We have another new league leader! The most fascinating run-in to the finals took some more twists in Round 24, so grab a coffee and enjoy your Tuesday morning post-Easter wrap with videos of the action and pressers.
Roar used the first fixture of the Easter weekend to resurrect their slim finals hopes with a 6-1 demolition of Central Coast Mariners at a soggy Suncorp Stadium on Thursday night. A sublime hat-trick by midfielder Steven Lustica and further goals to Andrija Kaluderovic, Devante Clut and Brandon Borrello helped snap their four-game losing streak. The return of Thomas Broich proved pivotal for Frans Thijssen’s men. They have closed the gap on sixth-placed City to six points with three rounds to go, although Roar have a game in hand.
It was a forgettable night for the Mariners who hardly gave a yelp in succumbing to Roar 6-1. The defeat was the club’s heaviest in their Hyundai A-League history and undid a lot of the improvement the side had made over the last month under interim boss Tony Walmsley. Three at the back didn’t’ really work, and their only joy came from a Daniel Bowles own goal midway through the second half but it was little consolation. They will want to put up a better fight in their last home game of the season against the Wanderers next weekend, it what will be skipper John Hutchinson’s last game in Gosford.
Onto Friday night, and the Wanderers continued their strong record against Melbourne City FC with a well-earned 1-1 draw at Pirtek Stadium. The home side flew out of the blocks and took a deserved lead through Yojiro Takahagi’s magical free-kick only to be pegged back by Harry Novillo’s wonderful, curling strike just before the break. It was only some wasteful finishing and a couple of brilliant saves from City’ keeper Tando Velaphi which denied them all three points. The returns from injury of Mark Bridge and Mateo Poljak was a huge plus for Tony Popovic’s side who grabbed another vital point in the quest to avoid the wooden spoon.
It wasn’t City’s most fluent performance of the season but the 1-1 draw with the Wanderers edged them a step closer towards securing a top-six berth. John van ‘t Schip’s men moved six points clear of Brisbane with three rounds to go, although Roar have a game in hand. City snatched the draw courtesy of a thunderbolt 25-yard strike from French import Harry Novillo – another contender for goal of the season.
The Sky Blues Premiers’ Plate hopes were dealt a crushing blow, losing 1-0 to Adelaide United at a rain-soaked Allianz Stadium on Saturday night. Despite dominating the majority of the contest, Graham Arnold’s side just couldn’t find a way past the seemingly magical Reds gloveman Eugene Galekovic. It was Sydney FC’s fifth loss of the season, all five defeats coming on their home ground. The result has left the Sky Blues three points behind Melbourne Victory at the top, having played a game more than their Victorian rivals.
For the second week in a row, Adelaide produced a gritty display to come away with a massive 1-0 win on the road. The Reds rode their luck in Sydney but came up with a superb defensive performance and had skipper Eugene Galekovic to thank for a sensational individual display between the sticks. The Socceroo gloveman made nine saves in total and also had an assist for Awer Mabil’s winning goal eight minutes from time. The should get plenty of confidence from their ability to win without playmaker Marcelo Carrusca but a recurrence of a quad/hip injury for live-wire Mabil is a concern. But they are peaking at just the right time.
Four points clear at the top just two weeks ago, Phoenix slumped to a second straight 3-0 defeat at Westpac Stadium, this time at the hands of Melbourne Victory on Easter Sunday. A potentially serious knee injury to striker Joel Griffiths – who was stretchered off in the first half – compounded a forgettable day for Phoenix. Things started badly for Ernie Merrick’s side, going behind through inside the first minute, and they were unable to wriggle their way back into the match. An own goal by skipper Andrew Durante before a third to the visitor completed the scoring.
Victory were outstanding, outclassing Phoenix in an entertaining - and at times feisty - top of the table clash winning 3-0 in Wellington. Finkler scored early, his third in two matches, and Victory went on with the job after the break. A Durante OG and Archie’s 87th in the Hyundai A-League took him three clear of Shane Smeltz at the top of the all-time scorer’s charts. The result also keeps an incredible streak going, with Victory never losing a match when Finkler scores. Kevin Muscat’s side is on top and with a game in hand look to have one hand on the Premiers’ Plate trophy, though Glory are right back in it and breathing down their necks on equal points.
On Monday at a drenched Hunter Stadium, the Jets’ inability to finish cost them, losing 2-0 to a very good Perth side. A sub 5000 crowd on hand – well it was absolutely belting down prior to kick-off and during the game – didn’t help the home team either. Some good lead up play at times but it’s in front of goal where the Jets are struggling (though Glory’s defence was immense). The Jets now must regroup to face league leaders Victory away this Friday night.
Glory shrugged off the awful weather and a difficult week off the field to put in a solid, professional shift and reignite their campaign for the Premiers' Plate. Andy Keogh with a trademark poacher’s finish and Nebo Marinkovic with some power-shooting magic late on to seal the three valuable points in the 2-0 win. The Premiers’ Plate remains a chance as the Glory now go equal first on points with Victory, though they face the masters of away football, Sydney FC, at nib this weekend.