The end of a busy festive period in the A-League has finally drawn to a close, and has seen 4 teams put their hand up to be champions. Central Coast finish the period top of the table, holding a 4 point lead over a fading Adelaide with Melbourne Victory a further 3 points back, as are surprise packets Western Sydney, whose 5 game unbeaten streak saw them lift themselves safely into the top 4. The 6-1 home win over (at that point) top of the table Adelaide was the catalyst for wins over Victory and a gallant draw at Perth before a brace to Daniel McBreen at the weekend ended the fabulous run. Victory’s rollercoaster home wins over Heart and Newcastle prompted manager Ange Postecoglou to label AAMI Park an amusement park before a comfortable and far less stressful 2-0 win over Wellington kept the Victory nipping at Adelaide’s heels. Both Adelaide and Central Coast’s shock losses to Brisbane and Sydney have decreased their stranglehold on the competition despite continuing to impress in their other festive matches.
Just 3 points separate Perth (5th) and Wellington (9th), while positive signs are emerging from last-placed Sydney under Frank Farina. Brisbane’s new manager Mike Mulvey has put the Roar back on the winners list a couple of times; however more consistency is needed from the defending champions if they are to make the finals. The same could be said for all of those teams looking to push their way into the finals and, although unlikely, if Sydney can find their best then they won’t be far off the top 6 heading into those crucial last 3 or 4 games. Newcastle has picked up just 1 point from their last 3 games and a minor injury to Emile Heskey could further disrupt their already fragile structure, but with winnable games ahead they will be hoping that the Englishman can get himself up.
After a reasonably promising start to the season, Melbourne Heart has dropped right off the pace of the top 4 to find themselves right in that dogfight to reach the finals. Having said that, with their 3-2 win over Brisbane on Sunday they sit 6th although unless they begin to play decently for more than 20-30 minutes then they won’t figure in April’s finals series. John Aloisi, while becoming a capable manager, is also making a habit of complaining about something which takes either the gloss off the other team’s performance or avoids scrutiny of his team during his post-match pressers. The latest was that the referees “lost control” of Sunday’s fixture with the Roar, claiming that they handed out 3 yellow cards to his team “for no reason”. In my opinion, Aloisi should take the rare win and get on with it.
From here, it seems as though the top 4 teams will remain other than Adelaide dropping to perhaps as low as 4th. Perth should stay in 5th while either Newcastle or Brisbane will snag 6th. Heart will be the best of the rest while Wellington and Sydney to fight it out for the wooden spoon.