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



1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on round 16 of the A-League which sees the champions Adelaide head to the champions-elect Sydney FC and finishes with the first game of the A-League season at Campbelltown.


Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships v Central Coast Mariners, Thursday – AAMI Park
After only hosting Michael Valkanis, when he was assistant coach, and his side in round 13 the Mariners are on the road to Melbourne hoping Tim Cahill doesn’t score against them again. The light blues wasted a host of chances, and had one scratched out for offside, before Adelaide came from behind to beat them last Thursday night so they’ve have had plenty of time to lick their wound whilst Paul Okon’s side couldn’t find a way around the Phoenix defence in Wellington on Saturday losing 1-0. The Mariners scored twice in eight minutes at the back end of the game when the sides met in Gosford and given the hosts conceded late to Adelaide as long as the Mariners stay in the game anything is possible here.


Big game for: Controversy. For the first time in a few games both Neil Kilkenny and Fernando Brandan are available for the home side. What could possibly go wrong?


The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: More Ruon Tongyik. The central defender has been a terrific addition to the home team’s defence but his quick thinking to start the phase of play which saw Bruno Fornaroli open the scoring in Adelaide last Thursday looked like that of a seasoned pro – but he’s only 20. The former Adelaide youth player could be rested on Thursday though.


Sydney FC v Adelaide United, Friday – Allianz Stadium
Goals from two somewhat unexpected sources in the form of Dylan McGowan and Mark Ochieng gave Adelaide their first win this season against an Australian side last Friday but Sydney couldn’t find a way past the Wanderers defence in their 0-0 draw. However Graham Arnold’s side will recall their 4-0 triumph over Adelaide on Boxing Day when Alex Brosque scored twice. Aaron Calver performed well next to Alex Wilkinson in defence as Sydney held out the Wanderers on Saturday but they have more depth now with the addition of experienced Dutch defender Jordy Buis and could go eight points clear at the top with a win here.


Big game for: Replacements. Despite the win on Thursday last week Guillermo Amor would have spent at least part of the weekend somewhat glum with the looming departure of James Holland which was confirmed on Wednesday. Adelaide’s, at times, inexperienced bench will need to step up here.


The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: New visa rules. It was interesting to see Adelaide United chair Greg Griffin criticise the alteration to the visa rules in the A-League which sees one of the five foreign spots having to be allocated to a player from an AFC nation other than Australia from the 2018/19 season. For a side about to enter the Asian Champions League having a player with experience from a particular country of a club side they may draw and the ability to open up a scouting network in that part of the confederation it seems a strange position to take.


Wellington Phoenix v Brisbane Roar, Saturday – Westpac Stadium
Having picked up six points in four days to vault them into fifth place the Nix stay in Wellington to face a travelling Brisbane side that have lost their past three games and only beaten the Mariners (twice) away from home this season. An odd quirk of the draw means this is the first time the two sides have played each other in this campaign. Last season the sides played twice in Wellington with a 0-0 draw in January but a 3-2 win to Wellington in October 2015, in a game which Brisbane opened the scoring before a goal from now-Mariner Blake Powell sealed a Phoenix win 12 minutes from time, might be more like the score-line we will see on Saturday.


Big game for: Consistent line-up. The form of Wellington’s starters means Gui Finkler is likely to stay on the bench this weekend having featured in an attacking set of replacements on Tuesday night which included Michael McGlinchey.


The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Seeing Brisbane sign an ex player. Maybe not immediately but Queenslander Ben Litfin could join Brisbane again down the track with the NPL Queensland Player of the Year leaving the Phoenix mid-season having not featured at all in the A-League. His pedigree and age, 21, suggest he deserves an A-League shot somewhere.


Perth Glory v Melbourne Victory, Saturday – nib Stadium
Melbourne’s six-game winning run ended in Wellington and it’s ironic they now head to Perth who book-end that streak having played out a 1-1 draw in early December. Both side’s failed to scored in the second half of that encounter after Besart Berisha cancelled out Andy Keogh’s opener for the home side. Kenny Lowe still has to deal with the impasse over the future of defender Rhys Williams and coupled with the fact Alex Grant, possibly season-ending, and attacker Chris Harold are both suffering injuries the preparation has been less than ideal for the Glory.


Big game for: Impact players. Due to accumulated yellow cards Fahid Ben Khalfallah and Jason Geria miss this game for Melbourne, but a rest ahead of the Big Blue could be useful. This possibly allows a player like Mitch Austin, who featured quite a bit in the first two months of the competition to get some more game time.


The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Consistency. Besart Berisha’s red card was, probably, rightly rescinded on the weekend but the marksman’s non-ban with the referees decision overturned under the ‘obvious error’ clause shows a stark contrast to the recent non-sanction of Andy Keogh who should have seen red against Wellington a few weeks ago.


Western Sydney Wanderers v Newcastle Jets, Sunday – Campbelltown Stadium
After picking up their ninth draw of the campaign the eight-placed Wanderers host the Jets who are two points above them. When these sides meet in October Tony Popovic’s side threw away a 2-0 lead when Newcastle scored twice in the last nine minutes of the match at Spotless Stadium. The positive for the Wanderers is they came from behind to win the first time they played at Campbelltown this season when they beat the Phoenix in FFA Cup in a game which Lachlan Scott scored twice and the youngster has had a role off the bench in recent weeks but with only three shots in target last weekend it’s hard to see the Wanderers scoring three here.


Big game for: Finishing. On the Wanderers chances, they had two saved late against Sydney FC when Danny Vukovic pulled off a terrific double-stop.


The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Seeing some quality finishing. Notwithstanding recent good results the Jets need to be more clinical in front of goal to keep pace with the top six.


The betting bit – One serious one not
After a convincing win on Tuesday night it’s Wellington again ($2.50) to beat a Brisbane side that appear listless for large portions of their games into an array of comedy corner flags at the away end in on Thursday night at AAMI Park.


Record: 4/15 – pending
Profit: -$81.30 (ten units per investment)


This preview first appeared on From the sideline of sport


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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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