HAL 11 Final Round Review: From Bottom to Top – Adelaide claim Premiers Plate

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

Having been bottom of the table eight rounds into the campaign, Adelaide United claimed the Hyundai A-League’s Premier Plate on the final weekend of round-robin action, after table-topping Brisbane Roar were denied a record-equalling third first-placed finish by reigning champions Melbourne Victory.

The title-holders held the league leaders to a scoreless draw at AAMI Park on Saturday evening, just twenty-four hours after Adelaide had thrown down the gauntlet to Brisbane by ending Melbourne City’s hopes of clinching the silverware, prevailing 2-0 in front of 11,454 fans.

Things got more than a tad testy on Friday evening, however, but not before Isaias afforded United the perfect start by converting a fourth minute free-kick. The silly stuff really kicked off in the shadows of the half-time whistle, following Thomas Sorensen’s wild challenge on former City player Stefan Mauk.

After Bruce Djite had converted the resulting penalty, an ill-advised gesture from Mauk towards the bench had repercussions, with a gathering of the clans just one of the events as the teams headed down the tunnel at half-time.

City’s assistant coach, Joey Didiluca, took particular exception to Mauk’s gesture, and was sent to the stands for his response, while the angry reactions of others ultimately left referee Strebre Delovski with ten yellow cards to write about in his match report.

There was no such ill-temper in evidence on Saturday evening, as Brisbane looked to claim top spot once more. Indeed, it was an absolute barnstormer played out in front of 20,012 fans, not to mention the Adelaide faithful watching their TV screens over the state border.

Despite fielding an under-strength side, the title-holders produced a Grand Final-esque performance to frustrate the Queenslanders, goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas producing a handful of vital saves to keep Brisbane at bay and, in the process, earn himself the freedom of Adelaide, who, thanks to this scoreless draw, claimed the Premiers Plate for the first time since the inaugural season of the A-League in 2004-05.

That result opened the door for Western Sydney Wanderers to claim second place on the table, and, like Adelaide, earn themselves a home semi-final in a fortnight’s time. They achieved the feat by downing Wellington Phoenix 2-0 at Westpac Stadium, where 10,143 fans – including a generously sized travelling contingent – saw Brendon Santalab net twice in the fifteen minutes before half-time.

Wellington hit the woodwork either side of these strikes – Michael McGlinchey and Roly Bonevacia both battered a post with shots – as the home team concluded their campaign on a disappointing note, and certainly not in the manner they had hoped to farewell departing duo Manny Muscat – who’s off to Melbourne City – and captain for the day Ben Sigmund, who has now retired from football.

The final game of the weekend – and, for one team, the season – saw Sydney FC conclude their disappointing campaign on an emphatic winning note, trouncing Perth Glory 4-0 despite being reduced to ten men for the last twelve minutes of the match at Allianz Stadium.

Two goals in five minutes just after the half-hour mark from David Carney and Filip Holosko delighted the 8,717 fans present, who saw a rather off-colour Perth side rely heavily on goalkeeper Ante Covic to keep the score down – he made a string of vital saves.

Perth’s hopes of getting back into the match and earning themselves a home quarter-final next weekend were given a boost twelve minutes from time when Holosko turned from hero to villain by committing his second bookable offence.

Soon after, Shane Lowry saw his header cleared off the line as the visitors went close to pulling a goal back, but virtually straight away they found themselves three goals down when Ali Abbas struck on the counter-attack.

Perth kept pressing, with Nebojsa Marinkovic going desperately close with a free-kick late on, but Sydney had the final word, Milos Ninkovic wrapping up the scoring – and Sydney’s biggest win of a disappointing season by their standards – in stoppage time.

In the lone A-League match which didn’t have a bearing on the play-off placings, Newcastle Jets overcame Central Coast Mariners 4-2 at Central Coast Stadium to leave the beaten side with the unenviable record of twenty defeats from their twenty-seven matches this season.

The visitors were in charge just 37 seconds into the match, Morgen Nordstrand heading home a cross from Ryan Kitto, with whom Mariners’ ’keeper Paul Izzo collided – the custodian’s season concluded far sooner than expected.

Adam Pearce took over twixt the sticks, and he was powerless to prevent Enver Alivodic from turning home another Kitto cross in the eighteenth minute of this latest F3 derby.

The home team, who were harshly denied a Luis Garcia goal in the shadows of the half-time whistle due to a dubious foul in the build-up, dragged themselves back into the contest in the 51st minute via a Fabio Ferreira penalty, and soon after came within the width of the crossbar of equalising – Roy O’Donovan the denied party.

But Newcastle restored their two-goal cushion in the 54th minute, Nordstrand’s sumptuous back-heeled finish delighting the travelling hordes among the 7,355-strong crowd.

They were then treated to a gorgeously weighted Garcia cross which O’Donovan headed home fourteen minutes from time, only for Mateo Poljak to put the result beyond doubt five minutes later, confirming an eighth-placed finish for Newcastle, whose four-goal haul in this match ensured they completed the campaign averaging at least one goal per game, so poor have they been in converting chances this season.

Next weekend’s play-offs see Brisbane and Melbourne Victory meeting at Suncorp Stadium on Friday evening, while all eyes will be on AAMI Park on Sunday night as Melbourne City and Perth lock horns.

As this is the final round review for the season, I’ll take the opportunity to wish all readers the best during the play-offs and the close-season. Catch you again in October.

Match details:

Central Coast Mariners 2 (F. Ferreira (51 pen), R. O‘’onovan (76)), Newcastle Jets 4 (M. Nordstand (1, 54), E. Alivodic (18), M. Poljak (79)) HT 0-2

Melbourne City 0, Adelaide United 2 (Isaias (4), B. Djite (45 pen)) HT 0-2

Melbourne Victory 0, Brisbane Roar 0

Sydney FC 4 (D. Carney (31), F. Holosko (36), A. Abbas (85), M. Ninkovic (90)), Perth Glory 0 HT 2-0

Wellington Phoenix 0, Western Sydney Wanderers 2 (B. Santalab (31, 44)) HT 0-2

Final HAL11 Ladder

P    W    D    L    F    A    GD    Pts

Adelaide United    27    14    7    6    45    28    +17    49

Western Sydney Wanderers    27    14    6    7    44    33    +11    48

Brisbane Roar    27    14    6    7    49    40    +9    48

Melbourne City     27    13    5    9    63    44    +19    44

Perth Glory    27    13    4    10    49    42    +7    43

Melbourne Victory    27    11    8    8    40    33    +7    41

Sydney FC    27    8    10    9    36    36    0    34

Newcastle Jets    27    8    6    13    28    41    -13    30

Wellington Phoenix    27    7    4    16    34    54    -20    25

Central Coast Mariners    27    3    4    20    33    70    -37    13