Round 19 Review: Eventful round leaves four points covering top five

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

Review

A wild derby and Wellington Phoenix stunning Melbourne Victory for the first time ever on the road has left the top five teams in the Hyundai A-League covered by just four points as we move into autumn.

Another sensational Sydney derby highlighted nineteenth round action in the Hyundai A-League as February morphed into March, with Sydney FC storming to a three-goal lead at Pirtek Stadium before Western Sydney Wanderers hauled themselves level, only for the visitors to regain the lead and clinch a thrilling encounter 4-3.

Sydney stormed out of the blocks, and opened the scoring in the tenth minute. Or, rather, Wests did, via an own goal, Nikolai Topor-Stanley’s attempted clearance ricocheting off the post and goalkeeper Ante Covic before crossing the line.

The home team sought a swift riposte, but were instead dealt a double blow when two goals in six minutes from Marc Janko left Sydney on easy street just twenty-five minutes into the contest. Or so they thought.

The 19,484-strong crowd looked on in amazement as Chris Naumoff fired wide of an open goal soon after – that would have made it 4-0. But this proved the catalyst for Wests to drag themselves off the canvas and stage a stunning comeback.

Iacopo La Rocca pulled one back just after the half-hour mark, then debutant Kerem Bulut struck either side of the half-time whistle – from 3-0 down, Wests were now on level terms eight minutes into the second half, and well in the ascendancy, Yojiro Takahagi their inspiration.

But their bubble was burst fifteen minutes from time by Sydney substitute Terry Antonis, who mercilessly punished a defensive blunder to give the visitors the advantage once more.

There was time aplenty for more twists and turns, and sure enough, a red card for Sydney’s Mickael Tavares eight minutes from time gave Wests added incentive to draw level once more. And they would have done, but for a stunning save at the death by Vedran Janjetovic which ensured Sydney of bragging rights courtesy a raucous 4-3 win.

The three points lifted Sydney closer to Perth Glory, who maintained their tenuous grip on top spot on Saturday evening with a come-from-behind 2-2 draw against Brisbane Roar at NIB Stadium, a result which extended the leaders’ winless streak to six matches.

Danny De Silva put the home team in front a little against the run of play in the 26th minute, an advantage Perth retained until Brisbane struck twice in three minutes around the hour mark through Jean Carlos Solorzano and Matt McKay.

The reigning champions’ prospects of retaining that advantage were dealt a blow fifteen minutes from time when Corey Brown was sent off, and that numerical disadvantage proved crucial, Dino Djulbic rifling home the equaliser six minutes from time to the delight of the 10,422-strong crowd, after Dragan Paljic had hit the post.

That opened the way for Melbourne Victory to take over at the top of the table, but they came up against a Wellington Phoenix team which refused to lie down at AAMI Park, the visitors twice coming from behind before silencing the majority of the 22,096 fans present by clinching a 3-2 win – their first ever in Melbourne.

Yet it could have been so different had Besart Berisha’s penalty not rattled the post in the seventeenth minute, and Gui Finkler’s twenty yarder not struck the bar sixteen minutes later.

Melbourne deserved the lead they eventually took a minute later through the unlikely figure of Scott Galloway, but Wellington pegged them back three minutes before half–time courtesy a sumptuous thirty yard free-kick from Roly Bonevacia, which rounded off a superb first half of football by both teams.

The home team came out all guns blazing after the interval, and within eight minutes had restored their advantage through Costa Barbarouses, who netted against his former club.

Wellington didn’t take that lying down, however, and forced their way back into the contest, deservedly drawing level half-way through the second half when the unmarked Michael Boxall headed in a Bonevacia free-kick to silence the natives.

You could have heard a pin drop thirteen minutes from time when Wellington took the lead via a classic counter-attack, the outstanding Nathan Burns tucking home into an empty net to clinch a thrilling come-from-behind for the visitors and somewhat steal the thunder of Melbourne’s Archie Thompson on the occasion of his 200th A-League appearance for the club.

Adelaide United spurned their chance to take the overnight lead in the competition at AAMI Park, where Melbourne City came from behind to down the title chasers 3-1 in front of 7,345 fans.

City began brightly, but the visitors soon gained the upper hand, and deservedly opened the scoring through Pablo Sanchez just after the half-hour mark, a lead they retained until six minutes into the second half.

Cue the first of two goals in three minutes, Singaporean international Safuwan Baharudin levelling the scores before Josh Kennedy headed home a Robert Koren cross to give City the upper hand.

United never recovered from this double whammy, and but for some outstanding saves by Eugene Galekovic, would have lost by a far greater margin than the final scoreline, Iain Ramsay bringing it about three minutes from time to fire City back into the top six.

The F3 derby at Hunter Stadium ended scoreless, but Newcastle Jets were left to rue a contentious first half call which denied them a much-needed victory over Central Coast Mariners.

Mitch Cooper unleashed a twenty yarder which crashed down off the underside of the crossbar, but did the ball cross the line? The officials weren’t in a position to tell, while replays proved inconclusive, although they did suggest that the home team were a mere inch away from breaking the deadlock – it was that close!

Next weekend’s action kicks off with a New South Wales derby on Friday evening, with Sydney visiting Hunter Stadium to take on Newcastle. Then on Saturday, clashes between the title contenders dominate proceedings.

Wellington welcomes Adelaide to the Hutt Recreation Ground before Melbourne Victory and Perth square off at AAMI Park. On Sunday, Central Coast and Melbourne City lock horns at Central Coast Stadium, while Brisbane and Western Sydney meet at Suncorp Stadium.

Match details

Melbourne City FC 3 (S. Baharudin (52), J. Kennedy (55), I. Ramsay (87)) – Adelaide United FC 1 (P. Sanchez (32)); HT 0-1

Melbourne Victory FC 2 (S. Galloway (34), C. Barbarouses (53)) – Wellington Phoenix FC 3 (R.Bonevacia (42), M. Boxall (68), N. Burns (77)); HT 1-1

Newcastle Jets FC 0 – Central Coast Mariners FC 0

Perth Glory FC 2 (D. De Silva (26), D. Djulbic (84)) – Brisbane Roar FC 2 (J. Solórzano (59), M. McKay (62)); HT 1-0

Western Sydney Wanderers FC 3 (I. La Rocca (33), K. Bulut (42, 53)) – Sydney FC 4 (“oggie” (10), M. Janko (18, 24), T. Antonis (74)); HT 2-3

Table

P W D L F A GD Pts

Perth Glory 19 10 6 3 32 24 +8 36

Melbourne Victory 18 9 6 3 39 24 +15 33

Adelaide United 19 10 3 6 34 21 +13 33

Wellington Phoenix 19 10 3 6 35 23 +12 33

Sydney FC 19 8 8 3 34 25 +9 32

Melbourne City 18 6 6 6 25 29 -4 24

Brisbane Roar 17 6 4 7 23 24 -1 22

Central Coast 19 3 7 9 17 33 -16 16

Newcastle Jets 19 1 8 10 16 40 -24 11

Western Sydney 17 1 5 11 15 27 -12 8