Almanac Soccer – War and Peace (and A-League): Rounds 22 and 23 Part III

Sydney FC got more chinks in the armour. The Jets seemed to move on with life after Andrew Nabbout and the Victory continued to gather pace in the shadows of the finals. A big weekend of fixtures to finish off Round 23 of the A-League.

ADELAIDE UNITED 1 (Absalonsen 45) MELBOURNE CITY 1 (Mauk 52)

Both sides needed a win but Adelaide United and Melbourne City had to settle for a draw on Friday night at Hindmarsh.

United are drifting perilously close to missing out on the finals while City have their arch rivals Victory breathing down their neck. It seemed City would get the first stroke of luck when Dario Vidosic was awarded a penalty on the half hour. The resulting spot kick was saved by Paul Izzo, the different reactions from both Izzo and the penalty taker Bruno Fornaroli showed what was at stake at this game but Bruno would probably get emotionally involved play rock paper scissors.

In a game that was tight to say the least United had the lead right on half time. A darting run at the edge of the area and a lovely couple of passes saw the loose ball trundle to the feet of injury prone Dane Johan Absalonsen who belted the ball home to punish the awful City defending.

In the second half City didn’t have to wait long to have their equaliser: seven minutes in fact. A curling cross from the left almost found the head of a City striker but the ball was fisted away by Izzo. Unfortunately for the young West Aussie the ball went straight to the feet of former Red Stefen Mauk who scored with the keeper stranded in no man’s land.

Again the game was a tight and tense affair but with 13 minutes to go City thought they had another when Fornaroli squared the ball to a teammate to score but the goal was correctly called offside despite the rather flamboyant protests from Bruno et al.

A draw, not the desired result for either side and United still haven’t beaten an opponent in the Top 3.

 

WELLINGTON PHOENIX 0 NEWCASTLE JETS 1 (Hoffman 43)

The Jets showed they weren’t quite missing Andrew Nabbout yet with a 1-0 win in Auckland against the Phoenix.

With their star man signing for Urawa Red Diamonds in the J-League the Jets were still able to come away with the win. Phoenix though were the better side in the first half in front a large crowd at Mt Smart Stadium, a venue that was seen much heartbreak for Australian sides over the decades. Former Jet Nathan Burns was put through on goal early in the game but Jack Duncan was able to pull off a great save. Then 10 minutes later a ball from the right was lashed in with two Phoenix players millimetres away from sliding the ball in to the back of the net.

Phoenix, being Phoenix, were made to pay and it was an extraordinary effort from Jason Hoffman to give the Jets the lead in first half injury time. The pacey Jet danced in from the right with his cross being blocked. That’s okay as the ball came back to him and he got in to a position to shoot. The shot was blocked again but that’s okay the ball came back to Hoffman again who finally got his goal at a third attempt with the ball sneaking past Tando Velpahi. Persistence paid off for Hoffman, the Phoenix’s inability to clear the ball wouldn’t have impressed third time caretaker coach Chris Greenacre.

The Phoenix did still try though and early in the half should have equalised when Krishna dashed down the left and set up Burns who had to merely tap in an easy finish but somehow missed the entire goal. The Jets were put through on goal but hit the upright as the game petered out and the Jets got another three points. A big win in a difficult stadium in their first game since losing Nabbout to keep pressure on Sydney FC and all but sew up a top two spot on the table. It was also the 23rd game in a row that they have scored in.

 

SYDNEY FC 1 (Ninkovic 59) BRISBANE ROAR 2 (McKay 9 Pepper 18)

With the Jets winning in Auckland the gap at the top was cut to five points but Sydney FC were expected to put it back out to eight points at fortress SFS: They didn’t. The Roar were excellent taking advantage of one of the Sky Blues’ very few weaknesses which is an inability to deal with set pieces. On 8 minutes the Roar won a corner and captain Matt McKay snuck in at the near post to glance the ball in to the back of the net exposing the lack of marking by the midfielder Josh Brilliante and Brandon O’Neill. A fine finish from the smallest player on the pitch in his harry highpants.

This soft goal seemed to fire up the champions and they could have equalised minutes later when Mierzejewski headed inches wide from a free kick with a chance he would bury nine times out of ten. The Roar made them pay for this rare discrepancy and again it was some a set piece. A free kick from deep was sent in to the far post where Socceroo Ivan Franjic squared the ball to Jacob Pepper who had a simple finish in front of ‘The Cove’ to make it 2-0 and shock the crowd and probably themselves.

Sydney was apparently given a lifeline when on 32 minutes veteran defender (and possible World Cup smoky) Alex Wilkinson headed home, his first goal in eight years. A call to VAR showed though that Wilkinson was just slightly offside and the goal was struck off. It will be at least eight years and one more week before he gets the drought breaking goal.

Changes were made by Graham Arnold at half time (more on that below) and it seemed to work with Sydney clawing a goal back on 58 minutes through star midfielder Milos Ninkovic who scored with a rare header at the far post from a free kick. Sydney from here tried to find an equaliser from anywhere but the Roar held firm and grew in confidence as the game went on. Right on full-time Sydney had a last chance to get something from the game when Matt Simon at the far post hit the sidenetting rather than hitting the target.

The first win by Roar over Sydney FC in at least a couple of years while the champions start to look a little shaky losing their very impressive home record. Many are blaming the Graham Arnold Socceroos appointment making them lose focus but a lot of it is also down to the fact that they have many veterans and having to balance two games a week (including travel to Asia) meaning fatigue is perhaps sinking in. Then again the other Australian team in the Asian Champions League in Melbourne Victory seem to be flying.

For a team that always has much pride in its players pulling in the same direction and holding true to a ‘no dickheads’ policy David Carney’s dummy spit after being subbed at half time is a concern. The veteran stormed out of the ground and put his gear in his car before settling down and returning to watch the rest of the game. Perhaps Arnie’s definition of what a dickhead is may differ from the rest of society.

Magnificent from Roar and John Aloisi who remain in the hunt for the finals.

 

MELBOURNE VICTORY 5 (George 15 Berisha 25, 54, 74 Theoharous 83) CENTRAL COAST MARINERS 2 (Pain 87 97)

The Victory’s late season surge continued as they went up above Melbourne City in to third following a 5-2 thrashing of a just awful Central Coast Mariners side.

In what was almost a celebration of the re-signing of favourite son and coach Kevin Muscat to a new deal in glorious sunshine the Victory again showed that perhaps they are a wildcard in the finals after a very stop start season.

On 14 minutes Victory had the lead when Leroy George sprinted down the left side with the ball and smashed home a shot that got past the keeper at the near post. The Mariners were opened up again on 24 minutes when Besart Berisha was put through on goal, the Albanian finishing like he does to make it 2-0.

In the second half Berisha had a brace when he finished after being handed the ball on a plate by James Troisi, a simple finish when the Mariners defence a rabble. George’s exquisite control of a long pass began the path to a fine team effort. On 73 minutes a horrible mistake by the Mariners coming out of defence gifted Berisha his third goal. A looping cross from the left by Terry Antonis buried easily to make it 10 goals in 8 appearances against the Mariners. A perfect hatrick for Berisha with one goal with the left foot, one with the right and one with the head.

Victory weren’t done though and made it 5-0 when young starlet Christian Theoraous probably did the best finish of the day shooting from the left with some power after receiving a lovely pass from Rhys Williams. The Mariners got consolation goals in the dying minutes from former Victory player Connor Pain but this didn’t hide the fact that they had been roundly flogged again.

5-2 in the end with most attention in the press and on the sewer that is social media focused on Victory players lifting their teammate Kosta Barbarouses on to their shoulders to he could fix the net in one of the goals after it had come loose. An amateur look you would have to say but also keeps in touch with the common man. No funky hair cut manicured primadonnas in our league thank you very much.

The 5-2 loss for the Mariners also raises more questions about Paul Okon’s role as coach. Even his mates on FoxSports seem to be now having to question his future with the club 8 points out of a possible 42 since December with one win in 14 and even that was only against the Phoenix.

Beware the Victory for the rest of the season. Hitting form at just the right time.

A-League Rd 23 - Melbourne v Central Coast

Beware of Greeks from New Zealand bearing tools to fix goal nets. (Photo courtesy: Zimbio)

TABLE

 

Sydney FC                                                   +36       52 pts
Newcastle Jets                                            +22      47 pts
Melbourne Victory                                     +5           35 pts
Melbourne City                                          +2          34 pts
Adelaide United                                          -5         30 pts
Western Sydney Wanderers                     -6           30 pts
Brisbane Roar                                            -6           28 pts
Perth Glory                                                  -14         26 pts
Central Coast Mariners                            -13          20 pts
Wellington Phoenix                                 -22           17 pts

 

WHAT TO LOOK FORWARD TO NEXT WEEK – With the A-League baffling split round concept now done we’re back to normal next week with Round 24 throwing some pivotal games.

Adelaide United are at home again hosting the Jets in a huge game for both sides. The in form Victory travel to Perth to take on a Glory side somehow still hunting for a finals spot. Victory normally struggle in the West but a rare win there earlier in the season will give them some hope. City also host Wanderers and if Sydney FC can’t beat the Mariners then we can all agree they are in trouble. It’s all happening!

About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM Presenter. Glory Guerrillas Producer and Co-Host. Contributer to Football Nation Radio and Football West. Worships at the feet of the mighty Cats, Socceroos, Matildas, West Perth, Glory and Glasgow's Green and White most of the time.

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