Hyundai A-League Round 21 Wrap

After 84 matches, it all came down to the final whistle of the final game at Bluetongue Stadium, before we knew who was going to lift the Hyundai A-League Premiers Plate for 2008/09.

After 84 matches, it all came down to the final whistle of the final game at Bluetongue Stadium, before we knew who was going to lift the Hyundai A-League Premiers Plate for 2008/09. Congratulations to Melbourne Victory on securing their second Premiers Plate, after they finished with eight more goals than Adelaide United, which ultimately decided who finished on top of the table at the end of the home and away games. Both Melbourne and Adelaide finished on 38 points, with Queensland Roar two points further back and Central Coast Mariners a further eight points adrift in fourth position, making up the finals teams. Sydney provided its fans with some cheer to end the season with a 4-0 thrashing of Newcastle Jets and subsequently moved above Wellington Phoenix on goal difference into fifth spot. Perth Glory was in 7th and Newcastle finished a disappointing last, just one year on after finishing Champions.

Results - Round 21 MELBOURNE VICTORY 2 beat Wellington Phoenix 0 QUEENSLAND ROAR 4 beat Perth Glory 2 SYDNEY FC 4 beat Newcastle Jets 0 Central Coast Mariners 0 lost ADELAIDE UNITED 1

Game Wraps

Melbourne Victory did what they had to do on Friday night at the Telstra Dome to come away 2-0 winners over a gallant Wellington Phoenix. It wasn-t a vintage Melbourne performance, but it was a win they deserved nonetheless and put the onus back on Adelaide United to win by two goals against the Central Coast Mariners on Sunday. The football was somewhat nervy at times as Melbourne struggled to effectively breakdown the Phoenix rearguard. Both sides had half chances in the opening 35 minutes, but nothing that fully extended keeper. The breakthrough came with just five minutes left of the half, when Matthew Kemp went on a driving run from 30 metres out, which took him into the box, where he was slightly nudged by Manny Muscat; resulting in a penalty being awarded. Kevin Muscat made no mistake from the spot, much to the relief of the home fans. Nick Ward almost made it 2-0 before half time with a brilliant effort that brought a terrific save from Glen Moss. Moss, who will be at Victory next season, was doing his best to keep his current side in the contest, when he blocked a Danny Allsopp shot shortly after the break. From there it was mostly Wellington on the attack, who needed to win to keep their finals hopes alive but Melbourne-s defence was desperate to keep them out. Archie Thompson sealed the win and what proved to be the decisive goal for them in the end, latching onto a great through ball and placing his shot past Moss with only minutes to go.

Queensland Roar, like Melbourne, did what it had to do, to keep its top two dreams alive, with a rousing 4-2 win over a gutsy Perth Glory at Suncorp Stadium and put the pressure on Adelaide to get the win against the Mariners on Sunday. The match didn-t however start the way the Roar would have liked with Holland-bound Nikita Rukavytsya opening the scoring with a terrific goal after 20 minutes. This seemed to spur Queensland into action and seven minutes later it was all square again, when Mitch Nichols pounced after Tando Velaphi had pushed Sergio van Dijk-s goalbound header onto the post. Both sides were attacking after the break and Danny Tiatto produced a stunning strike to finally open his account for the club and give Roar the lead in the 63rd minute. But four minutes later it was all square again, when Anthony Skorich climbed high to head home a cross from Adriano Pellegrino. Queensland, needing a win to move into second position, pushed forward and ten minutes later had retaken the lead when a quick free kick by Charlie Miller found Matt McKay and his low cross was expertly tucked home by van Dijk for his 11th goal of the season. The match was sealed in the 83rd minute, Josh McCloughan heading home McKay-s inswinging corner kick. The win was Queensland fifth win in a row at home.

The only game with no relevance to the finals race saw Sydney FC end Newcastle Jets title defence on a highly miserable note, with a 4-0 win at the Sydney Football Stadium. A first half double by Alex Brosque and a second half own goal by former Sydney star Mark Milligan and a late goal from Mark Bridge, gave Sydney fans and players something to smile about after a dismal run of results recently. Brosque started the rot, when he pounced on an errant pass; beat Adam Griffiths and stroked his shot inside the far post. It was Sydney doing most of the attacking, as the Jets youngsters struggled to impose themselves on the game. Brosque doubled his and Sydney-s tally five minutes before the break, when he exchanged several passes with Bridge on the edge of the box, before calmly faking to shoot and then chipping over a stranded Ante Covic. The second half was no different as Sydney threatened to blow the game open, but it was former star Milligan, who inadvertently stretched to block a cross from Iain Fyfe; the ball hopelessly wrong-footing Covic and going in at the near post. The rout was completed with five minutes to go, Bridge calmly slotting home from seven metres from Brosque-s low cross. The win enabled Sydney to finish in fifth, with both Sydney and Newcastle missing the finals for the first time since the Hyundai A-League started.

So it all came down to the final match, with Adelaide needing to win by two clear goals to claim the Premiers Plate, while a draw or loss to Central Coast Mariners would see them finish in third spot. With both sides attacking intent it-s amazing only one goal was scored with Adelaide substitutes Robert Younis and Cristiano combining for the winning goal with 10 minutes remaining. Younis- jinking run in the penalty box, saw him beat Alex Wilkinson near the byline and his cut back saw Cristiano steam in, to stab the ball home from close range. Adelaide should have taken the lead in the first half, with Paul Agostino missing two glorious opportunities, while Lucas Pantelis hit the post with a magnificent free kick. Travis Dodd also hit the crossbar with a header in the second half, while up the other end Nik Mrdja and Matt Simon both had chances to score for the home side. In the end it was Cristiano-s goal that got Adelaide the win they needed, but they missed out on the Premiers Plate, after failing to score the additional second goal they needed.

Weekend Goals Tally: 13

Card Count: 9 yellows - 0 reds

Attendances (total): 68,174

Goal of the Week Could be a late contender for Goal of the Year, with Danny Tiatto finally getting one of his long range thunderbolts on target or past the keeper. With the match delicately poised midway through the half, a well worked corner saw Tiatto come from deep and the ball played to him 35 metres out. He strode forward a few metres, before unleashing a ferocious drive that swerved, dipped, you name it, into the top corner of the net. After two years of trying, finally one went in!

Player of the Week With Melbourne winning the Premiers Plate, its only fitting it should go to none other than captain Kevin Muscat. While Melbourne was not at their very best, Muscat was a rock at the back, with his leadership qualities certainly there for all to see. Once again he proved the master of the penalty kicks, with Glen Moss having no chance with the game-defining moment just before half time.

One to Watch There have been no shortage of young stars to emerge this season and Adelaide produced another in the pressure-cooker atmosphere at Bluetongue Stadium. Anyone watching Michael Marrone would have thought he would have played the entire season with the Reds first team but this was his starting debut and he looked totally at home at right back. He stood strong in defence and was a problem in attack for the Reds, particularly in the first half, where he set up several good chances. Definitely one for the future, based on this performance.

Leading Goalscorers *12 - Shane Smeltz (WP) 11 - Matt Simon (CCM), Danny Allsopp (MV), Sergio Van Dijk (QR) 10 - Eugene Dadi (PG), Nikita Rukavytsya (PG) 8 - Cristiano (AU), Archie Thompson (MV) 7 - Charlie Miller (QR), Travis Dodd (AU), Mile Jedinak (CCM), Joel Griffiths (NJ), 6 - Sasho Petrovski (CCM)

* The Hyundai A-League 2008/09 Golden Boot winner