R26 Review: Premiers’ Plate Melbourne Victory’s to lose

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

Review

Back-to-back victories at Suncorp Stadium over reigning champions Brisbane Roar this week have left Melbourne Victory within touching distance of claiming the Hyundai A-League’s Premiers’ Plate at the conclusion of round-robin action in the competition.

Goals in a five minute first half spell from Carl Valeri and Brisbane old boy Besart Berisha put Melbourne on course for their first win on Wednesday evening, with Matt McKay’s early second half strike, while pleasing the majority of the 10,642 present, only serving to halve the deficit, 2-1 the final score.

Three nights later, in front of 11,582 fans, the margin of victory was the same, but this time it was a controversial penalty from Mark Milligan which separated the sides, Melbourne’s captain slotting home on the stroke of half-time to clinch a 1-0 win for the visitors over opponents who fielded a decidedly under-strength line-up – there were eight changes to the team which took to the field on Wednesday night.

That was disappointing for both Sydney FC and Wellington Phoenix, who both scored come-from-behind odd-goal victories on Friday night to keep alive their hopes of a top-two finish, as well as confirm home semi-finals for themselves.

Wellington found themselves in a right pickle at Westpac Stadium, where goals from Nick Fitzgerald and Eddy Bosnar had Central Coast Mariners two goals to the good ten minutes before half-time, Ben Sigmund having sent a header crashing against the crossbar for the home team in between their efforts.

But inspired by substitute Kenny Cunningham, the home team turned things round in stirring fashion in the second spell, Roly Bonevacia pulling a goal back in the 65th minute before the Costa Rican levelled the scores eleven minutes from time.

Roared on by the 6,868 fans present, Wellington kept going in what was referee Peter O’Leary’s final A-League fixture before retirement. Their reward was a dramatic winner from Cunningham, whose goal in the fifth minute of stoppage time clinched a 3-2 victory.

There was further drama at Hunter Stadium later that evening, where 8,125 fans piled in to see Newcastle Jets take the lead half-way through the first half courtesy Enver Alivodic.

They retained that advantage until four minutes into the second spell, when Sydney scored a rapid-fire treble to turn the game around. Alex Brosque topped and tailed a seven-minute salvo which also featured a Bernie Ibini-Isei strike.

That put the visitors 3-1 to the good, but twenty minutes later, Newcastle were back on terms, Edson Montano having halved the deficit before Andrew Hoole levelled matters from the penalty spot fourteen minutes from time.

That set the scene for a grandstand finish, and Robert Stambolziev duly provided a fitting winner for Sydney ten minutes from time, their 4-3 triumph leaving them in the box seat to clinch the much-coveted top-two finish with the play-offs imminent.

Asian Champions League title-holders Western Sydney Wanderers put a spoke in the wheel of Adelaide United’s top two hopes on Saturday night, coming from behind to prevail 2-1 in front of 9,837 fans at Pirtek Stadium.

Osama Malik went close to opening the scoring for the visitors in the twentieth minute when his effort was scrambled off the line by Mateo Poljak, but United weren’t to be denied, opening the scoring on the stroke of half-time through Sergio Cirio.

They remained on course for victory until just after the hour mark, when Nigel Boogaard was sent off for an A-League record sixth time after conceding a penalty from which Tomi Juric levelled the scores.

Ten minutes later, Mark Bridge, on the occasion of his 200th A-League appearance, fired Wests in front, and lifted them off the bottom of the table once more in their duel with Newcastle to avoid the wooden spoon.

Perth Glory’s season has imploded in the past fortnight, of course, and with further charges being laid at their door by Football Federation Australia during the week, CEO Jason Brewer took the fall, while the club decided not to appeal the FFA’s findings, meaning that their punishments – a seventh-placed finish and a $A269,000 fine – will stand.

They completed the round on Sunday evening by downing Melbourne City 3-1 at NIB Stadium, Jamie MacLaren notching a hat-trick in front of 5,821 fans on a day Danny Vukovic stood tall against ten-man City, who had Paulo Retre dismissed during proceedings.

Not even Vukovic at his best could deny Aaron Mooy a goal for the visitors, however – a stunning twenty-five yard free-kick in the 52nd minute which is as good as you’ll see anywhere.

The final round of round-robin action for the season kicks off on Friday night with Brisbane entertaining Newcastle at Suncorp Stadium. Twenty-four hours later, Wests welcome Perth to Pirtek Stadium before Adelaide and Melbourne City draw swords at Coopers Stadium.

The crunch match is on Sunday, with Wellington and Sydney squaring off at Westpac Stadium with second place the reward for the winners, with Melbourne Victory poised to claim their first silverware in six years when entertaining Central Coast at AAMI Park in the final game of the round.

Match details

Brisbane Roar FC 1 (M. McKay (51)) – Melbourne Victory FC 2 (C. Valeri (17), B. Berisha (22)); HT 0-2

Brisbane Roar FC 0 – Melbourne Victory FC 1 (M. Milligan (45 pen)); HT 0-1

Newcastle Jets FC 3 (E. Alivodic (21), E. Montano (67), A. Hoole (76 pen)) – Sydney FC 4 (A. Brosque (49, 56), B. Ibini-Isei (51), R. Stambolziev (80)); HT 1-0

Perth Glory FC 3 (J. MacLaren (42, 65, 87)) – Melbourne City FC 1 (A. Mooy (52)); HT 1-0

Wellington Phoenix FC 3 (R. Bonevacia (65), K. Cunningham (79, 90)) – Central Coast Mariners FC 2 (N. Fitzgerald (11), E. Bosnar (35)); HT 0-2

Western Sydney Wanderers FC 2 (T. Juric (63), M. Bridge (73)) – Adelaide United FC 1 (S. Cirio (45)) HT 0-1

Ladder

P    W    D    L    F    A    GD    Pts

Melbourne Victory    26    14    8    4    53    30    +23    50

Sydney FC    26    13    8    5    50    34    +16    47

Perth Glory    26    13    8    5    43    34    +9    47

Wellington Phoenix    26    14    4    8    44    33    +11    46

Adelaide United    26    13    4    9    43    31    +12    43

Melbourne City    26    9    8    9    35    37    -2    35

Brisbane Roar    26    9    4    13    40    42    -2    31

Central Coast    26    5    8    13    25    47    -22    23

Western Sydney    26    4    6    16    28    42    -14    18

Newcastle Jets    26    3    8    15    22    53    -31    17