R23 Review: Brisbane return to Top in some style

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

Another week, another change at the top in the Hyundai A-League, as Brisbane Roar and Western Sydney Wanderers regained the co-leadership of the competition with four rounds remaining following an eventful 23rd round of action over the second weekend in March.

Adelaide United went into the round on top of the table on the back of a fourteen-match unbeaten run. That was brought to an end in a keenly contested encounter with Melbourne City, who prevailed 1-0 in front of 14,274 fans at Coopers Stadium thanks to Nick Fitzgerald’s well-taken strike nineteen minutes from time.

That opened the way for yet another change at the top of the table, and Brisbane grabbed the opportunity with both hands, battering reigning champions Melbourne Victory 5-0 in front of 15,892 fans at Suncorp Stadium.

Jamie MacLaren led the way with a hat-trick for the new table-toppers – they lead the way on goal difference – with his first two strikes coming in a four-minute burst after the visitors had dominated the early stages, then had strong penalty appeals turned away – MacLaren struck his second goal on a 22nd minute counter-attack which took place while Melbourne bemoaned referee Jarred Gillett’s decision.

There was no way back for the title-holders after that double whammy, a fact Corey Brown emphasised ten minutes into the second half. Corona then turned home the rebound after MacLaren was denied his hat-trick strike by Danny Vukovic fourteen minutes from time, but he wasn’t to be denied the match ball, completing his treble with three minutes left on the clock to wrap up a comprehensive Brisbane win.

The Queenslanders are rejoined at the top by Western Sydney, who eked out a 1-0 win in front of 12,151 fans at Hunter Stadium on Sunday evening over a Newcastle Jets side which nearly snatched a dramatic equaliser late on.

Nigel Boogaard hit the post with a header while goalkeeper Mark Birighitti’s shot, following a corner, struck a defender and ricocheted to safety as the home team sought a goal to match that struck by Jaushua Sotirio for the visitors just seventeen minutes into the contest.

Perth Glory moved up to fifth place on the table after thumping bottom-placed Central Coast Mariners 4-0 in front of 11,127 fans at NIB Stadium, where referee Adam Fielding sent off two visiting players early in the second half.

Diego Castro’s fourth minute penalty got the ball rolling for Perth, but it was during the second half when the fireworks started, Mitch Austin being sent off for his second bookable offence before Andy Keogh, who hit the post with a header late in the first half, made no mistake with his next chance, in the 53rd minute.

Then it was Luis Garcia’s turn to incur the wrath of referee Fielding for the second time in the match, reducing Central Coast to nine men prior to Keogh consolidating Perth’s position on the scoreboard from the penalty spot half-way through the second spell.

Chris Harold wrapped up the scoring in stoppage time on a day Central Coast had four other players booked as they were confirmed as this season’s wooden spoon recipients with four rounds remaining.

The surprise result of the round saw Wellington Phoenix stun Sydney FC 3-1 in front of 10,235 fans at Allianz Stadium, where the booing rang long and loud after the home team fell behind to two goals in as many minutes from Blake Powell and Hamish Watson before the quarter-hour mark had passed.

Roly Bonevacia rammed home Wellington’s third goal eight minutes before half-time to leave Sydney with a mountain to climb, and while they pulled a goal back through Filip Holosko early in the second spell, that was all she wrote for Graham Arnold’s side, whose first half defensive efforts – or, rather, lack of them – were their downfall as they extended their winless run of games to eight.

Next weekend’s action kicks off with what should be a cracking encounter between the league’s highest-scoring teams, as Melbourne City entertain Brisbane at AAMI Park on Friday evening.

Central Coast and Sydney clash at Central Coast Stadium on Saturday evening, prior to the other top four clash between Western Sydney and Adelaide at Pirtek Stadium. On Sunday, Wellington welcome Perth to Westpac Stadium for the latest “Long Distance Derby”, while Melbourne Victory and Newcastle wrap up the round at AAMI Park.

Match details:

Adelaide United FC 0 – Melbourne City FC 1 (N. Fitzgerald (71)); HT 0-0

Brisbane Roar FC 5 (J. MacLaren (18, 22, 87), C. Brown (55), Corona (76)) – Melbourne Victory FC 0; HT 2-0

Newcastle Jets FC 0 – Western Sydney Wanderers FC 1 (J. Sotirio (17)); HT 0-1

Perth Glory FC 4 (D. Castro (4 pen), A. Keogh (53, 67 pen), C. Harold (90)) – Central Coast Mariners FC 0; HT 1-0

Sydney FC 1 (F. Holosko (51)) – Wellington Phoenix FC 3 (B. Powell (12), H. Watson (13), R. Bonevacia (37)); HT 0-3

P    W    D    L    F    A    GD    Pts

Brisbane Roar    23    12    5    6    43    34    +9    41

Western Sydney Wanderers    23    12    5    6    38    30    +8    41

Adelaide United    23    11    6    6    37    26    +11    39

Melbourne City    23    11    5    7    55    38    +17    38

Perth Glory    23    10    4    9    42    34    +8    34

Melbourne Victory    23    9    6    8    33    31    +2    33

Sydney FC    23    7    9    7    28    29    -1    30

Newcastle Jets    23    7    5    11    21    34    -13    26

Wellington Phoenix    23    7    4    12    32    43    -11    25

Central Coast Mariners    23    3    3    17    26    56    -30    12