There are just three weeks left of the regular season so every result now is vitally important to decide who will finish in the top six and qualify for finals football. Rumours have been circulating practically all season that Perth Glory were under investigation for salary cap breaches, the matter finally came to a head this week when the FFA issued another notice with regard to the charge, a hefty fine and stated that Glory would now be excluded from the finals opening the way for Brisbane Roar to give them a chance to defend their title. Glory have of course launched an appeal so the saga will drag on a while yet.
First up this week bottom club Newcastle Jets travelled to Aami Park to take on top of the league Melbourne Victory before over nineteen thousand spectators. A bigger home banker you would barely have seen all season so it was entirely predictable that the visitors would leave with all three points.
If Victory hadn’t missed so many chances the league would have had to launch an investigation into irregular betting patterns on this match. Without a word of a lie veteran striker Archie Thompson could have had four goals in the first half alone he was twice denied by Ben Kennedy in the Jets goal and twice poked his efforts wide of the mark.
Perhaps the best chance of the half fell to the away team, young left winger Andrew Hoole threw in a glorious cross from the touchline to the far post where the unmarked Enver Alivodic placed his header wide of the post from six yards.
The second period started in much the same fashion with Victory on the front foot, Besart Berisha spurned a chance in the fifty fourth minute when he drilled his shot across goal and just wide of the post. The miss proved costly when Jets went straight up the pitch and found the net.
Enver Alivodic left Daniel Georgievski trailing in his wake before he crossed from the right, the centre was marginally behind his intended target in the form of Edson Montano however Nick Ansell made a hash of his attempted clearance and presented the ball to Montano. The Ecuadorian frontman elected to shoot back across goal, hitting Ansells heel and deflecting the ball into the corner of the net past a bewildered Lawrence Thomas in the Victory goal.
The question now was could the Jets hang on to their lead, anyone who had seen recent performances wouldn’t have fancied their chances. A well worked corner routine between Fahid Ben Khalfallah and Gui Finkler gave Berisha a chance just six yards out but great defending from Nick Cowburn saw him block the danger.
With just five minutes left on the clock Kosta Barbarouses placed an angle shot wide of the post when well found by Berisha and with it went the last chance of rescuing something from the game for Victory. The result leaves Victory on forty four points and within reach of Adelaide , Sydney and Wellington, the Jets meanwhile climb above Wanderers again as they continue their private battle to avoid the wooden spoon.
The deflated Perth Glory were next up hosting Sydney FC at Nib Stadium and after the news they had just received it was hardly surprising that they crashed to a 3-0 defeat. Perth provided very little evidence that they are going to stay strong after the FFA decision and it looked very much like the players just want the season to be over on the evidence on show here.
By the time Sydney opened the scoring Marc Janko had gone close twice, Chris Naumoff had put a header over the top when he should have done better and Milos Dimitijevic had gone close after a weaving run had left three defenders behind him.
When the goal did arrive Dimitrijevic crossed from the left to Janko who got tremendous power and placement to his header, Danny Vukovic saved the effort low to his right but couldn’t hang on with Alex Brosque tapping home in the thirty fourth minute. Two minutes later Jamie Mclaren thought he had equalised but his effort was ruled out by a touch and go off side flag.
Sydney notched a second with a beautiful goal, a cross from the right was headed away from danger momentarily by Michael Thwaite before it could reach Janko, the loose ball was collected by Bernie Ibini on the left hand corner of the box he quickly switched the ball to his left foot and half volleyed home to the far side of the net.
Just five minutes later it was all over Alex Brosque won the ball in midfield, he fed Ibini on the left hand side of the box, the pull back was perfection for Brosque to run on to and finish first time from around twelve yards. So Sydney climbed onto forty four points and sat on top of the heap on goal difference. Glory meanwhile have to put all of their hopes in their appeal or else they may as well start planning their trips down the Margaret River now.
Next up to try to take advantage of the Victory slip up was Adelaide United when they hosted Brisbane Roar at Cooper Stadium, surprisingly the visitors claimed a 3-2 win with some farcical defending by the home team.
Roar scored first in the fifteenth minute when a lovely back heel from Jean Carlos Solarzano released Andrija Kaluderovic with just Eugene Galekovic to beat which the Serbian did with no problem. Craig Goodwin fluffed an easy chance for a thirty fourth minute equaliser before things went from bad to worse in the forty first minute for Galekovic in a moment of park football farce that is worth hunting down on the internet.
The Reds keeper came sweeping out of his area to tidy up a high ball before Solarzano got there, he misjudged the height of the ball, hooked it behind him toward his own goal and then set off to try to stop the ball before it found the net only to end up flapping at it and punching it home. Unbelievably Roar claimed a third goal in the fifty fourth minute through Jack Hingert when he slammed home at the near post after more sloppy defensive work by the Reds.
Adelaide gave themselves some hope in the seventy first minute Isaias Sanchez played Sergio Cirio into space and in turn he presented Goodwin with an open goal to find. Pablo Sanchez slotted home a ninety fourth minute penalty, conceded when Danny Bowles hauled down Nigel Boogaard and saw red for him troubles. Roar played like a team with a fresh lease of life while Adelaide played as if they didn’t want to take top spot and reside in fourth place for now.
Central Coast Mariners welcomed Western Sydney Wanderers to Central Coast Stadium in a match that was played for pride only, nine and half thousand turned out to say goodbye to retiring Mariners legend John Hutchinson. The home team emerged victorious thanks to a 1-0 win from a Josh Rose goal in only the second minute.
Anthony Caceres found Anthony Kalik who in turn fed Rose to smash home. Iacopo La Rocca headed a glorious chance over the top to equalise for Wanderers shortly after the opener. Wanderers then had a double chance to equalise in the middle of the first half first Liam Reddy used his face to save from Alusine Fofanah, Nick Kalmar then tried his luck from the loose ball which Nick Montgomery cleared from the Mariners line. No one troubled the scorers for the rest of the game and both teams will look for better things next season.
Melbourne City took on Wellington Phoenix at Aami Park with the Nix being given a chance to get their title shot back on the rails after successive 3-0 defeats. As things span out honours were shared in a lively 0-0 draw that would leave Nix in fourth place and City in sixth.
Nix missed a great chance to open the scoring in the sixteenth minute when Nathan Burns placed a tame penalty effort straight down the middle of the goal to allow Tando Velaphi an easy save. Both sides had plenty of attacking effort but neither of them had the composure to finish the job. Nix will be particularly thankful to keeper Glen Moss who pulled out some great saves to preserve the visitors clean sheet.
What have we learned?
The title contenders have been thinned down to four and any of them can still take the top spot with just two weeks left.
Next A League fixtures
Brisbane Roar v Melbourne Victory (catch up game)
Wellington Phoenix v Central Coast Mariners
Newcastle Jets v Sydney FC
Western Sydney Wanderers v Adelaide United
Brisbane Roar v Melbourne Victory
Perth Glory v Melbourne City