R22 Review: Sydney all but wrap up Premiership Plate

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

Round 22 Review

Sydney FC all but wrapped up the Premiership Plate in the Hyundai A-League on the first weekend in March, recording a 1-0 win over second-placed Melbourne Victory to go eleven points clear with five games remaining.

13,310 fans braved the inclement conditions to watch the latest “Big Blue”, and saw some fine saves by Danny Vukovic and, more frequently, Lawrence Thomas, as the home team edged ever closer to their first silverware in seven seasons.

Bobo’s strike was brilliantly set up by Milos Ninkovic, who went desperately close to usurping it with a splendid dipping twenty-five yad volley in the second half – it landed on the roof of the net.

Besart Berisha missed what, by his standards, was a sitter prior to the hour mark as Melbourne sought to level the scores, but they were second-best throughout this contest as Sydney edged ever closer to confirming top spot on the standings.

Third-placed Perth Glory missed the chance to close on their second-placed rivals, fighting back from 3-1 down to draw 3-3 with Wellington Phoenix in front of 6,285 fans at QBE Stadium, who delighted in seeing Guilherme Finkler open the scoring after ten minutes.

They were also delighting in the lively displays of Costa Barbarouses and Roy Krishna, with the Fijian doubling Wellington’s lead fourteen minutes later in unerring fashion.

Perth were stung by this, and came back hard and fast, gaining due reward for their response with an Andy Keogh goal eleven minutes before half-time. But Wellington restored their two-goal advantage within two minutes of the second half’s start, Barbarouses curling home a gem to give the home team their 3-1 lead.

The visitors weren’t to be denied, however, and, inspired by Diego Castro, they kept on pressing Wellington back, eventually making the breakthrough half-way through the second half when Adam Taggart made it 3-2.

Ten minutes from time, Castro uncorked a quite stunning free-kick to bring about parity, but Perth were unable to add another before the break, the 3-3 outcome a result which ultimately serves neither side well in their respective pursuits of a play-off spot.

That result opened the door for Melbourne City to leapfrog their Western Australian rivals, a feat achieved the hard way as they eventually conquered Central Coast Mariners 3-2 in front of 5,974 fans at a rain-soaked Central Coast Stadium.

City got off to a flying start, Bruno Fornaroli opening the scoring with a free-kick after four minutes before Nick Montgomery put through his own net twelve minutes later, seconds after the home team had been harshly denied a penalty at the other end of the park.

Unperturbed, Central Coast looked to get back into the contest, and after Roy O’Donovan’s long-range effort had grazed a post, Fabio Ferreira’s free-kick on the stroke of half-time gave them a foothold in the contest.

When Ruon Tongyik put through his own net two minutes into the second half to level the scores, it set up a cracking forty-five minutes of football which had a bit of everything, including a goalmouth scramble which saw City clearing off the line, and an injury time contretemps featuring Scott Galloway and Nick Fitzgerald.

But the decisive moment came just after the hour mark, when Central Coast ’keeper Paul Izzo lost the plot and fouled Fornaroli in the penalty area, having directed a clearance straight to the striker.

Referee Adam Fielding had no option but to send off Izzo, with the first task of replacement custodian Ivan Necevski being to fish the ball out of his net, Fornaroli’s penalty restoring City’s lead, a strike which proved to be the decisive goal in this fiercely contested encounter.

Brisbane Roar also took the chance to get past Perth, and did it the hard way as they came from behind to down ten-man Newcastle Jets 3-1 in front of 7,122 fans at McDonald Jones Stadium, where the home team took the lead in the tenth minute courtesy Andrew Nabbout’s penalty.

That set the cat amongst the pigeons, but the home team were reduced to ten men on the half-hour when Jason Hoffman threw a tantrum which prompted referee Jarred Gillett to book him twice in as many minutes – off he went! And to compound matters, Newcastle’s manager, Mark Jones, was sent from the bench in response to his protests.

Brisbane instantly looked to make their numerical advantage count, but it wasn’t until the second spell – and the introduction of substitute Thomas Broich – that they gained reward on the scoreboard, the newcomer being felled in the penalty area just after the hour mark.

Jamie Maclaren duly levelled the scores from the spot, and swooped to conquer again in the 74th minute, turning home the rebound after Newcastle ‘keeper Tomislav Arcaba had pulled off another fine save, this time foiling Manuel Arana from distance.

The ten men strove valiantly to try and get back in the contest, but they were done for in stoppage time as substitute Nick D’Agostino wrapped up a solid win for the travelling team, who are back in fourth place after this victory, a point ahead of Perth and trailing Melbourne City on goal difference.

Western Sydney Wanderers, the league’s draw specialists, clocked up their tenth stalemate of the season in a scoreless affair with Adelaide United at Spotless Stadium, where 8,965 fans gathered in the Sydney rain to see the home team do everything but score in the first half. And when they did get the ball in the net, seven minutes before the break, a foul in the build-up ensured it wouldn’t count.

The efforts of Daniel Margush, in the sticks for United, added further to Wests’ frustration in the second spell with some memorable saves, while the crossbar came to Adelaide’s aid in the last minute, denying a Terry Antonis free-kick in a contest which the visitors could have won, had Scott Neville not cleared off the line from Sergio Cirio just after the hour.

Just two matches are scheduled next weekend, with the 23rd round of A-League action being split across two weekends. (Yet league management can’t see fit to bring forward from the last weekend of the month a match which will tie up at least twelve players from one team …!!!!!)

Sydney get this truncated round under way with a Friday night affair against Central Coast at Allianz Stadium, while twenty-four hours later, Perth converge on AAMI Park for the match of the round against Melbourne Victory.

Match Details:

Central Coast Mariners 2 (F. Ferreira (45), “oggie” (47)), Melbourne City 3 (B. Fornaroli (4, 64 pen), “oggie” (16)) HT 1-2

Newcastle Jets 1 (A. Nabbout (10 pen)), Brisbane Roar 3 (J. Maclaren (62 pen, 74), N. D’Agostino (90)) HT 1-0

Sydney FC 1 (Bobo (50)), Melbourne Victory 0 HT 0-0

Wellington Phoenix 3 (G. Finkler (10), R. Krishna (24), C. Barbarouses (47)), Perth Glory 3 (A. Keogh (34), A. Taggart (67), D. Castro (80)) HT 2-1

Western Sydney Wanderers 0, Adelaide United 0

P W D L F A GD Pts

Sydney FC 22 16 5 1 45 11 +34 53
Melbourne Victory 22 13 3 6 44 26 +18 42
Melbourne City 22 9 6 7 39 33 +6 33
Brisbane Roar 22 8 9 5 31 28 +3 33
Perth Glory 22 8 8 6 43 40 +3 32
Western Sydney Wanderers 22 5 10 7 24 31 -7 25
Wellington Phoenix 22 6 5 11 28 38 -10 23
Newcastle Jets 22 5 7 10 28 37 -9 22
Central Coast Mariners 22 5 5 12 26 42 -16 20
Adelaide United 22 3 6 13 17 39 -22 15