R4 Review: Sydney march on as nearest rivals stumble

HAL Round Review

Sydney FC extended their advantage at the top of the Hyundai A-League table to three points on the last weekend in October as they recorded their fourth straight win, while second-placed Perth Glory stumbled, allowing the Melbourne clubs to lead the pursuit of the table-toppers.

Goals early in each half from Alex Brosque and Milos Ninkovic earned Sydney a 2-0 win over Newcastle Jets in front of 11,873 fans at McDonald Jones (formerly Hunter) Stadium, a result which maintained the early season leader’s perfect start to the season, one which includes the rare feat of not having yet conceded a goal to boot.

The visitors had a number of other opportunities to increase their advantage, the pick of them seeing a Matt Jurman effort cleared off the line, while Brandon O’Neill hit the post with a free-kick.

Steve Ugarkovic spurned Newcastle’s best chance of the match on the stroke of half-time, as the home team’s unbeaten start to the season was brought to an end by Graham Arnold’s charges, who are making every post a winning one early doors.

Indeed, Sydney are now the only team still unbeaten in the league after Perth came a cropper at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday evening, Brisbane Roar prevailing 2-1 in front of 13,428 fans.

Jamie Maclaren was the architect of his old club’s demise, opening the scoring on the half-hour before setting up Brandon Borello for the winner fifteen minutes from time on a night Brisbane could have scored several more goals.

Their failure to do so left them vulnerable for a sucker-punch, and Nebojsa Marinkovic duly provided it nine minutes into the second half of a match which his coach, Kenny Lowe, watched from the stand, as he served the first game of a two-match ban for speaking his mind, a forbidden action as far as competition hierarchy are concerned.

A brace of Bruno Fornaroli goals – the first a cracker, the second a penalty, both eleven minutes into each half – secured Melbourne City a 2-1 win over reigning champions Adelaide United at AAMI Stadium on Friday evening.

City were at their audacious best, with the Uruguayan’s stunning opener icing the cake on a bright start which also featured some Fernando Brattan brilliance. Fornaroli could have had a second before half-time, while the crossbar prevented Ryan Kitto from levelling the scores seconds prior to the interval.

Fornaroli’s 56th minute penalty was matched by a Sergi Guardiola strike for United eight minutes later, but the title-holders were second-best throughout, and slumped to a third successive defeat as 10,053 fans looked on.

Central Coast Mariners moved above Adelaide on the standings when earning a 1-1 draw at Western Sydney Wanderers, in front of 12,168 fans at Spotless Stadium, which exploded with delight just two minutes into the contest thanks to Brendon Santalab’s goal for the home team.

But that delight gradually turned to despair as the home side butchered numerous opportunities to build on their lead, with Jumpei Kusukami going closest to doubling their advantage, the crossbar denying him on the stroke of half-time.

When Adam Berry took full advantage of a defensive blunder to level the scores on the hour, you could sense that this match was destined to go the Mariners’ way, and it would have done had referee Shaun Evans awarded the visitors a penalty four minutes from time after Jack Clisby handled the ball. The official deemed it accidental – a let-off for Western Sydney, make no mistake.

Melbourne Victory completed the round on Monday evening by handing Wellington Phoenix one of their heaviest ever defeats, a 6-1 pounding in front of 20,113 fans at Etihad Stadium.

The result fired the victors into third spot, and left Wellington firmly entrenched at the bottom as they suffered their eighth successive defeat – four this season, as well as the last four games in 2015-16.

Referee Alan Milliner certainly had a part to play in proceedings, ignoring one penalty, awarding three others, sending off Wellington’s Dylan Fox for his second bookable offence, failing to repeat his action when Melbourne’s Rashid Mahazi was guilty of the same crime, and finally allowing the home team’s third goal to stand when a Wellington defender was fouled in the build-up.

Besart Berisha was responsible for the first two penalties of the match, which came within two minutes of each other half-way through the first half, and brought about the half-time score.

After Fox’s dismissal, Wellington dragged themselves into the contest via a Roy Krishna penalty – their first goal of the season – before collapsing in spineless fashion in the last twenty minutes as Marco Rojas struck twice, then set up Berisha – his hat-trick goal – and Mitch Austin as Melbourne scored the biggest win of the season to date in this season’s competition.

Brisbane and Melbourne City kick off fifth round action at Suncorp Stadium on Friday evening, while on Saturday Wellington welcome Newcastle to Westpac Stadium prior to the latest “Big Blue”, with Sydney entertaining Melbourne Victory at Allianz Stadium.

Sunday’s fare sees Adelaide and Central Coast squaring up at Coopers Stadium prior to the clash of Perth and Western Sydney at NIB Stadium, as the Guy Fawkes round concludes with a cracking fixture.

Match details:

Brisbane Roar FC 2 (J. Maclaren (31), B. Borello (75)) – Perth Glory FC 1 (N. Marinkovic (54)); HT 1-0
Melbourne City FC 2 (B. Fornaroli (11, 56 pen)) – Adelaide United FC 1 (S. Guardiola (64)); HT 1-0
Melbourne Victory FC 6 (B. Berisha (20 pen, 22 pen, 82), M. Rojas (71, 77), M. Austin (90)) – Wellington Phoenix FC 1 (R. Krishna (63 pen)); HT 2-0
Newcastle United Jets FC 0 – Sydney FC 2 (A. Brosque (8), M. Ninkovic (49)); HT 0-1
Western Sydney Wanderers FC 1 (B. Santalab (2)) – Central Coast Mariners FC 1 (A. Berry (61)); HT 1-0

P W D L F A GD Pts

Sydney FC 4 4 0 0 11 0 +11 12
Melbourne City 4 3 0 1 9 5 +4 9
Melbourne Victory 4 2 1 1 10 7 +3 7
Perth Glory 4 2 1 1 9 7 +2 7
Brisbane Roar 4 2 1 1 4 6 -2 7
Newcastle Jets 4 1 2 1 7 5 +2 5
Western Sydney Wanderers 4 1 2 1 5 8 -3 5
Central Coast Mariners 4 0 2 2 4 9 -5 2
Adelaide United 4 0 1 3 4 7 -3 1
Wellington Phoenix 4 0 0 4 1 10 -9 0