Round 26 Review: Play-Off contenders confirmed with a Round to spare
by Jeremy Ruane:
with the compliments of www.sportswebsoccer.com
The six teams which will contest the Hyundai A-League title for 2016-17 were confirmed with a round to spare on the second weekend in April, with the Video Assistant Referee having a hand in determining the final outcome.
Having not been a part of the competition for the previous twenty-five rounds, the introduction of this technological innovation at this late stage of the season was controversial enough – why couldn’t it have come into play once the play-offs were under way, rather than with two rounds of regular competition remaining?
It makes one think there may be an element of truth to that “Same old Aussies, always cheating!” chant which Wellington Phoenix’s fans unleash whenever the opportunity arises.
They were certainly giving it an airing after the VAR, Jarred Gillett, deemed that referee Shaun Evans had missed a handball offence by Wellington’s Marco Rossi twenty minutes from the end of their must-win clash with Sydney FC at Westpac Stadium, even though the VAR himself conveniently overlooked the fact Alex Wilkinson was climbing all over the defender in the incident concerned.
The penalty was duly awarded, and Bobo converted it to give the visitors a 1-0 lead in front of 6,610 disgruntled home fans, who saw Alex Brosque and Michael Zullo hit the woodwork before Michael McGlinchey’s glancing stoppage time header earned a deserved point from a 1-1 draw for the Wellingtonians, who had been thwarted throughout the contest by Danny Vukovic’s solid goalkeeping.
A point from a scoreless draw at Western Sydney Wanderers was enough to confirm Melbourne Victory as second place-getters in the round-robin phase of the league, despite the visitors to ANZ Stadium playing virtually the entire second half with just ten men, following the dismissal of Daniel Georgievski for two bookable offences.
16,345 fans saw Wests dominate possession and the shot count, but the winning goal they needed to keep alive their hopes of a top-four finish would not come, despite the best efforts of Nicolas Martinez to extract victory from the jaws of a draw.
Melbourne, too, weren’t without their chances, with Besart Berisha as ever a threat in his pursuit of Golden Boot glory and a 100th A-League goal. But parity prevailed, meaning Kevin Muscat’s side will join Sydney in having a weekend off in a fortnight’s time.
Melbourne City will be in action in that first play-off round, however, and climbed back into third spot after seeing off outgoing champions Adelaide United 1-0 in front of 9,238 fans at AAMI Park, with a Tim Cahill header nine minutes before half-time separating the sides on the scoreboard.
Bruce Kamau was superbly thwarted by Eugene Galekovic soon after as City looked to consolidate their advantage in an at times tempestuous affair, one which leaves the victors on the brink of a home semi-final in the first round of play-offs action.
Perth Glory gave their hopes of hosting such a match a significant boost by beating Brisbane Roar 3-1 in front of 8,834 fans at NIB Stadium, a result which confirmed their place in the play-offs.
After dominating the first spell, the home team were rewarded ten minutes before half-time when Richard Garcia headed home a Diego Castro free-kick. But Brett Holman fired an under-strength Brisbane side back on level terms eleven minutes into the second spell.
Unperturbed, Perth hit back strongly, Andy Keogh restoring their advantage half-way through the second half before Rostyn Griffiths iced the cake fourteen minutes from time as they climbed back up to fifth spot.
At the bottom of the table, there’s all to play for in the final round after Central Coast Mariners downed Newcastle Jets 2-0 in front of 8,073 fans at Central Coast Stadium to climb off the bottom of the table, with the beaten side replacing them.
The home team bossed proceedings from the outset, and claimed their first F3 derby victory in 911 days thanks to a thumping strike from Nick Montgomery just after the half-hour, and a Fabio Ferreira effort six minutes into the second half.
The latter goal was the seventeenth Newcastle has conceded since they last scored themselves, equalling an unwanted record held by the long defunct NZ Knights. And the prospects of making that record their own must be high, given they visit Sydney in the final round on a day the Premiers’ Plate will be presented.
So to the final round of action over Easter weekend, with Melbourne Victory and Central Coast kicking things off at AAMI Park on Good Friday evening. Then on Saturday, Sydney and Newcastle meet at Allianz Stadium, prior to the clash of Adelaide and Western Sydney at Coopers Stadium.
Brisbane and Wellington meet at Suncorp Stadium on Easter Sunday evening, prior to the clash of Perth and Melbourne City at NIB Stadium, where a Perth win by four clear goals would see them pass City on the table and secure a home game in the play-offs.
Melbourne City FC 1 (T. Cahill (36)) – Adelaide United FC; HT 1-0
Perth Glory FC 3 (R. Garcia (35), A. Keogh (67), R. Griffiths (76)) – Brisbane Roar FC 1 (B. Holman (56)); HT 1-0
Wellington Phoenix FC 1 (M. McGlinchey (90)) – Sydney FC 1 (Bobo (72 pen)); HT 0-0
Western Sydney Wanderers FC 0 – Melbourne Victory FC 0
Central Coast Mariners FC 2 (N. Montgomery (32), F. Ferreira (51)) – Newcastle Jets FC 0; HT 1-0
P W D L F A GD Pts
Sydney FC 26 19 6 1 53 12 +41 63
Melbourne Victory 26 14 4 8 48 31 +17 46
Melbourne City 26 11 6 9 45 39 +6 39
Brisbane Roar 26 10 9 7 39 34 +5 39
Perth Glory 26 9 9 8 48 49 -1 36
Western Sydney Wanderers 26 8 11 7 33 33 0 35
Wellington Phoenix 26 8 6 12 38 42 -4 30
Central Coast Mariners 26 6 5 15 31 51 -20 23
Adelaide United 26 5 7 14 23 44 -21 22
Newcastle Jets 26 5 7 14 28 51 -23 22