A-League 1,000: The History Edition


1,000-ish words, thoughts, and musings on the first weekend of the A-League finals which has two elimination games. Adelaide and the Wanderers lay in wait for the winners of these fixtures.

Brisbane Roar v Melbourne Victory, Friday – Suncorp Stadium

Two three-time winners meet in the opening game of the finals series with one team bidding farewell to their domestic season but Melbourne are still in Asian Champions League action.

In quirk of the draw the two sides meet having played out a dramatic 0-0 in Melbourne last Saturday. Prior to that Brisbane thrashed the Victory 5-0 in March, Danny Vukovic’s last game in the Victory goals, and the other contest this season between the two was also a one-sided contest with the Victorians winning 4-0 in January, highlighted by a Kosta Barbarouses double. Whilst the game in March was saw a Jamie Maclaren hat-trick for Brisbane.

Given Melbourne have not scored in their last two games against Brisbane, having Besart Berisha back after his ban was reduced is a huge plus. What wasn’t a huge plus was the farcical circumstances in which Berisha’s return was allowed. If indeed Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante did grab his throat in the 26 encounter as was stated in Berisha’s evidence how come the title-winning defender hasn’t been subsequently sanctioned for violent conduct under the obvious error missed by a referee? Maybe that’s because it didn’t happen that way. Moving on…

The Roar are dangerous on the break and get to the point when they do arrive in the penalty area, rarely spending time playing the ball around at the top of the box (they average only 12.7% of their passes in the final third) so if Melbourne’s defence, led by Matthieu Delpierre and Nick Ansell who is expected to return, can shut Brisbane down early in the final third they improve their chances of not conceding greatly. The Roar ripped six shots from outside last weekend as the Victory held them out.

The Victory’s only road loss since the start of February was to the Roar so they have done well away from home despite only finishing sixth but two years ago the Roar won the only finals contest between the two sides 1-0 so finals history and recent head-to-head form is in the Roar’s favour.

If Melbourne get away only four attempts on goal as they did last weekend they are no hope of winning this game as one would think Brisbane can’t miss the net, as they did last weekend, for a second week running if they get as many chances again.

In addition to Ansell, Berisha and Delpierre’s return Barbarouses will be back as will Daniel Georgievski.

The home side should be largely unchanged but in the tense finals atmosphere Jack Hingert will need to not be as reckless given he nearly cost his side a card and more last weekend.

Big game for: Looking ahead. Should they win Melbourne face a game in Adelaide on Friday next week after having played Shanghai SIPG in China during the week in the ACL, the players need to focus on this game but I’m sure the enormity of the week ahead will play on their mind late in the game if they have a slight lead.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: A cards bonanza for the visitors. With three reds this season the Victory have two more than Brisbane but a whopping 72 yellows to Brisbane’s 45. They are likely to pick up the first booking.


Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships v Perth Glory, Sunday – AAMI Park

Like our first finals match-up these sides met recently when Perth beat the light blues 3-2 in Round 26. They have played high-scoring games throughout the year with a 2-2 contest in Perth in January and a 5-1 win to the Victorians in November. It’s worth remembering their first meeting this season was when Perth was in a wretched run of form when they suffered through a winless November having lost three and drawn one game before they were beaten in Melbourne in a game which saw the home side with five different goal-scorers including stars Bruno Fornaroli and Aaron Mooy. Kenny Lowe’s side is a completely different outfit now with Sidnei and Michael Thwaite, who featured in that game, amongst the players no longer with the club.

Both sides have key team news issues with the home side set to miss Harry Novillo (unless his sanction is over-turned) but Perth will be (cliche alert!) sweating on the fitness of playmaker Diego Castro who missed the game in Sydney last weekend which saw Kenny Lowe’s side humbled 4-0. They will also be hoping to get striker Chris Harold back after Andy Keogh operated fairly isolated last weekend.

Martiniquais Novillo’s role in a melee during the Round 27 game against Adelaide has proved hugely costly with the winger handed a two game ban. Coupled with the recent loss of Michael Zullo to injury and the light blues, who would have been hot favourites for this fixture if it was played a month ago, are now staring down the barrel of a finals exit a week earlier than last season.

Jacob Melling and Connor Chapman could push forward more often in Novillo’s absence with Anthony Caceres, a substitute last week, set to play a more prominent role.

I’m not sure what to make of Perth’s game on Sunday, they had something to play for with the chance for this elimination final to be played in WA. Maybe the ‘ride’ they have been going on took a toll. Better a stinker in Round 27 than in a knockout game though. Even without Castro and Harold they did still manage 14 shots on goal so the creativity was still there it was just the execution that let them down. Perth’s attack down their left flank was almost non-existent which made Sydney’s defensive job easier. Castro’s return, in particular, will hopefully provide so more use of the width and in a promising sign he did train in the first two sessions of the week after missing the contest against Sydney FC due to a hamstring injury.

Big game for: History, five years ago Perth beat the then Melbourne Heart 3-0 in the only finals contest between the two sides. Who makes the new history here?

 The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: A game of goals. As mentioned 15 goals between the sides this season offers a high-scoring encounter and Perth have scored at least one goal in each of their finals games.

The betting bit – One serious one not:

Looking at the match result I fancy Perth to progress ($2.30) into Kosta Barbarouses hitting the woodwork in this match, the kiwi international has rattled the bars and posts five times this season.

 Record: 17/27

Profit: 82.05 (ten units per investment)

This 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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