Almanac Soccer – A-League 1,000: The VAR Edition

@hamishneal

1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on Round 26 which is the penultimate round of the A-League season. Regular season champions Sydney FC travel to Wellington whilst the F3 Derby could decide the wooden spoon for season 2016/17.

Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships v Adelaide United, Friday – AAMI Park
If you are trying to not finish last, as Adelaide are, playing a side who have given up six goals in their last two games offers some hope. Michael Valkanis’s side won 2-1 in October when the two sides played in the Victorian capital but the two clubs reversed the result in Adelaide in January when Adelaide replacement Mark Ochieng bobbed up with the winner three minutes from time. Guillermo Amor could have his eye on the Asian Champions League game in South Korea this week when the Reds play Jeju United.

Big game for: The light blues had some good periods of possession against Sydney before falling 3-0. Winning six corners to three showed they had some chances they get some defensive recruits back this weekend including Michael Jakobsen and Osama Malik.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Last weekend our focus on goal scorers led to a clever link between Bobo and Baba. Can Adelaide’s import net here to try to kick clear of the Mariners and Jets?

Wellington Phoenix v Sydney FC, Saturday – Westpac Stadium
The goals are starting to roll in for the Phoenix (14 in five games) but it might be too late for the Wellingtonians. Sydney FC featured some slight changes against the travelling Victorians and still won handily. Graham Arnold’s side won 3-1 in February and 1-0 in October in Wellington so are looking for a season sweep here. Jordy Buijs is back for Sydney FC whilst Wellington have lost Matt Ridenton to injury.

Big game for: Some of the strategic yellow cards picked up last weekend mean some players will be missing this weekend, including the Sky Blues’ free kick exponent Brandon O’Neill who will be replaced by Milo Dimitrijevic.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: After two goals to Roly Bonevacia (going) and Shane Smeltz (to be determined) it might be the weekend for those staying in Wellington to register some goals this weekend.

Western Sydney Wanderers v Melbourne Victory, Saturday – ANZ Stadium
Having fallen 3-0 twice to Melbourne this season the prospect of facing the Victory might be enough to make Tony Popovic’s charges worry at the prospect of this fixture. However, their run of four wins (over Seoul, Wellington, Melbourne’s second team and Newcastle) in all competitions in the last month sets the game up nicely. The home side will also have Brendon Santalab available after suspension but may be thinking about their game at Campbelltown on Tuesday in the ACL when they host FC Seoul.

Big game for: After Kevin Muscat got cranky about Daniel Georgievski announcing his move to the Jets during last week the Macedonian was one of the better players as the Victory were humbled 3-0 by Wellington.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: More goals from corners. Robbie Cornthwaite netted nicely twice, once from a corner and once from open play. Both balls were delivered by Nico Martinez.

Perth Glory v Brisbane Roar, Saturday – nib Stadium
Last week we noted Perth stumbling into the finals last season and that they threatened to do similar this term. The draw in Adelaide gave them something but a certain combination of results in the next two weeks could see Kenny Lowe’s side still miss the playoffs. The two sides drew 2-2 in Perth in February but the opening fixture of the season between the two saw John Aloisi’s side triumph 2-1. Aloisi will go without imports Avram Papadopoulos and Thomas Broich with games down the track in coming weeks which include Brisbane’s match this coming Wednesday against Kashima in the ACL.

Big game for: Diego Castro. The controversy around his penalty in Adelaide last weekend almost guarantees this game will feature use of the Video Assistant Referee. VAR will be in use for the last two rounds of the regular season plus the finals and the A-League is the first domestic competition to do so.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: In their comprehensive 5-1 triumph over the Mariners Jamie Maclaren scored a hat-trick but he still has no new deal with the Queensland A-League franchise. We await the next call.

Central Coast Mariners v Newcastle Jets, Sunday – Central Coast Stadium
Let’s hope last weekend’s defeat in Brisbane wasn’t the Mariners checking out for the season as it was one which gave them hope. The two F3 Derbies to date this season have both finished in 1-1 draws, both played in Newcastle saw the Jets fightback in November before the Mariners we the ones coming from behind to get a point courtesy of Scott Galloway’s goal in February.

Big game for: Future directions. Having Ivan Necevski in goal and an inexperienced central defensive paring of Liam Rose and Harry Ascroft probably wasn’t how Paul Okon envisaged his starting eleven with two games to go at the start of the season. But what will, particularly the latter call mean in the end?

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: A big performance from the Newcastle forwards. Mario Shabow, 18, during the week signed to join the club from the Wanderers. Used sparingly for Western Sydney’s top team it’s at least a sign to the Jets attackers they could be usurped by a rising star youngster who has featured for Australia at Under 20 level if they are around next season.

The betting bit – One serious one not
The Reds looked a good hope until Castro’s penalty, but still had some time to win the game, on Friday night. A wild swing gives us Wellington ($4.00) to at least gives them some chance to make the top six into a comedy giant TV screen with referee tifos at one of the grounds this weekend.

Record: 8/26
Profit: – $90.10 (ten units per investment)

This A-League preview first appeared on From the sideline of sport

About Hamish Neal

Born in Lower Hutt New Zealand Hamish is forever wedded to all things All Black, All Whites, Tall Blacks and more. Writing more nowadays in his 'spare time' (what is that anyway?) but still with a passion for broadcasting. Has worked in various sports development roles in England, Northern Ireland and Australia.

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