R24 Review: Sydney Claim Crown Without Needing To Play

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

Round 24 Review

Sydney FC claimed the Hyundai A-League’s Premiers’ Plate without having to kick a ball over the course of the last weekend in March, after nearest rivals Melbourne Victory were beaten 1-0 by Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium.

13,576 fans saw Jamie Maclaren break the deadlock six minutes into the second half of a match in which Melbourne were deprived of the services of four players, simply because Football Federation Australia don’t comply with FIFA’s international window, during which there should be no top-flight domestic activity.

I can hear the Wellington Phoenix fans now … “Same old Aussies, always cheating!”

Until now, no Australian club has been impacted by this situation – only the Kiwi entry. But now that Melbourne has suffered adversely, prompting coach Kevin Muscat to question “the integrity of the competition” in his post-match comments, it will be interesting to see how FFA responds.

No doubt they’ll react in their usual fashion, and charge Muscat with bringing the game into disrepute for speaking out against the national body, an action which will provide further evidence that the lunatics are running the asylum.

The under-strength Melbourne were no match for a team eager to confirm its own spot in the end-of-season play-offs, and before Maclaren’s superbly lobbed finish, Brisbane twice went close to breaking the deadlock, Brett Holman hitting the post before Jack Hingert drew a fine save from Lawrence Thomas.

After the winner was struck, Maclaren went close to doubling his tally for the match, but Melbourne’s Jason Geria should have equalised twenty minutes from time, even though it would have been against the run of play had he netted.

That win drew Brisbane level on points with Melbourne City, who found Brendon Santalab in hat-trick-scoring form as Western Sydney Wanderers came from behind to win 3-1 in front of 10,204 fans at Spotless Stadium on Friday evening.

City got off to a flying start through Neil Kilkenny’s third minute goal, and had their chances to add to it before Santalab levelled the scores half-way through the first half, but only after Mitch Nichols had been denied in a one-on-one opportunity by Thomas Sorensen.

Nicolas Martinez squandered the chance to give Wests the lead before the break, but two goals in four minutes just after the hour from Santalab put the home team on course for victory, one which was effectively confirmed fifteen minutes from time when Vedran Janjetovic saved a Bruno Fontaroli penalty.

That win propelled Wests to within a point of fifth-placed Perth Glory, who found themselves on the wrong end of Sydney’s trophy-winning celebrations at NIB Stadium, where the table-toppers prevailed 3-0 in front of 10,097 fans to set a record for the most points scored by a team in A-League history – and this with three games still to play!

Chances were sparse throughout much of the first half, but two goals in four minutes late in the piece turned the game Sydney’s way. Lucian Goian put through his own net from a corner before Brandon O’Neill thumped home a beauty against his old club four minutes before the interval.

Filip Holosko and Bobo both had great chances to make it three inside the first ten minutes of the second half, but fine saves by Liam Reddy thwarted them. However, Bobo was to gain his revenge in the 63rd minute, netting upon receipt of a sublime back-heeled pass from Alex Brosque.

Diego Castro twice went close to reducing the deficit, his first effort being ruled out by the offside flag, while his second, a free-kick six minutes from time, crashed to safety off the woodwork. Sydney were too good, however, as they have been all season.

Wellington Phoenix are the only team outside the play-off spots who still hold hopes of breaking into them, serving their cause well by thrashing Newcastle Jets 5-0 in front of just 4,828 fans – the lowest attendance to watch Wellington home or away in over four years.

What they witnessed was the club’s second biggest win ever – only a 6-0 trouncing of Gold Coast United in October 2009 eclipses it. And it was produced by a decidedly under-strength team, given six first choice players were on FIFA World Cup duty with Fiji and the All Whites.

It was a lively affair early on, with opportunities at both ends. But once the deadlock was broken in style by Costa Barbarouses after 24 minutes, there was only ever going to be one winner, and that was confirmed when the scorer of the first goal supplied for Guilherme Finkler to head home the second nine minutes before half-time.

The game was up for Newcastle four minutes into the second half. Finkler’s corner was headed against the crossbar by Dylan Fox, but substitute Matthew Ridenton was on hand to slam home the rebound with his first touch of the game.

Newcastle spurned some great chances to pull a goal back, then proceeded to put one in at the wrong end half-way through the second half, Jason Hoffman’s expert finish summing up the visitors’ night.

There was time for Roly Bonevacia to wrap things up four minutes from time, while substitute Sarpreet Singh came within inches of netting what would have been a record-equalling sixth goal in stoppage time.

The bottom rung of the league ladder is no longer occupied by Adelaide United, the first time since round four that a team other than last season’s champions have propped up the competition.

That’s because United stormed to a come-from-behind 3-2 win at Central Coast Mariners, who have replaced their conquerors in wooden spoon territory following the conclusion of a match watched by 5,438 fans at Central Coast Stadium.

Both teams had their chances in the first half, but only was taken, by Kwabena Appiah-Kubi for the home team in the shadows of the half-time whistle, a strike which spoilt United goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic’s hopes of keeping a clean sheet on the occasion of his 250th A-League appearance.

The situation changed dramatically in a ten-minute spell around the hour mark, during which Adelaide struck three times. Papa Diawara topped and tailed the scoring in this period, sandwiching Dylan McGowan’s headed effort which gave the visitors the lead.

Central Coast came charging back, but could only muster an injury time penalty to Roy O’Donovan as Adelaide lifted themselves off the bottom of the table – quite an achievement, when one considers how far adrift they’ve been of their rivals at times this season.

The final game in March pits Adelaide against Perth at Coopers Stadium on Friday evening, twenty-four hours before Sydney and Melbourne City meet at Allianz Stadium.

That’s the second of two matches on Saturday, the first of which sees Newcastle and Western Sydney meeting at McDonald Jones Stadium. There are also two games on Sunday evening, with Melbourne Victory welcoming Wellington to AAMI Park before Brisbane and Central Coast clash at Suncorp Stadium.

Match Details:

Brisbane Roar FC 1 (J. Maclaren (51)) – Melbourne Victory FC 0; HT 0-0

Central Coast Mariners FC 1 (K. Appiah-Kubi (44)) – Adelaide United FC 3 (P. Diawara (56, 66), D. McGowan (61)); HT 1-0

Perth Glory FC 0 – Sydney FC 3 (“oggie” (38), “B. O’Neill (41), Bobo (63)); HT 0-2

Wellington Phoenix FC 5 (C. Barbarouses (24), G. Finkler (36), M. Ridenton (49), “oggie” (66), R. Bonevacia (86)) –

Newcastle Jets FC 0; HT 2-0

Western Sydney Wanderers FC 3 (B. Santalab (22, 64, 68)) – Melbourne City FC 1 (N. Kilkenny (3)) HT 1-1

P W D L F A GD Pts

Sydney FC 24 18 5 1 49 11 +38 59
Melbourne Victory 24 14 3 7 48 28 +20 45
Melbourne City 24 10 6 8 44 36 +8 36
Brisbane Roar 24 9 9 6 33 30 +3 36
Perth Glory 24 8 8 8 44 47 -3 32
Western Sydney Wanderers 24 7 10 7 30 33 -3 31
Wellington Phoenix 24 7 5 12 34 41 -7 26
Newcastle Jets 24 5 7 12 28 46 -18 22
Adelaide United 24 5 6 13 22 41 -19 21
Central Coast Mariners 24 5 5 14 27 46 -19 20