak (32)); HT 1-1

Newcastle Jets FC 0 – Adelaide United FC 1 (M. Carrusca (28)); HT 0-1

Perth Glory FC 3 (S. Sciola (55), R. Griffiths (68), J. Risdon (88)) – Western Sydney Wanderers FC 2 (R. Castelen (13), K. Bulut (72)); HT 0-1

Wellington Phoenix FC 0 – Sydney FC 3 (J. Faty (9), S. Smeltz (29), S. Ryall (40)); HT 0-3

Ladder

P    W    D    L    F    A    GD    Pts

Wellington Phoenix    23    13    3    7    41    28    +13    42

Melbourne Victory    22    11    8    3    47    28    +19    41

Sydney FC    23    11    8    4    43    30    +13    41

Perth Glory    23    11    8    4    38    30    +8    41

Adelaide United    23    12    4    7    39    26    +13    40

Melbourne City    23    9    6    8    33    33    0    33

Brisbane Roar    22    7    4    11    30    36    -6    25

Central Coast    23    4    8    11    21    38    -17    20

Western Sydney    23    3    5    15    25    39    -14    14

Newcastle Jets    23    2    8    13    18    47    -29    14