The honour of opening the entertainment this week fell to Adelaide United when they played host to Western Sydney Wanderers at Coopers Stadium in front of just over nine thousand fans, which must be a disappointment after playing in front of over nineteen thousand fans the previous week.
Adelaide took the lead with the first effort on goal, the fact that this was in the twenty first minute will tell you what a tight affair it was prior to the strike. Dylan McGowan found Tarek Elrich down the left, the Socceroo cut in along the dead ball line before aiming a pull back in the direction of the head of Eli Babalj unfortunately Wanderers Spanish midfielder Andreu got in the way and deflected the ball home at the near post.
Wanderers fashioned their first half chance in the thirty fifth minute when Jaushua Sotirio and Fedarico Piovaccari combined to send Mitch Nichols bearing down on goal, as he prepared to shoot Elrich slid in to save the day.
Wanderers opened the second half well and just two minutes in Romeo Castelen advanced through the middle of the park before unleashing a drive from twenty five yards which rebounded from the chest of keeper John Hall. Castelen was the architect of the next Wanderers opportunity in the fifty fourth minute when he weaved in to the box even playing one twos off of defenders before the ball eventually broke to Sotirio at the far post, unfortunately he showed zero composure and blasted the ball back across goal and well wide. Eight minutes later Wanderers came knocking again, Castelen backed Osama Malik up before crossing to the six yard box for Piovaccari to head over under pressure from Michael Marrone.
The Reds came back in the seventy second minute when a driving run from Craig Goodwin resulted in his drive from the edge of the box being tipped over by Andrew Redmayne. Castelen threatened yet again for Wanderers three minutes later as he burst into the box but saw his effort blocked to safety by McGowan. Wanderers managed to get back on level terms in the eighty third minute when Elrich intercepted from Dario Vidosic deep in his own box, however his attempted clearance was woeful and fell to the feet of Andreu just twelve yards out, and he got the ball out of his feet and blasted home. Adelaide came close to a late winner two minutes later when Marrone had a twenty yard effort deflected narrowly wide.
So a point apiece but Wanderers will be the happier of the camps after more than matching their hosts. Castelen was again prominent and surely one of these days his crafty play will register a goal.
The first game on Saturday was at Hunter Stadium where Newcastle Jets put out the welcome mat for Sydney FC in front of just over twelve thousand punters. Jets had the first opportunity when Milos Trifunovic got underneath a volley from a right wing cross and spooned it over the bar. Four minutes later Sydney had a half chance when Milos Ninkovic lifted a ball into the box for Chris Naumoff who volleyed over from eight yards out. The next opportunity also fell to the Sky Blues when a corner from the left was headed on target by Matt Jurman only to see Trifunovic hook his effort of the line. Ninkovic tried his luck from the clearance but saw Mark Birighitti block down the shot before it was cleared. Alex Brosque hammered in another Sydney effort in the thirty fifth minute but it lacked the sting or placement to trouble the Jets keeper.
Jets were unlucky not to take the lead just a minute later Leonardo swung in a free kick to the far post where Jason Hoffmann rose to head back across Vedran Janjetovic to the far corner, unfortunately the linesman incorrectly flagged Hoffmann offside to disallow the goal. Sydney fashioned a chance of their own five minutes later Ninkovic and Brosque combined to give Rhyan Grant a glimpse of the net but again Birighitti was equal to the task and turned the effort away for a corner. Just prior to the end of the half Ben Kantarovski was lucky to see just yellow after flying into a tackle on Naumoff after leaving the ground and leading with the studs.
Sydney had the first effort of the second half just two minutes in when Milos Dimitijevic set up Shane Smeltz six yards out but the Kiwi striker could gain no real purchase on the effort which Birighitti was able to fall on to save. In the fifty fifth minute Seb Ryall was booked for diving in an effort to get a penalty, those of you with a decent memory will recall he did much the same against Melbourne Victory last season.
His reputation is hanging by a thread in the Australian game. Ryall didn’t go into his shell after his caution and provided a teasing cross in the seventy fifth minute for George Blackwood to head over from six yards. A minute later Brandon O’Neill played a through ball for Smeltz to chase, Birighitti got there first but Smeltz left his foot in connecting with the keeper causing him to lose three teeth and need thirty stitches to his face and mouth.
Sydney continued to press and had another fine chance in the eighty first minute, Blackwood played Smeltz in and from twenty yards he drew the replacement keeper Ben Kennedy but lofted the chance over the top of goal. Sydney came even closer in the eighty seventh minute when Brosque ran on to a long ball over the top but his effort came back off the foot of the right hand post. Not to be deterred Sydney got the reward their efforts deserved in the eighty ninth minute, Alex Gersbach swung in a corner from the right to the corner of the six yard box where a stooping Brosque headed home to win the game for the visitors.
The Sky Blues deserved to edge the game but Newcastle will be encouraged to have held them for so long unfortunately for them it will get no easier next week when they host Victory.
Saturday evening brought the first derby of the season as Melbourne Victory met Melbourne City in front of a full house of over forty thousand at Etihad Stadium. Victory were favourites for the game and took just two minutes to notch their first effort. Kosta Barbarouses played Besart Berisha in behind the City backline but Thomas Sorensen was alive to the danger and cleared with a sliding tackle just outside the edge of the box.
Five minutes later Barabarouses threw over a low cross from the right that Connor Chapman did well to cut out before Fahid Ben Khalfallah could pounce. The game settled into a typical tight tense derby until Victory went ahead in the twenty third minute. Daniel Georgievski played a ball across the edge of the penalty area to Berisha, he laid it off in the direction of Gui Finkler but it rolled to Ben Khalfallah whos shot was deflected in past a wrong footed Sorensen by Paulo Retre.
City tried to strike back in the next minute but Robert Korens effort from twenty yards didn’t unduly trouble Danny Vukovic in the Victory goal. Finkler and Ben Khalfallah worked a clever short corner routine giving the former a sight of goal from a narrow angle, Sorensen beat his shot away to safety.
The second half started as an even affair until Victory notched their second in the fifty seventh minute. Ben Khalfallah was released into space down the right by Finkler, he cut in on to his right foot level with the edge of the box to dink a sweet cross to the far post where Barbarouses nodded home from six yards.
Sorensen came to the rescue of City again three minutes later, Carl Valeri released Ben Khalfallah in behind the City defence but the Danish keeper beat away the winger’s effort. City got a goal back in the sixty ninth minute when they made progress down the left side, Stefan Mauk played a ball in to Bruno Fornaroli on the edge of the box.
Fornaroli made an exquisite turn and nudged the ball through the legs of the advancing Vukovic to give City heart. Unbelievably City equalised three minutes later, Aaron Mooy played a wonderful diagonal forty yard pass from right to left to release Mauk in on goal, he calmly slotted past Vukovic from the edge of the area.
The equaliser knocked the stuffing out of Victory for a while but eventually they recaptured their stride and started to threaten the City goal again. Berisha nodded a header on target in the eighty third minute after a Finkler cross but saw Sorensen tip the ball over.
Connor Payne showed fine pace down the left three minutes later to centre for Berisha who went down under contact from Paddy Kisnorbo but the ref waved away the penalty appeals. Victory were not to be denied and scored the winner in the ninetieth minute, Finkler sent Payne away down the left his low cross was finger tipped by Sorensen into the path of the inrushing Berisha who finished from five yards.
Victory have opened the season with good form and look to have fully justified their favourites tag for this years league. City were second best for periods of this game but will take heart from the form of Mooy, Fornaroli and Sorensen as they look to build their way in to the season.
The first game on Sunday featured Brisbane Roar taking on Central Coast Mariners at the Suncorp Stadium in front of nearly fourteen and a half thousand fans. Brisbane were quickly out of the blocks and in just the third minute Brandon Borrello escaped down the right to swing a low cross in to Jamie Maclaren, sadly his first touch was heavy and Liam Reddy was able to drop on the ball with Jake McGing unable to provide any defensive cover.
Four minutes later Borrello threatened again but Harry Ascroft was able to clear at the expense of a corner. The corner involved a clever routine between Corona and Matt McKay gave Corona room to cross and find Maclaren but Reddy sprang to his right to save. Three minutes later Steven Lustica, McKay and Borrello combined down the right with Reddy diving low to intercept the centre.
The early dominance of Roar was rewarded in the fourteenth minute when they took the lead, Maclaren got his head to a long ball and then tapped the dropping ball to Borrello to give him a sight of goal right of centre and around twenty yards out. Borrello advanced five yards before rifling the ball across Reddy and in to the top left corner.
Mariners at last had an effort of note on the twenty minute mark, Roy O’Donovan played a cross field ball to Strom Roux. O’Donovan took the ball back from the right back and darted between two defenders before trying to beat Michael Theo low at his near post, Theo saved with his feet to clear the danger conceding a corner.
A minute later Nick Fitzgerald entered the box with the ball deflecting to O’Donovan but his snap shot from twelve yards was pulled across goal and wide of the far post. Roar came back in the twenty fourth minute, Borrello again was involved when he progressed down the right before pulling back to the penalty spot, Thomas Broich met the ball well with a first time strike but Reddy got down well to save. Just after the half hour mark McKay and Broich combined to centre for Maclaren who controlled well to give himself room and then had an airshot from six yards to waste the opportunity.
The half was an entertaining affair and Mariners were next to threaten when Roux and Fabio Ferreira opened up Roar down the right, the Portuguese winger cut in and drove powerfully but straight at Theo who saved. The last effort of the first half was provided by the impressive Corona when he tried a cheeky curling free kick to the near post from thirty yards wide left rather than try to pick out one of the waiting pack in the box, Reddy got across his goal well to collect.
Roar dominated the first half but Mariners came out with purpose in the second and fashioned a penalty appeal after just three minutes. Ferreira played a lovely cross in from the right with the outside of his right foot to find Anthony Caceres just inside the box in a central position, Jack Hingert came barging through his back but the ref waved away Mariner appeals. Roar took the ball to the opposite end in the following minute with Maclaren pulling his shot across the face of goal from the corner of the box.
After fifty minutes Mariners lively wide man Mitch Austin crossed for McGing to head over when he should have done better. Roar responded a couple of minutes later when McKay did well down the left before feeding the ball into Maclaren in the box, his lay off to Lustica twenty yards out was hit well by the midfielder with a low hard drive but Reddy was able to turn it away.
Roar went two up after an hour with a coast to coast goal, Hingert and Corona broke out of the Roar right back berth with neat interplay. Hingert then switched play to Maclaren with a beautiful forty yard diagonal ball, the striker cut in before passing to Borrello on the corner of the six yard box who lashed to the roof of the net.
The game became a bit of an arm wrestle with neither side able to really impose themselves on the opposition until Mariners got a goal back in the eighty eighth minute. McGing and Roux played nicely down the right to release Ferreira, the winger made it to the byeline before pulling back to sub Josh Bingham who found the net at the near post.
Roar saw out the remaining minutes to claim top place on the ladder and must be delighted with the influence of new signing Corona, they will be hoping for more in what will be an open game at Wellington next week. Mariners were second best for most of the game but they have promised to give youth its head and play attacking football this year, it should be an interesting season for Mariners fans.
Finishing off the feast this week were Perth Glory and Wellington Phoenix at Nib Stadium before a little over eight thousand interested souls. The home team opened the scoring in just seventh minute when Mitch Oxborrow swung a corner in from the left, Dino Djulbic made a nuisance of himself and the loose ball ran to Gyorgy Sandor on the corner of the six yard box to thrash the ball home.
The Kiwi visitors equalised just a couple of minutes later when Ben Sigmund broke up a Glory attack finding Michael McGlinchey in the middle of the park, he carried forward before unleashing Roy Krishna some forty yards from goal in a fairly central position. The Fijian speedster advanced in to the box cleverly checked his step to throw Michael Thwaite out of stride and drove across Ante Covic in the Glory goal to find the bottom corner.
Glory almost snatched the lead back on twenty four minutes when Anthony Golec forced Jeffrey Sarpong to clear off the line after what appeared to be a clear foul on keeper Glen Moss. Wellington weren’t here just to make up numbers and Covic had to save with his feet from Krishna after McGinley had lifted a set piece delivery in to him.
The Westerners should have done better in the thirty eighth minute another Oxborrow corner presented Djulbic with a free header six yards out but he placed it wide. The visitors threatened again in the forty second minute Vince Lia played a free kick in to Krishna on the left hand side of the box he hooked the ball back to Roly Bonevacia whos first time strike from the edge of the box flashed narrowly wide.
Phoenix nearly snatched the lead again eleven minutes in to the second half with Krishna getting a touch to divert the ball just the wrong side of the far post. Phoenix were the better side but had not made their dominance show on the score sheet as half chances came and went throughout the second half.
Crucially Richard Garcia collected a second yellow in the eighty forth minute and the extra man eventually told but the visitors left it very late to take advantage. McGlinchey swung a corner from the right across to the near post everyone missed it with the ball falling nicely to the unmarked Lia ten yards out to sidefoot volley to the net and score his first goal in four years.
So Phoenix collect the three points to make their six and half thousand mile round trip worth the effort while Glory remain pointless and looking a little toothless up front.
This weekend’s coming fixtures
Newcastle Jets v Melbourne Victory
Wellington Phoenix v Brisbane Roar
Brisbane Roar v Western Sydney Wanderers
Melbourne City v Central Coast Mariners
Perth Glory v Adelaide United