The penultimate round of the Hyundai A-League season had a little bit of everything. Epic comebacks, red cards, 20 goals and a milestone man delivering the goods. So grab your coffee, your Monday morning Hyundai A-League wrap is right here.
What a thriller at the ‘Cake Tin’. Phoenix produced an astonishing fightback to overturn a two-goal half-time deficit to win 3-2 thanks to Kenny Cunningham’s strike in the fifth minute of stoppage time. Talk about leaving it late. Roly Bonevacia got the comeback started before Cunningham proved to be the super-sub, coming off the bench and scoring a brace late-on. The result keeps Phoenix right on the tail of Sydney FC in the race for a top-two berth, with the two meeting in a final-round blockbuster next weekend.
Just days after being unveiled as the new full-time coach, Tony Walmsley will be scratching his head how his side threw this one away. The Mariners appeared to be cruising to their first away win in 14 matches as Nick Fitzgerald’s strike and a trademark Eddy Bosnar power free-kick had them 2-0 up. But the half-time break swung the momentum. The Mariners were hit by a Phoenix tidal wave and couldn’t hold out. It’s the 20thtime in Hyundai A-League history the Mariners have held a 2-0 lead…and the first time they’ve lost from this position.
Phil Stubbins’ Jets went within a whisker of claiming their second big scalp in as many weeks. In a breathless contest at Hunter Stadium on Friday night, the Jets gave the Sky Blues a massive scare but were edged-out 4-3 in a seven-goal thriller. What a great advertisement it was for the Hyundai A-League. The Jets took the game to Sydney FC and led 1-0 at half-time through Enver Alivodic before a slow start to the second half found them 3-1 down. But this Jets side is full of character and spirit. They got back on level terms through Edson Montano and Andrew Hoole before the Sky Blues stole it 10 minutes from time.
The Sky Blues’ defensive frailties popped up again which won’t be pleasing coach Graham Arnold. But going forward they are looking great heading into the finals. After a half-time rev-up from Arnie, Sydney FC was devastating in attack with skipper Alex Brosque scoring two [his second brace in as many weeks] and another from Bernie Ibini putting them 3-1 up only to let the home side back into it. Substitute Robert Stambolziev spared the Sky Blues blushes with his first goal for the club. The victory maintains Sydney’s fabulous unbeaten record on the road this season.
The Wanderers moved off the bottom of the Hyundai A-League ladder thanks to a spirited 2-1 win over Adelaide United. Pirtek Stadium was rocking in the second half as a Tomi Juric penalty and clinical Mark Bridge strike saw the Wanderers over-turn a 1-0 half-time deficit. It was the perfect way for Bridge to cap his 200th game in the competition. Just the ninth player to achieve that milestone, too. It’s the perfect lead-in to a massive AFC Champions League game against Kashima Antlers on Tuesday night which will go a long way to determining their fate in the Continental competition.
Have the Reds hit the skids at the worst possible time? The 2-1 defeat to the Wanderers was their second in a row and scuppered any hopes of finishing in the top-two. They looked on track for all three points after Sergio Cirio’s curling effort on the stroke of half-time but things turned on Nigel Boogaard’s red card just after the hour mark. Josep Gombau’s side got into a host of good areas but are clearly missing the creativity and class of the injured Marcelo Carrusca. The good news for the Reds is he should be back against City next weekend.
It was Groundhog Day for Roar, losing by the odd goal to Melbourne Victory for the second time in just four days. Mark Milligan’s first-half penalty was enough for Victory to get a 1-0 win at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night. Coach Frans Thijssen rested the likes of Thomas Broich, Matt McKay and Luke Brattan with one eye on Tuesday’s massive ACL clash in China. His crop of youngsters didn’t disappoint though, hitting the woodwork twice as they went close to pinching a result. The club’s future looks bright given the eye-catching performances from the youngsters against the league leaders.
Kevin Muscat’s side all-but secured the Premiers’ Plate with a gritty 1-0 win over the defending champions. With one game to go they have a three-point lead over Sydney FC in second but their seven-goal superior goal difference means top-spot is pretty much assured. Skipper Milligan slammed home a contentious spot-kick which proved to be enough. Victory weren’t at their fluent best but showed the type of characteristics of champions by digging in and getting the result. A big party awaits with next weekend’s final regular season match against the Mariners.
Glory didn’t let the salary cap situation affect their performance, disposing of Melbourne City FC 3-1 at nib Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Super-sub Jamie Maclaren was given a rare start and made the most of the opportunity, bagging an impressive hat-trick. The result will be a big lift in what’s been a tough week for the club. Glory had almost half the attempts on goal as the visitors but had goalkeeper Danny Vukovic in superb form to ensure a positive result for the men in purple.
It was a case of what could have been for John van ‘t Schip’s side on a tough trip to the West. They squandered a host of good scoring chances against Glory but found Vukovic in imperious form. How good has "Vuko" been this year! Frenchman Harry Novillo had a running battle with the Glory gloveman and come off second best every time. The red card of Paulo Retre just before the break didn’t help City’s cause. The only bright spot was a cracking goal from Aaron Mooy, who curled a sublime free-kick over the wall and into the corner of the net.