R24 Review: Melbourne take charge of title race

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

Review

Melbourne Victory have taken charge of the race for the Hyundai A-League’s Premiers’ Plate over Easter weekend, as they comfortably despatched previous table-toppers Wellington Phoenix by a 3-0 scoreline at Westpac Stadium to take over the top rung on the ladder with a game in hand to boot.

The visitors opened the scoring just 34 seconds into the contest in Wellington, Guilherme Finkler silencing the 8,417 fans present with a goal which Melbourne would have built on before half-time but for the outstanding goalkeeping of Glen Moss.

He was beaten again just before the hour mark by an unfortunate deflection off retreating team-mate Andrew Durante, off whom the ball ricocheted to double Melbourne’s lead.

Archie Thompson scored an opportunistic third goal half-way through the second half to cap a sorry night for Wellington, who weren’t without their chances. But their efforts were overshadowed by a potential career-ending injury to Joel Griffiths, whose knee buckled badly on landing, leaving the veteran striker in obvious distress.

In truth, it’s one of the worst knee injuries seen by this writer, and it would not surprise if a complete reconstruction of the joint is required. Anything other than that, and Griffiths can consider himself fortunate – it really did look bad.

Adelaide United and Perth Glory took full advantage of Wellington’s form slump – last week’s leaders have now dropped to fourth place, an indication of just how tight it is at the top.

The South Australians were absolutely battered by Sydney FC at Allianz Stadium, with the 11,585 fans who withstood the wet conditions witnessing an outstanding display of goalkeeping by Eugene Galekovic, who almost single-handedly kept the visitors in contention at times.

It was fitting that United’s ‘keeper should spark the goal which ultimately decided the contest, Galekovic’s clearance prompting Awer Mabil to settle the contest with a fine strike eight minutes from time.

Adelaide’s 1-0 win saw Sydney drop to fifth place in the title race, three points behind leaders co-leaders Melbourne and Perth, whose 2-0 defeat of Newcastle Jets at Hunter Stadium on Easter Monday wrapped up the game-a-day Easter weekend programme.

Once more the rain came down, but 4,162 fans made light of the elements to attend a match in which the bottom-placed home side gave as good as they got against the Western Australians, who should have found themselves trailing after six minutes when Enver Alivodic spurned a golden chance to give Newcastle an early lead.

Five minutes into the second half, Andy Keogh made the home team pay for their profligacy, with Nebojsa Marinkovic clinching the points six minutes from time in emphatic fashion.

Reigning champions Brisbane Roar kicked off the Easter weekend round in rampant form, routing Central Coast Mariners 6-1 in front of just 6,148 fans at Suncorp Stadium.

The home team scored all seven goals in the match, Daniel Bowles putting through his own net half-way through the second spell to give Central Coast a rare moment of cheer in a match in which the title-holders were at their outstanding best.

Steve Lustica led the way with a hat-trick, the third of them brilliantly set up by Dimitri Petratos, while Andrija Kaluderovic, Devante Clut and Brandon Borrello also chimed on a night when the victors revived their hopes of making the play-offs in stunning fashion.

The result allowed them to reduce the advantage held by current sixth place-holders Melbourne City, who were held to a 1-1 draw by Asian Champions League champions Western Sydney Wanderers at Pirtek Stadium.

The 9,054 fans who braved the inclement conditions witnessed two goals of the highest calibre in the first half, Yojiro Takahagi’s splendid twentieth minute free-kick firing the home team in front, only for Harry Novillo to level matters with an absolute snorter six minutes before half-time.

Wests should have won it, and that they didn’t was down to a stunning save by Tando Velaphi, who somehow kept out a point-blank range effort from Takahagi, who seemed set fair to break the deadlock for a second time until the goalkeeper intervened.

Both co-leaders are in action on home turf on Friday evening, and while Melbourne Victory look home bankers against Newcastle at AAMI Park, the same can’t be said for Perth, who entertain fellow title-chasers Sydney at NIB Stadium.

Saturday evening’s fare sees Adelaide and Brisbane clashing in a key contest at Coopers Stadium, prior to the meeting of Central Coast and Western Sydney at Central Coast Stadium. And on Sunday, AAMI Park is the venue to head to in Victoria’s capital once more, as Melbourne City entertain Wellington.

Match details:

Brisbane Roar FC 6 (A. Kaluderovic (21), S. Lustica (28, 41, 79), D. Clut (48), B. Borrello (50) -Central Coast Mariners FC 1 (“oggie” (64)); HT 3-0

Newcastle Jets FC 0 – Perth Glory FC 2 (A. Keogh (50), N. Marinkovic (84)); HT 0-0

Sydney FC 0 – Adelaide United FC 1 (A. Mabil (82)); HT 0-0

Wellington Phoenix FC 0 – Melbourne Victory FC 3 (G. Finkler (1), “oggie” (59), A. Thompson (67)); HT 0-1

Western Sydney Wanderers FC 1 (Y. Takahagi (20)) – Melbourne City FC 1 (H. Novillo (39)); HT 1-1

Ladder

P    W    D    L    F    A    GD    Pts

Melbourne Victory    23    12    8    3    50    28    +22    44

Perth Glory    24    12    8    4    40    30    +10    44

Adelaide United    24    13    4    7    40    26    +14    43

Wellington Phoenix    24    13    3    8    41    31    +10    42

Sydney FC        24    11    8    5    43    31    +12    41

Melbourne City        24    9    7    8    34    34    0    34

Brisbane Roar        23    8    4    11    36    37    -1    28

Central Coast M    24    4    8    12    22    44    -22    20

Western Sydney     W    24    3    6    15    26    40    -14    15

Newcastle Jets        24    2    8    14    18    49    -31    14