HAL 14 Round 1 Review: Grand Finalists Beaten In Opening Round

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

Round 1 Review

Just two teams recorded victories in the opening round of Hyundai A-League action for the 2018-19 season, with Melbourne City and Wellington Phoenix scoring 2-1 wins over last season’s Grand Finalists.

Reigning champions Melbourne Victory came a cropper in front of 40,504 fans at Marvel Stadium, where cross-town rivals Melbourne City came from behind to score a 2-1 victory over the title-holders, aided and abetted by the curse that is the Video Assistant Referee.

An understandably tense first half had its shackles unhinged just shy of the half-hour mark, as Victory’s marquee signing, Keisuke Honda, capped off a fine move to open the scoring.

But controversy reigned supreme fifteen minutes later as referee Kurt Arms awarded a free-kick to City for what appeared to the naked eye to be a clear case of simulation by Bruno Fornaroli.

Just as the set-piece was about to be taken, the VAR intervened, suggesting that the “offence”, for want of another word, had taken place inside the penalty area. Referee Arms was convinced accordingly by what he saw, and pointed to the spot.

Up stepped Florin Berenguer, only for Lawrence Thomas to tip the City man’s shot onto the post. But Ritchie de Laet was following in and gleefully equalized, much to the disgust of the title-holders and their fans.

City enjoyed the better of the second spell, but survived a let-off when James Troisi saw his curling effort hit the post in the 65th minute. Cue the introduction of Riley McGree, who swiftly made his mark, scoring what turned out to be the winner five minutes later.

Victory piled on the pressure in search of an equaliser, with Honda being denied by Eugene Galekovic with twelve minutes remaining, and Troisi also going close before the final whistle confirmed City with bragging rights for now.

That Saturday night affair followed the season opener 24 hours earlier, a match in which Adelaide United and Sydney FC shared the spoils, drawing 1-1 in front of 10,018 fans at Coopers Stadium.

In a typically cagey opening affair – no side wants to lose their opening game of a campaign, United enjoyed the better of the exchanges in the first spell, and were rewarded on the stroke of half-time when Scott Galloway unleashed a twenty yarder which arced sumptuously over the head of Andrew Redmayne.

Sydney struggled to make headway in the second spell, but finally found a way through United’s resolute rearguard twelve minutes from time, new signing Adam le Fondre notching the equaliser to earn the Premiership phase winners of the last two seasons a point from their opening encounter.

1-1 was also the outcome at Suncorp Stadium, where Connor Pain gave Central Coast Mariners a fourth minute lead and later hit the post, before Adam Taggart, who had squandered numerous opportunities throughout proceedings, including an open goal, finally scored a 65th minute goal which earned Brisbane Roar a share of the spoils in front of 14,859 fans.

Taggart was another victim of the dreaded VAR during this match, a harsh offside call denying him one goal, while he was felled in the penalty area fifteen minutes from time, only for the cameras to unearth another offside call in the build-up to that prospective penalty incident.

One must wonder if the problem lies with the VAR system, or with those operating it, as there is no doubt, in this writer’s observations, that an element of using the available technology simply because it’s there has crept into the A-League, to its detriment.

That was one of three matches which took place on Sunday evening, the first of which saw Wellington Phoenix upset last season’s beaten Grand Finalists, Newcastle Jets, 2-1 in front of 9,174 fans at Westpac Stadium.

Jair and Roy Krishna went close with early efforts on goal for their respective sides before Dimitri Petratos was only prevented from giving the visitors the lead by a superb Filip Kurto save.

Seconds after Alex Rufer’s goal direct from a corner had been ruled out for a foul in the goalmouth, Louis Fenton cleared off the line at the other end of the park from former team-mate Matthew Ridenton, who looked on with disdain two minutes later as his old club took the lead via a Daniel Georgievski own goal.

Petratos went desperately close to equalising just before the interval, while Wellington were denied a second goal on the hour by the VAR system, with Sarpreet Singh harshly adjudged to have handled the ball as it ricocheted off his arm into the net.

The woodwork prevented Jason Hoffman from heading home a Newcastle equaliser half-way through the second spell, while VAR was again the centre of attention two minutes from time, with Wellington the beneficiaries on this occasion as Mitch Nichols went down under a Kaine Sheppard challenge, despite the fact he was never going to reach the ball as it arced in from a corner.

Glen Moss saved Krishna’s spot-kick, but the Fijian made no mistake with the rebound to clinch the points for Wellington, although they conceded the goal of the game in stoppage time, a superb counter-attack culminating in Petratos pummeling home a deserved goal for the visitors.

The final match of the opening round saw Perth Glory dominate Western Sydney Wanderers at NIB Stadium, but the home team had to settle for a 1-1 draw in front of 10,206 fans.

In a lively affair, Andy Keogh fired Perth in front after 26 minutes, an advantage which Alex Grant came close to doubling on the hour when his header cannoned off the crossbar.

It was a let-off Western Sydney exploited to the full, with Roly Bonevacia levelling the scores five minutes later. But for a poor finish by Oriol Riera inside the last ten minutes, they could well have taken home all three points, but Perth didn’t deserve to lose this match, and went close to winning it themselves through Chris Ikonomidis.

Round two action kicks off on Friday evening with Adelaide welcoming Newcastle to Coopers Stadium. On Saturday night, Central Coast and Melbourne City square off at Central Coast Stadium before the SCG plays host to the Sydney derby, with FC at home to the Wanderers.

Sunday’s fare sees Brisbane and Wellington locking horns at Suncorp Stadium prior to the clash of Melbourne Victory and Perth at AAMI Park.

Match details:

Adelaide United FC 1 (S. Galloway (45′)) – Sydney FC 1 (A. le Fondre (78′)); HT 1-0
Melbourne Victory FC 1 (K. Honda (28′)) – Melbourne City FC 2 (R. de Laet (40′), R. McGree (70′)); HT 1-1
Wellington Phoenix FC 2 (“oggie” (32′), R. Krishna (89′)), Newcastle United Jets FC 1 (D. Petratos (90′)); HT 1-0
Brisbane Roar FC 1 (A. Taggart (65)) – Central Coast Mariners FC 1 (C. Pain (4′)); HT 0-1
Perth Glory FC 1 (A. Keogh (26)) – Western Sydney Wanderers FC 1 (R. Bonevacia (65′)); HT 1-0

League Ladder:

https://www.a-league.com.au/ladder