R24 Review: Another Week, Another Leadership Change

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

Does anyone actually want to claim the Hyundai A-League’s Premiers’ Plate this season?

It seems that no sooner does a team top the table at the end of the round, they got knocked off the top rung seven days later – it’s almost as if topping the standings has become something of a poisoned chalice!

Brisbane Roar became the latest victims of this footballing equivalent of musical chairs on the weekend before Easter when they squandered the lead in going down 3-1 at fellow title rivals Melbourne City, who took full advantage of the table-toppers being reduced to ten men to prevail in front of just 7,658 fans at AAMI Park.

Dimitri Petratos gave the visitors the lead with a sublime volleyed goal half-way through the first half, an advantage Brisbane were good value for until last defender Jack Hingert hauled down Bruno Fornaroli in the penalty area when the league’s leading marksman was bearing down on goal in the 53rd minute.

Referee Kris Griffiths-Jones didn’t hesitate to point to the spot and brandish the red card to the Brisbane defender, who should have been joined in the stands by Daniel Bowles for a similar offence before the final whistle – get yourself a Lotto ticket this week, my son!

Brisbane’s luck had run out, however, Aaron Mooy levelling the scores from the spot before goals in the last ten minutes from Anthony Caceres and Nick Fitzgerald fired the eleven men to the top rung on the ladder, albeit temporarily.

For twenty-four hours later, Western Sydney Wanderers and Adelaide United battled out a scoreless draw in front of 15,208 fans at Pirtek Stadium, the point enough to return the home team to the outright lead with three rounds remaining.

They should have claimed all three, however, spurning several chances to win the match before Brendon Santalab’s deflected header hit the post seven minutes from time in a match which saw Adelaide’s Bruce Kamau booked for simulation when it appeared he had been fouled on the edge of the penalty area in the eleventh minute.

Needless to say, United coach Guillermo Amor was far from impressed with referee Takuto Okabe’s interpretation of the situation, but by night’s end his team lay in fourth place, just two points off the lead.

Below the title contenders, Perth Glory consolidated their play-offs placing by dominating Wellington Phoenix at Westpac Stadium, despite what the 2-1 scoreline would suggest.

The visitors were far and away the superior team in this clash, and but for Glen Moss would have won by a far greater margin. Andy Keogh and Diego Castro netted in each half for the travelling side in the “Distance Derby”, with Tom Doyle’s twenty yard piledriver in stoppage time too little, too late for a disappointing Wellington side which attracted an even more disappointing crowd – just 5884 fans watched the match.

Meanwhile, reigning champions Melbourne Victory failed to take advantage of their numerical superiority in being held to a 1-1 draw at AAMI Park by a Newcastle Jets team which fielded just ten men for fifty minutes of this encounter.

Ryan Kitto fired the visitors in front eight minutes before half-time, but the wind was swiftly suckled from Newcastle’s sails when Daniel Mullen committed his second bookable offence just two minutes later.

The ten men continued to threaten, however, and came close to doubling their advantage before Besart Berisha fired home Melbourne’s equaliser twelve minutes into the second spell.

But despite the urgings of the 14,383 fans present, there was to be no second goal for the title-holders, with Melbourne now seemingly set to fight out the final play-off spot with their arch-rivals from north of the border.

In the lone clash between teams outside the play-off spot, cries of “Taxi for Arnold” grew ever louder after Sydney FC squandered a two-goal lead inside the last five minutes when held to a 2-2 draw by bottom-placed Central Coast Mariners at Central Coast Stadium.

6,383 fans were on hand in Gosford to see the visitors surge into the lead when George Blackwood belted home an eleventh minute opener. And after dominating the bulk of the rest of the half, Shane Smeltz’s first half stoppage time goal looked to have put Sydney on course to end their eight-game winless streak.

Instead, it was extended in dramatic circumstances, Roy O’Donovan, who had a first half effort ruled out for offside, finally ended Central Coast’s goal drought four minutes from time, and Harry Ascroft’s stoppage time equaliser left the league’s draw specialists contemplating a tenth stalemate in their season – if Sydney don’t make the play-offs, they won’t have to look too far for one of the prime reasons.

Easter weekend is upon us, with Melbourne Victory and Western Sydney getting things under way at AAMI Park on Good Friday night. Saturday’s action sees Perth taking on Newcastle at Hunter Stadium before Brisbane and Sydney square off at Suncorp Stadium.

The lone clash on Easter Sunday sees Adelaide entertaining Central Coast at Coopers Stadium, while on Easter Monday night, Melbourne City and Wellington conclude the round at AAMI Park.

Last but not least, I’ll take this opportunity to wish all readers a Happy Easter!

Match details:

Central Coast Mariners 2 (R. O’Donovan (86), H. Ascroft (90)), Sydney FC 2 (G. Blackwood (11), S. Smeltz (45)) HT 0-2

Melbourne City 3 (A. Mooy (54 pen), A. Caceres (81), N. Fitzgerald (84)), Brisbane Roar 1 (D. Petratos (22)) HT 0-1

Melbourne Victory 1 (B. Berisha (57)), Newcastle Jets 1 (R. Kitto (37)) HT 0-1

Wellington Phoenix 1 (T. Doyle (90)), Perth Glory 2 (A. Keogh (36), D. Castro (74)) HT 0-1

Western Sydney Wanderers 0, Adelaide United 0

P    W    D    L    F    A    GD    Pts

Western Sydney Wanderers    24    12    6    6    38    30    +8    42

Melbourne City    24    12    5    7    58    39    +19    41

Brisbane Roar    24    12    5    7    44    37    +7    41

Adelaide United    24    11    7    6    37    26    +11    40

Perth Glory    24    11    4    9    44    35    +9    37

Melbourne Victory    24    9    7    8    34    32    +2    34

Sydney FC    24    7    10    7    30    31    -1    31

Newcastle Jets    24    7    6    11    22    35    -13    27

Wellington Phoenix    24    7    4    13    33    45    -12    25

Central Coast Mariners    24    3    4    17    28    58    -30    13