Round 21 Review: Sydney clinch home semi with six rounds to spare

By Jeremy Ruane
With compliments of

HAL Round Review

There may still be six rounds to play in the Hyundai A-League this season, but runaway leaders Sydney FC have already secured a home semi-final on the last weekend in April after coming from behind to down Western Sydney Wanderers 3-1 at a rain-soaked Allianz Stadium on the last weekend in February.

Trailing to an Oriol Riera goal after ten minutes, the home side gradually got on top in midfield and delighted their supporters in the 25,211-strong crowd when Adrian Mierzejewski levelled the scores via the crossbar right on half-time.

The Pole fired Sydney in front ten minutes into the second half, and the league’s leading marksman, goal-a-game Bobo, made the points safe with his twenty-first strike of the season seventeen minutes from time.

Victory maintained Sydney’s eleven-point lead over Newcastle Jets, who eased past Brisbane Roar 1-0 at Suncorp Stadium to book their play-off spot with six games to spare.

It was a tale of two ‘keepers on top of their game for much of the contest, with the 8,120 fans present treated to a goalkeeping masterclass by both Newcastle’s Jack Duncan and Brisbane’s Jamie Young, who was finally beaten eleven minutes from time by a well-taken Joey Champness strike.

The teams in third and fourth place at the start of the round both suffered defeats on the road, with Melbourne City succumbing to a late rally by the home team at NIB Stadium as Perth Glory prevailed 2-1.

The 8,029 fans who braved the hot conditions witnessed a tame first half punctuated right on the stroke of half-time by a top corner special from City’s Daniel Arzani. But that advantage came under threat half-way through the second half when the visitors’ Bart Schenkeveld was sent off for committing his second bookable offence.

Perth piled on the pressure against the ten men, and were rewarded five minutes from time when Neil Kilkenny’s well-placed equaliser from the edge of the penalty area found the bottom corner of the net.

Not content with levelling the scores, the home team went for glory, and got it right at the death, Adam Taggart heading home the winner in the seventh minute of stoppage time to clinch three priceless points for Perth, as they edged a little further away from the bottom of the table.

Adelaide United, meanwhile, copped a 3-0 hiding from Melbourne Victory in front of 13,396 fans at AAMI Park, the visitors playing much of the second half with ten men after Taylor O’Regan put through his own net to open the scoring half-way through the first half.

Seven minutes later, Leroy George scored a quite splendid free-kick to put Melbourne firmly in the driving seat, soon after which Regan and the non-shrinking violet that is Besart Berisha prompted a gathering of the clans – there’s no love lost between these teams, make no mistake!

After that clash, the odds on a red card being shown were almost negligible, and nine minutes after he came on as a half-time substitute, United’s Dzengis Cavusevic was the one chosen to test the shower water after striking Rhys Williams.

There was no way back for Adelaide after this, and Berisha rubbed salt into the wounds by wrapping up the scoring on the hour, with Paul Izzo doing his best to limit the damage to three, most notably with a fine flying save to deny Terry Antonis.

The battle of the cellar-dwellers lived up to its billing, with Central Coast Mariners edging Wellington Phoenix 1-0 thanks to a Daniel De Silva strike on the stroke of half-time.

Roy Krishna hit the crossbar for Wellington early in the second half, while Blake Powell was only denied a goal against his old club by the post as he looked to double the home team’s lead, but the 4,973 fans present were more than pleased with the odd-goal victory, their first win in eleven matches.

Next week sees yet another split round take place, with the Melbourne derby at AAMI Park kicking things off on Friday evening. On Saturday evening, the top two meet at McDonald Jones Stadium, while Brisbane and Adelaide clash at Suncorp Stadium twenty-four hours before a 23rd round encounter brought forward by a fortnight takes place at Spotless Stadium, with Western Sydney welcoming Perth.

Match details

Brisbane Roar FC 0 – Newcastle United Jets FC 1 (J. Champness (79)); HT 0-0

Central Coast Mariners FC 1 (D. De Silva (45)) – Wellington Phoenix FC 0; HT 1-0

Melbourne Victory FC 3 (“oggie” (22), L. George (29), B. Berisha (59)) – Adelaide United FC 0; HT 2-0

Perth Glory FC 2 (N. Kilkenny (85), A. Taggart (90)) – Melbourne City FC 1 (D. Arzani (44)); HT 0-1

Sydney FC 3 (A. Mierzejewski (44, 55), Bobo (73)) – Western Sydney Wanderers FC 1 (O. Riera (10)); HT 1-1

League ladder
P W D L F A GD Pts

Sydney FC 21 16 4 1 53 15 +38 52

Newcastle Jets 21 12 5 4 44 24 +20 41

Melbourne City 21 10 3 8 31 28 +3 33

Melbourne Victory 21 8 5 8 31 30 +1 29

Adelaide United 21 8 5 8 24 28 -4 29

Western Sydney 21 6 8 7 27 36 -9 26

Brisbane Roar 21 6 4 11 24 32 -8 22

Perth Glory 21 7 1 13 26 42 -16 22

Central Coast 21 4 8 9 22 29 -7 20

Wellington Phoenix 21 4 5 12 24 42 -18 17