R20 Review: Cross-Town rivals lower Sydney’s colours

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

Round 20 Review

Western Sydney Wanderers finally ended the unbeaten run of cross-town rivals Sydney FC in the Hyundai A-League on February 18, prevailing 1-0 in front of 44,853 fans at ANZ Stadium to end the league leaders’ bid to go through the regular season without suffering a defeat.

Brendon Santalab’s 26th minute strike ultimately settled an intensely contested affair, which had plenty of incidents to put referee Chris Beath – and the overall standard of A-League refereeing, truth be told – in the spotlight.

Sydney will be quite aggrieved that he failed to award them a late penalty after Robbie Cornthwaite clearly felled Alex Brosque in the area, while there were numerous other instances prior to that when spot-kicks were claimed, and plenty of others where offences could and perhaps should have been more stringently policed.

There were also a fair few goalscoring chances, the pick of which saw Danny Vukovic twice keeping Sydney in the contest inside the last twenty minutes, during which Wests’ Vedran Janjetovic produced an outstanding double save to ensure his team would emerge victorious and cement sixth spot in the race for the play-offs.

Second-placed Melbourne Victory eased past Central Coast Mariners 3-0 at Central Coast Stadium, where Besart Berisha broke the deadlock after a fairly even opening 25 minutes.

This was the cue for the visitors to pile on the pressure, and how they failed to at least double their advantage prior to the break only they will know. But they managed to realise that objective just before the hour mark, James Troisi putting the travelling team firmly in the driving seat.

There was no way back for Central Coast after that blow, and when Berisha added a third goal in stoppage time, regaining the outright lead in the Golden Boot stakes in doing so, it left the 7,013-strong crowd wondering what might have been as the home team’s brief winning streak came to a close.

Melbourne City moved into third spot after mauling a woeful Wellington Phoenix combination 5-1 at Westpac Stadium, after Costa Barbarouses’ fifteenth minute penalty miss – he hit the bar – left the 6,131 fans present somewhat subdued ahead of City’s inevitable riposte.

It arrived five minutes later, Ryan Lowry inadvertently turning Nick Fitzgerald’s cross into his own net. And when Bruno Fornaroli struck just shy of the half-hour mark, any hopes Wellington harboured of getting back into the contest seemed to evaporate.

There was no way back once Anthony Caceres made it 3-0 on the hour, although ten minutes later, Barbarouses’ brilliant solo strike gave the home team hope, which proved to be false.

For both Neil Kilkenny and substitute Nicolas Colazo struck inside the final ten minutes to give City a nap hand, and leave those who’d been chanting ‘ten more years’ twelve months ago wondering just how long Football Federation Australia will be prepared to endure performances of this nature from a team whose contributions to the A-League, on and off the park, offer critics fuel aplenty for the fire.

City are third on goal difference from Brisbane Roar, who were held to a 2-2 draw by fifth-placed Perth Glory in front of 10,762 fans at NIB Stadium, where all the scoring was condensed into a seventeen-minute spell.

Jamie Maclaren opened the scoring for the visitors after a lively opening half-hour, but Perth were level soon after through a Nebojsa Marinkovic blockbuster, although the goal shouldn’t have counted, given the ball had been out of play when Diego Castro delivered his cross.

Unperturbed, Brisbane hit back straight away through Dane Ingham, but three minutes into the second spell Adam Taggart restored parity once more for Perth, who survived penalty claims for a handball offence before they could be assured of a point and retention of fifth place in the play-offs race.

Reigning champions Adelaide United dealt Newcastle Jets’ play-off hopes a blow in front of 6,642 fans at Coopers Stadium on Friday evening, Marcelo Carrusca’s penalty on the hour earning the home team a 1-0 victory – just their third win of the season.

Both goalkeepers were called into action in the first spell, with Newcastle’s Jack Duncan denying Jordan O’Doherty before John Hall put saving Morten Nordstrand’s looping header before self-preservation on the half-hour, the ‘keeper tipping the ball round the post before crashing into the upright.

The second half saw both teams start strongly, with Adelaide earning their reward after referee Kurt Ams ruled the combined challenge of Daniel Mullen and Nigel Boogaard, which brought Tarek Elrich to earth in the area, merited a spot-kick, one which Carrusca didn’t miss.

Tempers flared soon after, culminating in a gathering of the clans, after which the visitors went close to levelling the scores through Andrew Hoole, Hall’s reflex save preserving Adelaide’s advantage.

Melbourne City and Sydney kick off the next round of action at AAMI Park on Friday evening, twenty-four hours before Melbourne Victory and Adelaide lock horns at the same venue.

Brisbane and Wellington meet at Suncorp Stadium prior to that match, while Perth wrap up another Saturday night triple-header when welcoming Western Sydney to NIB Stadium in a round which is completed by the F3 derby between Newcastle and Central Coast at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday night.

Match Details:

Adelaide United FC 1 (M. Carrusca (61 pen)) –  Newcastle Jets FC 0; HT 0-0

Central Coast Mariners FC 0 –  Melbourne Victory FC 3 (B. Berisha (25, 90), J. Troisi (58)); HT 0-1

Perth Glory FC 2 (N. Marinkovic (38), A. Taggart (48)) – Brisbane Roar FC 2 (J. Maclaren (31), D. Ingham (40)); HT 1-2

Wellington Phoenix FC 1 (C. Barbarouses (70)) – Melbourne City FC 5 (“oggie” (20), B. Fornaroli (29), A. Caceres (59), N. Kilkenny (82), N. Colazo (87)); HT 0-2
Western Sydney Wanderers FC 1 (B. Santalab (26)) – Sydney FC 0; HT 1-0

Ladder:
P W D L F A GD Pts

Sydney FC 20 14 5 1 41 10 +31 47
Melbourne Victory 20 12 3 5 42 24 +18 39
Melbourne City 20 8 6 6 35 28 +7 30
Brisbane Roar 20 7 9 4 27 25 +2 30
Perth Glory 20 7 7 6 38 37 +1 28
Western Sydney Wanderers 20 5 9 6 24 29 -5 24
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Newcastle Jets 20 5 6 9 26 33 -7 21
Wellington Phoenix 20 5 4 11 23 34 -11 19
Central Coast Mariners 20 5 4 11 23 38 -15 19
Adelaide United 20 3 5 12 16 37 -21 14