Round 18 Review: Brisbane stun Sydney as Top Two tango

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

HAL 14 – Round 18 Review

The spotlight was on the top two teams in the Hyundai A-League on the second weekend in February, but it was Brisbane Roar’s stunning come-from-behind upset win over Sydney FC which rather stole the thunder of Perth Glory and Melbourne Victory, whose tussle at AAMI Park saw the league leaders prevail 2-1.

25,071 fans witnessed the top-of-the-table encounter, in which first half scoring opportunities were at a premium. That all changed on the hour, however, with Neil Kilkenny opening the scoring from the penalty spot for the visitors after a handball offence by Corey Brown.

Diego Castro volleyed home Perth’s second goal with twenty minutes remaining to leave Melbourne with a mountain to climb, and while Costa Barbarouses halved the deficit with twelve minutes remaining, the reigning champions had to be content with a loss which sees their conquerors surge seven points clear, and within four points of confirming their place in the end-of-season play-offs.

Sydney squandered the chance to make in-roads on the two teams above them when rolled 2-1 at Suncorp Stadium by an injury-and-suspension-hit Brisbane Roar team, which, despite its personnel issues, recorded just its second win of the campaign.

They should have been dead and buried by half-time, however, with Milos Ninkovic missing a sitter before Brendan White pulled off fine saves to foil Adam Le Fondre and Reza Ghoochannejhad on a night Brisbane had to withdraw two defenders due to injury inside the first half-hour, paving the way for sixteen-year-old Izaack Powell to become the A-League’s youngest ever player.

Brisbane’s stubborn resistance couldn’t last, and ten minutes into the second spell Daniel De Silva fired the visitors in front, leaving the 8,356 fans present seemingly resigned to yet another defeat for the home team.

But on this occasion, Brisbane didn’t bow to the inevitable. Instead, they got stuck into their opponents and deservedly drew level through Tobias Mikkelsen thirteen minutes from time. And as the game entered stoppage time, Dylan Wenzel-Halls threw the formbook out the window with a piledriving finish to clinch a famous win for the Queenslanders – and boy, did they need it!

They remain in ninth place, however, a result of Western Sydney Wanderers also scoring a rare win as they overcame Central Coast Mariners 2-0 in front of 5,364 fans at Spotless Stadium to leave the beaten club staring at the wooden spoon as their souvenir for another season of A-League action.

When you’re down in the lower reaches of the table, very little seems to go your way, so when Tarek Elrich’s intended cross curled into the net via the far post on the stroke of half-time, Wests must have been thinking they’d turned the corner.

Sure enough, that proved to be the case, Jaushua Sotirio clinching the points for a team notching just its third win of the campaign, and their first in two months, one which would have been enhanced by a headed Oriol Riera goal had Ben Kennedy not pulled off a fine one-handed save to deny him.

1-1 stalemates abounded in the other two matches, with Melbourne City and Adelaide United sharing the points at AAMI Park in front of 6,569 fans, who saw Craig Goodwin open the scoring for the visitors just before half-time, via the underside of the crossbar.

Melbourne piled on the pressure after the interval, and it eventually paid dividends twenty minutes from time when Jamie Maclaren opened his account for the club with a deft back-heeled finish.

There was loads more action in the other 1-1 encounter, with 7,394 fans treated to some outstanding goalkeeping and numerous close calls as Newcastle Jets’ Glen Moss and Wellington Phoenix’s Oliver Sail shared the man-of-the-match honours with their collective repertoire of fine saves.

Mandi Sosa hit the post for the visitors after eight minutes of action at McDonald Jones Stadium, with Louis Fenton directing the rebound past the post of a gaping goal with Moss stranded.

Newcastle’s ‘keeper pulled off a stunning save to deny David Williams’ downward header on the half-hour, before the home team, mounting a rare first half attack, broke the deadlock through some Ronald Vargas brilliance in the 33rd minute, the striker outfoxing four defenders before beating Sail all ends up at his near post.

Wellington’s ‘keeper wasn’t to be beaten again, however. After Williams had deservedly levelled the scores just shy of the hour mark, Newcastle piled on the pressure in search of a winner, but Sail was unbeatable, producing a breathtaking double-save to twice thwart Dimitri Petratos on the hour, with Roy O’Donovan hitting the post in between these denials.

Sail then kept out a Jason Hoffman effort, before tipping a flying Daniel Georgievski header onto the bar, this just six minutes after his double-save. Wellington’s ‘keeper frustrated O’Donovan before the full-time whistle, but not before Moss, who was largely inactive during the second spell, earned Newcastle a point by saving Roy Krishna’s penalty two minutes from time.

All eyes will be on Eden Park on Friday night as Wellington finally bring a game to New Zealand’s true home of football, Auckland. Given the recent history of their clashes with Melbourne Victory, a decent-sized crowd – far in excess of Wellington’s usual patronage – is expected, and will certainly be enhanced if Keisuke Honda is on deck for the visitors, which will bring the local Japanese community out in force.

Also that evening, Newcastle and Melbourne City meet at McDonald Jones Stadium, while on Saturday, Adelaide welcome Wests to Coopers Stadium prior to the clash of Perth and Brisbane at HBF Park. And on Sunday night, Sydney and Central Coast lock horns at Leichhardt Oval.

Match details:

Brisbane Roar FC 2 (T. Mikkelsen (77), D. Wenzel-Halls (90)) – Sydney FC 1 (D. De Silva (55)); HT 0-0

Melbourne City FC 1 (J. Maclaren (69)) – Adelaide United FC 1 (C. Goodwin (43)); HT 0-1

Melbourne Victory FC 1 (C. Barbarouses (78)) – Perth Glory FC 2 (N. Kilkenny (61 pen), D. Castro (69)); HT 0-0

Newcastle United Jets 1 (R. Vargas (33)) – Wellington Phoenix FC 1 (D. Williams (58)); HT 1-0

Western Sydney Wanderers FC 2 (T. Elrich (45), J. Sotirio (77)) – Central Coast Mariners FC 0; HT 1-0

League Ladder:
https://www.a-league.com.au/ladder
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W-League Season 11

Results – semi finals
https://www.w-league.com.au/fixtures#!/results/s2018/r15

Ladder
https://www.w-league.com.au/ladder