Come-from-behind wins, red cards, cracking goals and a congested summit. Hyundai A-League Round 23 was a ripper, so grab that first coffee of the day and tuck into your Monday morning wrap with videos of the action and the coach pressers.
Victory remain in the hunt for the Premiers’ Plate, coming from behind to beat plucky Central Coast 2-1 at AAMI Park on Friday night. Missing five regular starters away on international duty, Kevin Muscat’s side had to rely on some Samba style to claim a vital three points. Brazilian playmaker Gui Finkler was the hero for the home side, scoring two sensational curling efforts – the winner 13 minutes from time – to keep Victory right on the tail of league-leaders Wellington Phoenix. It sets up a blockbuster clash between the two this weekend.
The Mariners looked on track for a rare win over Victory when Isaka Cernak headed them in front early on at AAMI Park. But as more than 18,000 fans roared on the home side, Tony Walmsley’s improving outfit couldn’t maintain their fast start and were pegged back by Finkler’s brace. It was the Mariners’ fourth straight defeat against Victory and sixth in a row against them away from home. The finals flame is officially doused for the club but it was another encouraging display with some excellent pressing at times.
What a huge result for City! John van ‘t Schip’s troops have put one foot in the finals with a crucial 1-0 win over Brisbane Roar FC at AAMI Park on Saturday night. Billed as a ‘grand final’ for both sides, it was Jonatan Germano’s early strike which proved the difference in what was the Argentine’s 50th Hyundai A-League match. The victory puts City – currently sixth - eight points clear or Roar with just four games to go, though the weary Queenslanders have a game in hand.
Roar’s title defence is now hanging by a thread after their depleted squad failed to leave the Victorian capital with any points. Already missing the likes of Thomas Broich, Matt McKay, Luke DeVere, Henrique and James Donachie, their hopes were dealt a further blow when Jerome Polenz picked up an injury in the warm-up. It affected their start as Germano pounced early on to give City the lead and despite throwing everything at the home side, Brisbane just couldn’t come up with an equalizer. Frans Thijssen’s side now have it all to do to try to squeeze into the top six.
Finally the wait for a win is over. After nine games and 85 days without a victory, Kenny Lowe’s side are back in the winners’ circle following a gripping 3-2 win over Western Sydney Wanderers FC at nib Stadium on Saturday night. After going behind to an early Romeo Castelen goal, Glory surged back after the break to take the lead through goals to Sidnei Sciola and a Rostyn Griffiths header before Kerem Bulut equalized for the visitors. Just when it looked like they would have to settle for another draw, right-back Josh Risdon fired a rocket into the top corner to plunder all three precious points and reignite Glory’s premiership hopes. They remain in fourth spot but now just one point behind first-placed Wellington.
There were no points but it was another encouraging display, just three days after their midweek win over Brisbane Roar. The Wanderers contributed to a thrilling contest and if not for some poor finishing – including a contender for miss of the season by Labinot Haliti – they could have got a better result. Romeo Castelen’s goal and performance was a positive while Kerem Bulut scored his fifth of the campaign in another all-action display. But defensive lapses cost Tony Popovic’s side badly, slumping to their 15th defeat of the season.
Phoenix’s fantastic run has come to an end, beaten 3-0 by Sydney FC at Westpac Stadium on Sunday, though they remain atop the league. Ernie Merrick’s side was made to pay for a slow start, down 3-0 at the break to put the result well and truly beyond doubt. It snapped a six-game unbeaten run and four-game winning streak, which had them on the cusp of club records. Compounding matters was the second half red card to Albert Riera – the club’s first dismissal of the season – which rules the Spaniard out of the top-of-the-table clash with Victory next weekend. Phoenix is now one point ahead of Victory [who have a game in hand], Sydney FC and Perth Glory.
The Sky Blues set a club-record for most matches unbeaten on the road with their crushing 3-0 over league-leaders Wellington. The victory made it 10 games in a row unbeaten in the Hyundai A-League, a record which stretched back more than seven years. Jacques Faty, Shane Smeltz and a Manny Muscat own goal sealed the points for Graham Arnold’s side to ensure Sebastian Ryall celebrated his 150th Hyundai A-League appearance in the right way. However, a late red card to Smeltz - whose goal was his 84th in the competition - put a dampener on an otherwise perfect day for the Sky Blues.
The Jets gave as good as they got against Adelaide United but still came up short, going down 1-0 at Hunter Stadium on Sunday. Phil Stubbins’ troops created a number of chances but either found Reds keeper Eugene Galekovic too hard to beat or simply fluffed their lines. Edson Montano’s second half miss from just a metre out will go down as one of the misses of the season. The defeat keeps the Jets on the bottom of the Hyundai A-League on goal difference behind the Wanderers, with just four games remaining.
It wasn’t their most fluent performance of the season but the Reds got what they came for, a huge three points via a 1-0 win over the Jets. Marcelo Carrusca’s first half goal proved the difference before Adelaide’s defence held on for their first clean-sheet in over two months. But coach Josep Gombau has some injury concerns with Carrusca (quad) and Nigel Boogaard (neck/shoulder) failing to finish the match. While they remain in fifth position, the three points earned in the Hunter means they are now just two behind first-placed Wellington.VIDEO: Reds edge Jets in Newcastle