R19 Review: Adelaide take advantage as top five stumble

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

Adelaide United were the big winners among the teams in play-off placings in the Valentine’s Day weekend round of Hyundai A-League action, although it was Wellington Phoenix who stunned everyone by producing a Valentine’s Day Massacre at Pirtek Stadium.

Western Sydney Wanderers’ week began with the club being fined $A50,000, having been found guilty of bringing the game into disrepute following last weekend’s shenanigans.

They now play under the threat of a suspended three points deduction, to be applied if their more radical supporters cause any trouble inside the next twelve months. The visit of Wellington Phoenix was the first match covered by this threat, and it was the visitors who stole their hosts’ thunder, storming to a 5-2 victory which no-one could possibly have seen coming.

Wellington hadn’t won in their last nine matches, but in just over half-an-hour, Blake Powell had torn up that script and etched himself a place in the record books as the first player to score an A-League hat-trick this season.

His was the perfect treble – a fourth minute diving header, a rasping eighteen yard left-footed half-volley after twenty minutes, and a delicious right-footed chip twelve minutes later.

Combined, they took the wind from Wests’ sails, although on another day the home team could very easily have been on level terms, Glen Moss producing two fine saves to deny Mark Bridge and Romeo Castelen, who had hit the post prior to these denials.

The visitors extended their lead still further nineteen minutes from time – another diving header from Powell, and while Mitch Nichols and Bridge mounted a mini-comeback for the former Asian Champions League winners, Michael McGlinchey wrapped things up from the penalty spot in stoppage time to leave folk wondering where this version of Wellington Phoenix has been hiding for the last three months!

Co-leaders Brisbane Roar were surprisingly held to a 2-2 draw at Suncorp Stadium by a resurgent Newcastle Jets, who trailed to a Jamie MacLaren goal after the striker netted the rebound after Mark Birighitti had saved his sixth minute penalty.

The visitors came storming back, however, Mitch Cooper heading home the equaliser ten minutes later before Milos Trifunovic silenced the majority of the 9,382-strong crowd when sending Michael Theo the wrong way from the penalty spot.

It took a while for Brisbane to overcome the deficit, but they eventually did so twenty minutes from time, Enver Alidovic inadvertently turning a Jade North cross into his own net to set up a grandstand finish in which both Mateo Poljak and Steven Lustica hit the woodwork in a frenzied sixty second spell, and Birighitti kept out a Corona free-kick as both sides strove in vain to break the deadlock before the final whistle.

The Melbourne derby was everything youve come to expect and then some, with the 25,738 present at AAMI Park treated to a couple of sublime goals as City and Victory fought out a 2-2 draw.

After a feisty opening period, Bruno Fornaroli reminded all present that it was football we were here to play with a gorgeous chipped finish to open the scoring for City half-way through the first spell.

Six minutes later, the title-holders were level, Fahid Ben Khalfallah potting a peach of an equaliser from twenty-five yards which encouraged his team’s fans to set off some flares.

They were quickly extinguished by Fornaroli, who restored City’s advantage just three minutes later when heading home an Aaron Mooy free-kick. But within two minutes of the second half starting, Victory were back on level terms via a Gui Finkler header.

The reigning champions were denied a perfectly good winner when Finkler’s superb late free-kick was ruled out by referee Chris Beath, who wielded the red card ten minutes from time as City’s Adrian Caceres concluded his second successive game in premature fashion.

A couple of weeks ago, the top six places looked to be all sorted bar the finishing order. Not so now, with Perth Glory’s resurgence firing them to within three points of Sydney FC after overcoming them 2-1 at Allianz Stadium.

11,559 fans looked on in disbelief as Vedran Janjetovic handed Andy Keogh the opening goal on a plate half-way through the first half, with the visitors riding their luck as Shane Lowry headed against his own crossbar when attempting to clear minutes later.

Sydney continued to dominate in their pursuit of an equaliser, but it just wasn’t happening for them, and when Chris Harold bundled home a second Perth goal half-way through the second half, there was only going to be one winner, despite Shane Smeltz halving the deficit eleven minutes from time.

Saturday’s results opened the door for Adelaide United to surge into third place on the table, a feat they duly accomplished in a heat-delayed match at Central Coast Stadium on Sunday evening, although they had to come from behind to do so.

Central Coast Mariners started Luis Garcia for the first time – you can guarantee he hasn’t played in front of a 5,096-strong crowd for a wee while! Initially it was Paul Izzo who captured the attention, keeping Adelaide at bay with some vital early saves, but it was a former United player who broke the deadlock, Fabio Ferreira firing the home team in front just after the half-hour mark.

The visitors came out strongly after half-time, and were back on level terms within nine minutes of the resumption thanks to Isaias’ free-kick. And when Bruce Djite fired them in front twelve minutes later, the writing was on the wall for the bottom-placed side.

Try as they might, they couldn’t find a way back into the contest, Stefan Mauk clinching the points for Adelaide in stoppage time before Josh Bingham struck a late consolation goal for Coast, whose 3-2 loss is their thirteenth defeat of the season, and leaves them seven points adrift of nearest rivals Wellington.

Melbourne Victory and Adelaide kick off next weekend’s action at AAMI Park on Friday evening, while the same venue is where you’ll see Melbourne City and Central Coast clashing on Sunday.

In between times, there’s another Saturday night triple-header, with Newcastle and Wellington getting things under way at Hunter Stadium before bragging rights in the Harbour Capital are settled at Allianz Stadium. Perth and Brisbane wrap up the night’s action at NIB Stadium.

Match details:

Brisbane Roar FC 2 (J. MacLaren (6), “oggie” (39)) – Newcastle Jets FC 2 (M. Cooper (16), M. Trifunovic (19 pen)); HT 1-2

Central Coast Mariners FC 2 (F. Ferreira (32), J. Bingham (90)) – Adelaide United 3 (P. Sanchez (54), B. Djite (66), S. Mauk (90)); HT 1-0

Melbourne City FC 2 (B. Fornaroli (22, 31)) – Melbourne Victory FC 2 (F. Ben Khalfallah (28), G. Finkler (47)); HT 2-1

Sydney FC 1 (S. Smeltz (79)) – Perth Glory FC 2 (A. Keogh (23), C. Harold (65)); HT 0-1

Western Sydney Wanderers FC 2 (M. Nichols (75), M. Bridge (84)) – Wellington Phoenix 5 (B. Powell (4, 20, 32, 71), M. McGlinchey (90 pen)); HT 0-3

P W D L F A GD Pts

Brisbane Roar 19 10 5 4 32 23 +9 35

Western Sydney Wanderers 19 10 4 5 32 25 +7 34

Adelaide United 19 8 6 5 29 25 +4 30

Melbourne City 19 8 5 6 46 35 +11 29

Melbourne Victory 19 8 5 6 30 24 +6 29

Sydney FC 19 7 7 5 25 21 +4 28

Perth Glory 19 7 4 8 29 29 0 25

Newcastle Jets 19 5 5 9 17 29 -12 20

Wellington Phoenix 19 5 4 10 25 34 -9 19

Central Coast Mariners 19 3 3 13 25 45 -20 12