A-League 1,000: The Justification Edition


1,000-ish words, thoughts, and musings on Round 27 of the A-League which will decide the destination of the Premier’s Plate. Will it be a Spaniard, a Dutchman or one of two Australian coaches sealing an Asian Champions League spot for their club this weekend.

Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships v Adelaide United, Friday – AAMI Park

In the midst of slumps for Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC in the last month, the latter will miss the finals, most people had the second Melbourne side as title favourites but there is nothing like a defeat when you get blanked to bring things into sharp focus. Given Adelaide can set the benchmark for the weekend with a win here it’s going to be interesting to see how the light blues rebound from scoring no goals last weekend against a side with two clean sheets in their last three games. Guillermo Amor’s side have Tarek Elrich back whilst the toe injury to Michael Zullo sees him missing the rest of the season for the Victorians.

Big game for: Plenty of plaudits fall to their imported players and coach by Dylan McGowan, who has played every minute this season has been key to their success. If the defender helps with a clean sheet this weekend the Reds could have a full spot in the ACL next season.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Adelaide’s forwards to close down the home side’s attacking options with urgency in defence, Perth showed the way last weekend winning almost double the amount of contests for the ball as van’t Schip’s side did.

Central Coast Mariners v Newcastle Jets, Saturday – Central Coast Stadium

The Mariners and Newcastle have combined for 10 wins this season which is disappointing for both sets of fans and doesn’t exactly have people amped up for this game. Newcastle lost striker Milos Trifunovic late last week as the Serbian departed the club so will likely work with Ryan Kitto on attack in Gosford. Nick Montgomery is facing a race to be fit for the game here and we could be seeing the final game of Luis Garcia in the A-League.

Big game for: Goalkeeping. Even allowing for international duty, injuries and players exiting, the club using five goalkeepers in 26 games seems excessive but there it was last weekend as Adam Pearce debuted for the Mariners. I’d have preferred to see Tom Heward-Belle again but it would appear Mariners coach Tony Walsmley has made up his mind either way on his prospects and wanted to see what he has in Pearce. Paul Izzo should return in goals on Saturday.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: It is just the sort of season Newcastle have had this year that after the Carney debacle, more cards for Boogaard that a player who hadn’t scored all campaign netted to see the Jets fall in Brisbane as Thomas Broich notched the game-winner. What’s next for the Jets this weekend? Conceding a goal off a beach ball? That is not out of the question in the #beachclassico

Melbourne Victory v Brisbane Roar, Saturday – AAMI Park

Heading into the weekend in first place Brisbane have premiership poll position and coach John Aloisi has the luxury of picking from a full squad. The Victory got a tidy win in Wellington last weekend but have now lost Bersart Berisha for the next two games (pending appeals.) The striker was daft in the extreme and those decrying his sanction would do well to remember he once stomped on Mariners midfielder Montgomery and got away without a ban after that. Swings and roundabouts.

Big game for: Replacements. Daniel Georgievski will get a rest after going through a mountain of work, particularly in the first half of the draw in Suwon, as Victory coach Kevin Muscat rotates his squad given they can’t finish any higher (or lower) then sixth.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Seeing the continued Roar development. The use of Tommy Oar continues to make Brisbane a more interesting side to watch.

Wellington Phoenix v Western Sydney Wanderers, Sunday – Westpac Stadium

The weekend’s penultimate fixture could have the Wanderers in position for a top of the table finish or they may be looking to play to avoid an elimination game.  After putting four past the Mariners Tony Popovic will be confident his side can do similar to a side which conceded 52 goals this campaign and getting Dimas back from suspension.

Big game for: Counting. Last week this column had Albert Riera suspended for the contest against the Victory. He was one yellow short, but he is definitely out this weekend after two yellows saw him marched in the second half of the 15th defeat this season.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Seeing player farewells. Of the four sets of fans farewelling their season (and some players) this weekend the departure of Ben Sigmund will be one off the biggest goodbyes. We can expect to see Siggy Stardust substituted with about five minutes to go by coach Ernie Merrick and have the Cake Tin rise as one.

Sydney FC v Perth Glory, Sunday – Allianz Stadium

Unless there is a missing cache of Panama Papers-like documents about to be uncovered, Perth will be playing finals football this season and they travel to face a hugely inconsistent Sydney FC team. Kenny Lowe’s team won the most recent clash between the two sides in the Harbour City and they have scored seven goals in their last three games.

Big game for: Rookies. Given Sydney’s likely ACL progression building squad depth and balancing out game time will largely dictate Arnold’s team selection for this weekend. In that case it was somewhat surprising to see Alex Mullen and Riley Woodcock left out of this squad given they made their A-League bows for the Sky Blues last weekend.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Sensible contributions. Departing A-League boss Damien de Bohun used the A-League’s website to outline ‘Australian traditions’ in his criticism of fans who don’t like various aspects of the A-League regular season climax, chief amongst them the lack of simultaneous kick-offs. If you need to write a piece which essentially says ‘Straya mate!’ to justify your competition format as some sort of missive seems odd. When discussing finals de Bohun forgets the drama knockout cup competitions bring us. Days earlier former Socceroo Craig Foster wrote a thoughtful piece about the Soccero taking a lead on including an indigenous language in the Australian national anthem prior to international match-ups the two opinion pieces sit in stark contrast, both in the manner of tone and inclusiveness.

 The betting bit – One serious one not:

Of the top four sides, whilst some are matching up Adelaide ($3.00) with an almost full squad seem a likely collect into, as suggested by D’Arcy Waldegrave of Radio Sport, Ben Sigmund going Ziggy Stardust with the lightning bolt make-up for Sunday’s game.

Record: 16/26

Profit: 62.05 (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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