Round 27 Review (end of League): Play-Off order decided after goal-laden Sunday

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

Review

A goal-laden final day of round-robin action in the Hyundai A-League confirmed home quarter-finals for Brisbane Roar and Melbourne City next weekend, after both were involved in high-scoring thrillers on Easter Sunday.

Brisbane claimed third place in remarkable fashion, coming from 3-1 down at half-time to defeat Wellington Phoenix 4-3 in front of 12,098 fans at Suncorp Stadium, who were silenced by Roy Krishna’s sixth minute opener for the visitors.

Seven minutes later, only the crossbar denied Michael McGlinchey a sure-fire contender for goal of the season as Wellington went for broke in a stunning opening thirty minutes of football, which saw chances galore at both ends of the park.

Brisbane came roaring back, and drew level half-way through the first half via a twenty-five yard screamer from Brett Holman, soon after Jamie Maclaren had been denied strong penalty claims by referee Kris Griffiths-Jones.

Two goals in three minutes inside the final seven minutes of the half turned the match Wellington’s way, with Krishna and McGlinchey combining for Guilherme Finkler to fire them back in front in the 38th minute before the roles were reversed three minutes later, Finkler’s angled ball forcing a defensive blunder upon which McGlinchey mercilessly capitalised.

It took Brisbane just eight minutes of the second spell to draw level. Brandon Borrello curled home from twenty yards in the 51st minute before Maclaren clocked up his fiftieth A-League goal – and earned himself a share of the Golden Boot with Besart Berisha – by slamming home at the near post two minutes later.

That double strike set up the second half, with Brisbane taking the lead for the first time in the match half-way through, Holman hammering home a twenty-yarder on the run to give them a 4-3 lead, an advantage which Maclaren unbelievably failed to build upon when Lewis Italiano saved his penalty fifteen minutes from time.

Wellington went all out for an equaliser, but ended their season by squandering a 3-1 lead, much to the delight of Brisbane, who awaited the outcome of the final game of the round to see who they’d be facing in the quarter-finals.

That final game of the round was some contest, with Perth Glory taking a fifth minute lead through Diego Castro’s penalty, only for Tim Cahill to level matters half-way through the half for Melbourne City at NIB Stadium.

That was the end of the scoring in a lively first half, but what followed in the final 45 minutes of the premiership phase of the season was nothing short of staggering – seven goals, four of them coming inside the final ten minutes of the contest to leave the 12,261 fans present breathless!

Andy Keogh fired Perth back in front five minutes into the second half before Bruno Fornaroli hit the crossbar as City sought a second equaliser. Instead, they found themselves 3-1 behind after 56 minutes courtesy Chris Harold.

City piled on the pressure, knowing that if Perth were to establish a four-goal lead, they would secure themselves a home quarter-final at Melbourne’s expense. And when Nebojsa Marinkovic came off the bench fifteen minutes from time and fired home a free-kick with his first touch of the ball, the home team were within a goal of achieving what, at kick-off, seemed the most unlikely of scenarios.

Cue an incredible finale, with Cahill dragging City back into the contest ten minutes from time, seconds before substitute Nick Fitzgerald hit the crossbar for the visitors, who made the score 4-3 in the 84th minute when Nicolas Colazo reduced the arrears still further.

Now it was Perth who were nervous, with Liam Reddy foiling a potential equaliser from Fornaroli, who needed two goals to make it a three-way tie for the Golden Boot.

When Adam Taggart struck two minutes from time to make it 5-3, the home team looked home and hosed. But an unbelievable blunder by Reddy saw him caught in possession as he tried to take on City strikers outside his penalty area. Fitzgerald said thanks very much – 5-4!

Crazy scenes, but that brought an end to the scoring, and with it, City’s hopes of qualifying for the AFC Champions League – Brisbane finished third, which means they take Australia’s final spot in that competition for the 2018 season.

Sydney FC continued on their record-breaking way with a 2-0 win over Newcastle Jets in front of 15,787 fans at Allianz Stadium, a result which saw the title favourites finish round-robin play with a record 66 points to their name, out of a possible 81 – one of eight records they have set in this remarkable campaign.

In winning their final match of the round-robin phase of the league, the Premiers’ Plate winners condemned Newcastle to the wooden spoon for the third time, with the beaten side setting a record Sydney would never wish to lay claim to – they have conceded eighteen goals since they last scored themselves.

Andrew Nabbout had the perfect chance to end that awful record in front of goal three minutes before half-time, but blazed his penalty wide of the target, to which Sydney responded by taking the lead ten minutes into the second spell through Milos Ninkovic.

He was later taken out by Ben Kantarovski, who had denied the playmaker a first half goal via a far better-timed tackle. Ninkovic limped off the park, and missed the post-match trophy celebrations due to his ankle injury.

By this time Sydney had clinched their two-goal win through Alex Brosque, who wrapped up the scoring three minutes from time to end the tenure of Newcastle’s boss, Mark Jones – rather than an Easter egg from the club on Sunday morning, he got the sack!

Melbourne Victory remained seventeen points behind in second place as Besart Berisha became the first goalscoring centurion in A-League history when his goal ten minutes from time clinched a 1-0 victory over Central Coast Mariners in front of 14,827 fans at AAMI Park.

Both teams had chances in the first half, the pick of them seeing Melbourne’s James Troisi brilliantly denied by Paul Izzo, while Roy O’Donovan couldn’t get the better of Lawrence Thomas in a one-on-one situation.

The home team stepped things up after the interval, and after Rashid Mahazi and James Donachie had gone close from distance, Berisha missed a sitter before finally clinching the points and his place in A-League history.

The final play-off place was the domain of Western Sydney Wanderers, who maintained their standing as the league’s draw specialists by being held to a stalemate for the twelfth time this season in a 2-2 draw at Adelaide United.

After Eli Babalj had spurned a great chance just two minutes into the contest, the 7,636 natives inside Coopers Stadium were delighted when Marcelo Carrusca potted a tenth minute penalty to open the scoring.

They were happier still when Dylan McGowan doubled United’s advantage seven minutes before half-time, and when Nicolas Martinez saw his penalty saved by United goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic in the shadows of the half-time whistle, it looked like the outgoing champions would finish their campaign on a winning note.

But the former AFC Champions League winners came storming back in the second spell, Steven Lustica rattling the crossbar with a free-kick, the rebound from which was turned home by Dimas Delgado just after the hour mark.

Iacopo La Rocca then gave away his second penalty of the match in the 74th minute, and this time Lustica faced up to Galekovic, sending the ‘keeper the wrong way to level the scores.

Western Sydney only retained a share of the spoils in stoppage time thanks to the offside flag, which ruled out a late Sergio Cirio strike for Adelaide, whose point from this match ensured they would avoid the wooden spoon just twelve months after celebrating the silverware.

The play-offs kick off on Friday night when Brisbane entertain Western Sydney at Suncorp Stadium, before Melbourne City and Perth do it all again on Sunday night, this time at AAMI Park, with Sydney and Melbourne Victory lying in wait for the winners on the first weekend in May.

The advent of the play-offs means that this is the final round review of the season – hope you’ve enjoyed them!  
[Thanks to Jeremy for providing them, Editor]

Match Details:

Adelaide United FC 2 (M. Carrusca (10 pen), D. McGowan (38)) – Western Sydney Wanderers FC 2 (D. Delgado (63), S. Lustica (74 pen)); HT 2-0

Brisbane Roar FC 4 (B. Holman (21, 67), B. Borrello (51), J. Maclaren (53)) – Wellington Phoenix FC 3 (R. Krishna (6), G. Finkler (38), M. McGlinchey (41)); HT 1-3

Melbourne Victory FC 1 (B. Berisha (80)) – Central Coast Mariners FC 0; HT 0-0

Perth Glory FC 5 (D. Castro (5 pen), A. Keogh (50), C. Harold (56), N. Marinkovic (75), A. Taggart (88)) – Melbourne City FC 4 (T. Cahill (21, 80), N. Colazo (84), N. Fitzgerald (90)); HT 1-1

Sydney FC 2 (M. Ninkovic (55), A. Brosque (87)) – Newcastle United Jets FC 0; HT 0-0

Ladder:

P W D L F A GD Pts

  1. Sydney FC 27 20 6 1 55 12 +43 66  (Premiers)
  2. Melbourne Victory 27 15 4 8 49 31 +18 49
  3. Brisbane Roar 27 11 9 7 43 37 +6 42
  4. Melbourne City 27 11 6 10 49 44 +5 39
  5. Perth Glory 27 10 9 8 53 53 0 39
  6. Western Sydney Wanderers 27 8 12 7 35 35 0 36
    ———————————————————- Top 6, go into the finals series
  7. Wellington Phoenix 27 8 6 13 41 46 -5 30
  8. Central Coast Mariners 27 6 5 16 31 52 -21 23
  9. Adelaide United 27 5 8 14 25 46 -21 23
  10. Newcastle United Jets 27 5 7 15 28 53 -25 22   (Wooden Spoon)