Round 25 Review: Shock Wellington win keeps interest in Play-Offs

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

Review

Wellington Phoenix have taken the Hyundai A-League’s play-off race to the league’s penultimate round on April 2, after a shock victory over Melbourne Victory ensured they were still capable of securing a top-six finish in a round which saw a significant change at the top of the Golden Boot standings.

At the top of the table, Sydney FC relentlessly rolled on, seeing off Melbourne City at Allianz Stadium by a 3-0 scoreline in front of 15,266 fans at Allianz Stadium, where all the goals were scored in the second spell.

Bruno Fornaroli went close to breaking the deadlock with a first half free-kick, but after Ivan Franjic had cleared a Rhyan Grant effort off the line early in the second half, two goals in seven minutes turned the game Sydney’s way.

Near post and far post finishes from Alex Brosque – a header – and Bobo rewarded Michael Zullo’s measured deliveries, while Bobo swooped again in stoppage time, David Carney’s delivery inviting the bearded marksman to bag his fourteenth goal of the season.

Second-placed Melbourne Victory squandered the chance to confirm a home semi-final when roundly thrashed 3-0 by Wellington Phoenix in front of the biggest crowd of the round – 17,011 fans – at AAMI Park.

Roly Bonevacia got the visitors off to a flying start when rattling home a twenty-five yarder in the ninth minute, and when he doubled their tally with a long-range effort which hit both posts before crossing the line, Wellington fancied their chances of recording a second consecutive win over Melbourne Victory, despite losing Matthew Ridenton to a suspected ACL injury in between both goals.

The home team mustered just two shots on target in the entire contest, and also finished with ten men on the park following the dismissal of Alan Baro twenty minutes from time, the defender committing a professional foul in a goalscoring situation.

Wellington weren’t able to take advantage of the opportunity presented them from that incident, but in the dying minutes Shane Smeltz wrapped up the scoring to bring up a century of goals he has scored in top-flight Australian football.

Sydney’s win allowed Brisbane Roar the chance to climb into third spot on Sunday evening, and after a scoreless first half against Central Coast Mariners at Suncorp Stadium, the 8,113 fans witnessed a barnstorming come-from-behind 5-1 victory, which featured an eight-minute hat-trick for the home team.

After a first half in which Jamie Maclaren went closest to breaking the deadlock, Fabio Ferreira’s superb solo goal four minutes into the second half did just that for the bottom-placed side, who hit the post through Roy O’Donovan two minutes later as a shell-shocked Brisbane struggled to come to terms with going behind.

They swiftly regained their poise, however, and just after the hour mark, the turnaround began in earnest. Maclaren opened his account for the night after 62 minutes, and before the seventy minute mark had rolled round, he’d struck twice more, and hit the post for good measure.

Maclaren’s rapid-fire treble also fired him into a share of the lead in the race for the Golden Boot – both the Brisbane man and Melbourne Victory’s Besart Berisha have bagged eighteen goals this season, with Fornaroli a goal behind. Bobo (Sydney) and Western Sydney’s Brendon Santalab are a further three goals off the pace, with Marco Rojas (Melbourne Victory) within five goals of the front-runners.

Central Coast were never going to come back from that triple blow, and they fell further behind eight minutes from time when Thomas Broich struck, before Nick D’Agostino iced Brisbane’s cake in stoppage time.

Western Sydney Wanderers marched into fifth place with an emphatic 3-0 win at Newcastle Jets, a match witnessed by 9,380 fans at McDonald Jones Stadium, who saw the visitors convert their chances, unlike their hosts.

All the scoring came in a ten-minute period either side of half-time. Two thumping Robert Cornthwaite headers – both from deliveries by Nicolas Martinez – topped and tailed the scoring five minutes either side of the half-time whistle, with Jaushua Sotirio tucking home a close-range volley two minutes after the first goal, following a Jack Clisby free-kick which was flicked on by Jumpei Kusukami.

Wests leapfrogged Perth, who were held to a 1-1 draw at Coopers Stadium by an Adelaide United combination which is on the climb – they’ve moved up to eighth place with this point, earned in front of 7,307 fans.

Halfway through the first half, Dylan McGowan made up for a glaring miss moments earlier by heading United in front after team-mate Taylor Regan’s header had hit the post.

But Perth equalised from the penalty spot on the stroke of half-time through Diego Castro, although it was a spot-kick the Spaniard earned in dubious fashion – there was definitely an element of the theatrical in his claiming of it, but it was enough to con referee Daniel Elder.

That incident spiced up the second spell, which Adelaide dominated, but they couldn’t beat Liam Reddy for a second time, although the outgoing champions may well have already done enough to avoid the wooden spoon.

The penultimate round of round-robin action kicks off on Friday when Melbourne City entertain Adelaide at AAMI Park. A Saturday night triple-header kicks off with Wellington welcoming Sydney to Westpac Stadium, before Western Sydney and Melbourne Victory square off at ANZ Stadium.

Perth and Brisbane meet at NIB Stadium to wrap up the Saturday stuff, before the round is completed on Sunday night when Central Coast and Newcastle meet at Central Coast Stadium with the wooden spoon almost certainly the reward for the vanquished.

Match Details:

Adelaide United FC 1 (D. McGowan (23)) – Perth Glory FC 1 (D. Castro (45 pen)); HT 1-1

Brisbane Roar FC 5 (J. Maclaren (62, 66, 70), T. Broich (82), N. D’Agostino (90)) – Central Coast Mariners FC 1 (F. Ferreira (49)); HT 0-0

Melbourne Victory FC 0 – Wellington Phoenix FC 3 (R. Bonevacia (9, 26), S. Smeltz (89)); HT 0-2

Newcastle united Jets FC 0 – Western Sydney Wanderers FC 3 (R. Crosthwaite (40, 50), J. Sotirio (42)); HT 0-2

Sydney FC 3 (A. Brosque (57), Bobo (64, 90)) – Melbourne City FC 0; HT 0-0

Ladder:

P W D L F A GD Pts

Sydney FC 25 19 5 1 52 11 +41 62
Melbourne Victory 25 14 3 8 48 31 +17 45
Brisbane Roar 25 10 9 6 38 31 +7 39
Melbourne City 25 10 6 9 44 39 +5 36
Western Sydney Wanderers 25 8 10 7 33 33 0 34
Perth Glory 25 8 9 8 45 48 -3 33
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Wellington Phoenix 25 8 5 12 37 41 -4 29
Adelaide United 25 5 7 13 23 43 -20 22
Newcastle Jets 25 5 7 13 28 49 -21 22
Central Coast Mariners 25 5 5 15 29 51 -22 20