R8 Review: Victory only top four winners as Wellington hit five

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

Only one team among the Hyundai A-League’s leading quartet recorded victory on the last weekend in November, as Wellington Phoenix, led by a Nathan Burns hat-trick, went nap in a keenly contested eighth round of action in the competition.

22,334 fans watched a wild game at AAMI Park on Friday evening, as Adelaide United scored four times in their clash with Melbourne Victory, only to end up on the wrong end of a 3-2 scoreline.

Nigel Boogaard opened the scoring in the seventh minute – for the hosts, the Adelaide defender heading into his own net as he looked to avert the danger posed by Guilherme Finkler’s free-kick.

Cue a swift riposte from the visitors, Awer Mabil levelling the scores seven minutes later, but only after missing a sitter. Virtually straight from the resumption, Melbourne regained the lead, with Sergio Cirio this time putting through his own net after Boogaard had failed to clear Fahid Ben Khalfallah’s cross.

Another cross from the same player saw Leigh Broxham rise to head Melbourne further in front just after the half-hour mark, and after the home team had had another goal disallowed, Adelaide reduced the deficit through a Marcelo Carrusca penalty eight minutes before half-time.

Incredibly, that was the end of the scoring, but not of the drama, with two separate gatherings of the clans occurring after half-time as tempers flared in this top-of-the-table tussle. Unbeaten Melbourne held on for all three points, however, inflicting upon Adelaide their first defeat of the campaign by doing so.

Twenty-four hours later, table-topping Perth Glory had their advantage reduced to a solitary point after Henrique’s late equaliser saw reigning champions Brisbane Roar hold the Western Australian outfit to a 1-1 draw at Suncorp Stadium.

13,043 fans saw Brisbane’s marksman hit the crossbar early on in the match, which looked fair set to be decided by Dino Djulbic’s twentieth minute volleyed strike for Perth until the Brazilian earned Frans Thijssen’s new team a point four minutes from time.

1-1 was also the outcome in the other match on Saturday night, the battle for Sydney bragging rights in front of a full house at Pirtek Stadium. Western Sydney Wanderers came within inches of opening the scoring early doors, before Iacopa La Rocca’s challenge on Sydney FC’s Ali Abbas forced the latter from the field, possibly for the rest of the season if the ACL injury he is feared to have is confirmed.

The home team piled on the pressure as they sought their first win of the season, and took the lead on the half-hour through Tomi Juric before hitting the post soon after, Nikita Rukavytsya the player denied.

Sydney responded immediately, Bernie Ibini-Isei silencing the home team’s fanatical support with a stunning equaliser eleven minutes before half-time, after which Wests continued to enjoy the better of the opportunities, but failed to convert any of them – they’ll look on this as two points lost against their unbeaten cross-town rivals, whose defence is the league’s most miserly to date.

With the top four seemingly in their own race, the focus on Sunday centred around four of the teams bidding to claim the other spots in the top six. Wellington Phoenix made absolutely certain of being one of them by thrashing Melbourne City 5-1 in front of 7,410 fans at Westpac Stadium.

Remarkably, the visitors did everything but score in the opening half-hour, such was their dominance. But once Nathan Burns pounced on a back-pass to score against the run of play in the 33rd minute, the transformation in both teams’ fortunes was startling.

Belief suddenly started coursing through Wellington’s players, just as quickly as it evaporated from the Melbourne men, Aaron Mooy excepted. Roly Bonevacia doubled Wellington’s lead five minutes before half-time, while goals in the first five minutes of the second half, from Burns and Roy Krishna, killed off the game as a contest.

Melbourne’s desire to score a consolation goal saw them realise that ambition via a David Williams penalty half-way through the second spell, but “We Want Five” was the cry from the Wellington faithful, and their charges delivered, Burns completing his hat-trick – the first in the club’s history – from the penalty spot five minutes from time.

The third 1-1 draw of the weekend marked the outcome of the F3 derby, as Newcastle Jets and Central Coast Mariners exchanged second half goals in this Hunter Stadium stalemate.

Edson Montano’s crossbar-rattling header was the lone highlight of the first half, but he made amends three minutes into the second half when firing Newcastle in front, to the delight of the home faithful.

This sparked Central Coast into life, and moments after Glen Trifiro had hit the crossbar with a free-kick, Richard Vernes levelled the scores ten minutes into the second half to set up a lively finale.

Momentum swung back and forth, with Marcos Flores squandering a golden chance to restore Newcastle’s lead before Ben Kennedy produced a superb reflex save in the dying minutes to prevent Mariners’ substitute Matt Sim from taking all three points back to Gosford.

Western Sydney and Brisbane play their rescheduled match at Pirtek Stadium on Wednesday evening, meaning all teams will have played nine matches by the time next weekend’s ninth round concludes on Sunday.

Kicking off that round is the clash of Sydney and Perth, at Allianz Stadium on Thursday. Twenty-four hours later, Central Coast and Melbourne Victory lock horns at North Sydney Oval.

Two matches take place on Saturday evening, with the clash of Newcastle and Wellington at Hunter Stadium followed by Adelaide welcoming Western Sydney to Coopers Stadium. And on Sunday, Melbourne City and Brisbane draw swords at AAMI Park.

Match details:

Brisbane Roar FC 1 (Henrique (86)) – Perth Glory FC 1 (D. Djulbic (20)); HT 0-1

Melbourne Victory FC 3 (“oggies“ (7, 16), L. Broxham (32)) – Adelaide United FC 2 (A. Mabil (14), M. Carrusca (37 pen)); HT 3-2

Newcastle Jets FC 1 (E. Montano (48)) – Central Coast Mariners FC 1 (R. Vernes (55)); HT 0-0

Wellington Phoenix FC 5 (N. Burns (33, 47, 85 pen), R. Bonevacia (40), R. Krishna (50)) – Melbourne City FC 1 (D. Williams (68 pen)); HT 2-0

Western Sydney Wanderers FC 1 (T. Juric (30)) – Sydney FC 1 (B. Ibini-Isei (34)); HT 1-1

P    W    D    L    F    A    GD    Pts

Perth Glory    8    6    1    1    13    9    +4    19

Melbourne Victory    8    5    3    0    18    8    +10    18

Adelaide United    8    5    2    1    13    7    +6    17

Sydney FC    8    4    4    0    11    5    +6    16

Wellington Phoenix    8    4    0    4    15    11    +4    12

Central Coast    8    1    3    4    5    10    -5    6

Melbourne City    8    1    3    4    12    19    -7    6

Brisbane Roar    7    1    1    5    9    12    -3    4

Newcastle Jets    8    0    4    4    7    16    -9    4

Western Sydney    7    0    3    4    6    12    -6    3