The first game of the round had Sydney FC hosting Newcastle Jets. The game was relocated 50 miles south to the Win Stadium in Woolongong as the Allianz Stadium is being returfed. The game ended 0-0 but Sydney were apoplectic after the match when a highly dubious off side decision denied Marc Janko a goal with an absolutely beautiful far post volley from close on twenty yards.
The Austrian skipper also hit the post and saw team mates miss a host of first half chances as the three man Newcastle backline were ripped apart at will. A half time rejig saw the Jets go back to a four man defence and look a whole lot more comfortable, to such a degree that they bossed the second half and could possibly have even stolen the points when Adrian Madaschi had a header cleared off the line by Alex Brosque.
The stats don’t make easy reading for the respective coaches, this was the Jets first clean sheet at the fourteenth time of asking and Sydney’s goal drought has hit them to such an extent that it is now seven games since they last tasted a win and four games since they last scored a goal.
The form team of the league were next up when Wellington Phoenix played host to Brisbane Roar and predictably they ran out comfortable 3-0 winners to claim their fourth win on the trot and move into second place in the league.
The Kiwi team were quickly into their stride and opened the scoring in just the fourth minute. Left back Manny Muscat went down his flank totally wrong footed his opposition fullback with a deft touch before advancing into the box and finishing with aplomb. You would have expected the hosts to take control but in reality the visitors had plenty of possession and had no shortage of efforts on goal, although admittedly most of those efforts were wayward.
The Yellow Fever as the Nix diehards are known had to wait until the fifty first minute for the second goal, departing crowd favourite Jeremy Brockie won and converted a penalty when he went down under the challenge of Roar keeper Matt Young. In a dream final game for the club Brockie bagged a brace sixteen minutes later, a neat turn just inside the box gave him a clear sight of goal and he hammered the chance home to give Young no chance whatsoever.
So still missing their two most effective goal scorers Wellington continue to find the back of the net and their confidence must be sky high at the moment. Brisbane on the other hand will be happy to have the break in games due to the Asian Cup which will give them a chance to regroup, get injured players back and get their stuttering season back on track.
Sunday brought us Central Coast Mariners versus Melbourne City and in an odds defying result Mariners claimed a 2-0 victory. Mitchell Duke bagged a first half brace with his first goals since the opening weekend when he claimed the winner against Newcastle Jets.
The opener arrived in the twelfth minute when Glen “tricky” Trifiro jinked around Aaron Mooy before feeding Duke on the edge of the box, his first touch put him between the City defenders and he shot low and true to the far corner beyond Tando Velaphi. Duke hit his second fifteen minutes later when he seized on a ball across the edge of the box from the prone Richard Vernes and planted his laces through it ferociously to find the back of the net.
City weren’t without their chances and without two great saves from Liam Reddy to deny Robert Koren and Mooy they could well have claimed a share of the spoils. A bad day for Tando Velaphi got worse in the fifty eighth minute when he got a straight red card for clattering into Duke who got to a through ball before the City Custodian.
Monday evening brought the mouth-watering prospect of Perth Glory playing host to Adelaide United at the Nib Stadium as first took on fourth. Adelaide are the only club to beat Glory this season having beaten them both in the league and in the FFA cup final and so it proved again with a 2-1 victory for the visitors.
The game was played in sapping heat with the temp over 35 degrees at kick-off, to counter this the players were allowed a drinks break at the midpoint of both halves. Glory opened the scoring in a fashion typical of their play a ball over the top found the ever willing Andy Keogh who held the ball up well before cutting along the edge of the box and finding the unmarked Nebojsa Marinkovic just under 25 yards out, the Serbian midfielder slammed home with no fuss.
The Reds got back level terms in the thirty first minute with a goal from nothing by Craig Goodwin. The Glory defence decided to play around with the ball and Richard Garcia left his ball back to keeper Danny Vukovic short allowing Goodwin to let the ball run across his body before slotting past Vukovic to the corner of the net.
Adelaide began to take control of the match and went in to the lead just three minutes into the second half when Bruce Djite played the ball wide left to Sergio Cirio, he collected the return ball before cutting back to the penalty spot where Jimmy Jeggo finished first time. Cirio linked nicely with sub Awer Mabil in the seventy sixth minute and worked space for himself in the box to strike right footed and rattle the bar.
As the game entered added on time Jamie McLaren fluffed a decent chance to equalise when he found himself in space twenty five yards out instead of taking the ball on trying to place the ball home or even round the keeper he went for a first time chip and lifted his effort too high.
The final game before the Asian Cup break gave us Western Sydney Wanderers against Melbourne Victory at Pirtek Stadium before a crowd of fourteen thousand. Wanderers yet again fell to defeat and remain winless and bottom of the ladder but will be wondering how it happened in a game they really deserved at least a point from.
It looked as if yet again their luck would be out when Carl Valeri opened the scoring for the visitors in the twenty sixth minute. A Gui Finkler corner from the right glanced off the ruck of players at the near post and fell to Valeri on the edge of the box, he smashed a pearl of a right foot volley beyond Ante Covic and into the top corner.
Wanderers were well in the game in the first half and Nikita Rukavytsya could and possibly should have done better with several first half efforts. The Paramatta team did get back on level terms when Nick Kalmar linked well with Rukavytsya and when the return ball came in Kalmar made no mistake from the edge of the box to score Wanderers first league goal after four blank games.
Wanderers sniffed a win and took the upper hand as they upped their work rate and denied Victory any time on the ball. But it was the same old story for Wanderers when Victory got the winning goal with ten minutes left through Brazillian midfielder Finkler. Costa Barbarousis fed a ball from the right into the centre of the box for Besart Berisha, he worked space to his left to get room for a shot, Covic diving at his feet knocked the ball away from the striker but sadly for him it rolled directly to Finkler who lifted the ball into the net to break Wanderers hearts.
What have we learned?
The mid-season break may only be a by-product of Australia hosting the Asian Cup but it will be gladly seized upon by every coach in the bottom half of the ladder as they seek to get their season back on track and bolster their numbers now that the transfer window has opened.
Next A League fixtures (commencing 24 Jan)
Adelaide Utd v Newcastle Jets
Central Coast Mariners v Sydney FC
Perth Glory v Melbourne Victory
Melbourne City v Western Sydney Wanderers
Brisbane Roar v Wellington Phoenix