R22 Review: Wellington go four points clear as rivals stumble

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

Review

After seeing all their title rivals drop points, Wellington Phoenix stormed four points clear of the field after round 22 in bizarre circumstances in the Hyundai A-League on 22 March – their 2-1 win over Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium a declared scoreline after the match was abandoned in the 73rd minute.

The pitch, which had been completely under water twenty-four hours earlier, was rendered unplayable after further heavy rain throughout the second half of a match which saw Brisbane open the scoring through Andrija Kaluderovic just five minutes into play, delighting the majority of the 10,075 fans present.

That goal came against the run of play, as Wellington had gone for broke from the very first whistle. And after Andrew Durante hit the crossbar with a header, Michael McGlinchey levelled the scores in the twentieth minute following a brilliant Nathan Burns solo raid.

Brisbane came roaring back, but Wellington weathered the storm and took the lead on the stroke of half-time, Burns tucking home the rebound after Roy Krishna had lashed a shot against the post to put the visitors on course for their first-ever win in Brisbane.

The rain which accompanied the second half soon rendered the game a lottery, with surface water appearing all over the park. There was still time for McGlinchey to hit the post – how he missed from three yards only he will know! – before referee Alan Milliner, after consulting with colleagues and the match commissioner, abandoned the game with seventeen minutes still to play.

Sydney FC was the first team to squander the chance to top the table after the first game of the round, Melbourne City bringing their opponents’ unbeaten streak to an end at Allianz Stadium when James Brown scored the only goal of the game nine minutes from time, much to the chagrin of the 11,638-strong crowd.

That 1-0 scoreline denied Sydney a club record – they would have been unbeaten in ten games had they avoided defeat, one which they would have secured had the post not denied the efforts of Marc Janko and Bernie Ibini-Isei in each half.

Twenty-four hours later, both Adelaide United and Melbourne Victory spurned the chance to take the league lead when battling out an entertaining 2-2 draw in front of 16,077 fans at Coopers Stadium.

Fahid Ben Khalfallah struck a stunning opener for the visitors nine minutes into the contest, and they looked odds-on to retain that advantage going into half-time until Pablo Sanchez headed a close-range equaliser two minutes prior to the interval.

That set up a splendid second half, with Adelaide taking the lead in Keystone Cops fashion sixteen minutes from time. Doug McGowan’s initial attempt was parried by Nathan Coe, with the rebound being directed by James Jeggo back to McGowan, whose second attempt deflected in off Leigh Broxham.

Melbourne weren’t going to take that lying down, and didn’t, arch predator Archie Thompson restoring parity three minutes later to ensure these title-chasing teams would share the spoils in a match neither side deserved to lose.

Hopes thus turned to long-time leaders Perth Glory to knock Wellington off their perch, but their inept form continued at Central Coast Stadium, where 5,338 fans saw Central Coast Mariners hold the visitors to a 1-1 draw which Perth scarcely deserved.

The home team dominated proceedings, with Nick Fitzgerald coming closest to breaking the first half deadlock with a post-rattler. Perth’s Nebojsa Marinkovic replied in kind, his rasping drive being tipped onto the crossbar by Liam Reddy before the interval.

After it, the visitors looked like pinching all three points when Jamie MacLaren headed them in front eleven minutes from time, but a stoppage time screamer from Nick Montgomery earned Central Coast a deserved share of the spoils, and assured Wellington of remaining on top before they even kicked a ball in anger against Brisbane.

At the bottom of the table, Newcastle Jets upset an under-strength Western Sydney Wanderers 2-1 at Pirtek Stadium, where a shocking offside call by referee’s assistant Sarah Ho denied Edson Montano a goal for the visitors just after the half-hour mark, much to the amazement of the 10,109 fans in attendance.

Newcastle had already opened the scoring by this stage, Enver Alivodic exploiting Ante Covic’s misjudgement to open his team’s account half-way through the half, after frenetic opening exchanges saw chances spurned at both ends of the park.

Ki Je Lee doubled the visitors’ advantage on the stroke of half-time, and while Nick Kalmar pulled one back with a splendid free-kick six minutes into the second spell, the reigning AFC Champions League title-holders were unable to get on par with their fellow cellar-dwellers, whose win left Wests propping up the table once more.

Brisbane and Western Sydney meet in a rescheduled fixture at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday evening, two nights before Melbourne Victory welcomes Central Coast to AAMI Park.

The same venue will be in operation on Saturday night for the clash of Melbourne City and Brisbane, while Perth entertain Western Sydney at NIB Stadium later that evening.

And on Sunday, Wellington – who will be without seven players due to international action – and Sydney square off in the match of the round at Westpac Stadium, prior to the clash of Newcastle and Adelaide at Hunter Stadium.

Match details

Adelaide United FC 2 (P. Sanchez (43), D. McGowan (74)) – Melbourne Victory FC 2 (B. Khalfallah (9), A. Thompson (77)); HT 1-1

Brisbane Roar FC 1 (A. Kaluderovic (5)) – Wellington Phoenix FC 2 (M. McGlinchey (20), N. Burns (45)); HT 1-2 [match abandoned after 73 minutes. Scoreline declared.]

Central Coast Mariners FC 1 (N. Montgomery (90)) – Perth Glory FC 1 (J. MacLaren (79)); HT 0-0

Sydney FC 0 – Melbourne City FC 1 (J. Brown (81)); HT 0-0

Western Sydney Wanderers FC 1 (N. Kalmar (51)) – Newcastle Jets 2 (E. Alivodic (22), K. Lee (45)); HT 0-2

Ladder

P    W    D    L    F    A    GD    Pts

Wellington Phoenix    22    13    3    6    41    25    +16    42

Melbourne Victory    21    10    8    3    45    27    +18    38

Sydney FC    22    10    8    4    40    30    +10    38

Perth Glory    22    10    8    4    35    28    +7    38

Adelaide United    22    11    4    7    38    26    +12    37

Melbourne City    22    8    6    8    32    33    -1    30

Brisbane Roar    20    7    4    9    29    31    -2    25

Central Coast    22    4    8    10    20    36    -16    20

Newcastle Jets    22    2    8    12    18    46    -28    14

Western Sydney    21    2    5    14    19    35    -16    11