Hyundai A-League Weekend Wrap

With three rounds and a couple of postponed games thrown in between, we are down to basically five teams that can make the 2008/09 Hyundai A-League Finals Series.

With three rounds and a couple of postponed games thrown in between, we are down to basically five teams that can make the 2008/09 Hyundai A-League Finals Series. While Sydney FC and Perth Glory can still mathematically make it, with only three games remaining and six and seven points behind, they would need to win all three of their remaining games and somehow rely on results falling their way to achieve the miracle. Central Coast made Mile Jedinak-s final game for the club a memorable one with a win over Perth; Melbourne Victory got the better of Queensland Roar at the Telstra Dome; Adelaide United proved too good for Sydney FC and Wellington Phoenix stayed in touch with the four with a solid second half performance to beat the hapless Newcastle Jets.

Results - Round 18 CENTRAL COAST MARINERS 1 beat Perth Glory 0 MELBOURNE VICTORY 2 beat Queensland Roar 1 ADELAIDE UNITED 2 beat Sydney FC 0 WELLINGTON PHOENIX 3 beat Newcastle Jets 0

Game Wraps

It was an earlier start than usual to the round, with Central Coast Mariners hosting its annual New Year-s Eve clash at Bluetongue Stadium on Wednesday night. It was also Mile Jedinak-s final game for the club after his transfer to Genclerbirligi in Turkey and it proved a memorable one thanks to John Hutchinson-s late screamer to down a gallant Perth Glory. The win moved Central Coast to the top of the table, albeit only temporarily, while Perth-s slim semi final hopes were all but ended with this loss. It was a match the Mariners should have won more comfortably as they squandered a number of good chances throughout the game, until Hutchinson finally delivered the winner and it was worth the wait. Receiving a little dinked pass, Hutchinson, some 25 yards out, saw Tando Velaphi off his line and with the outside of his left foot curled an unstoppable shot that hit the left post, raced across to the other post, before nestling inside the net. Many thousands of fans stayed to wish Jedinak all the best for his second stint overseas.

Melbourne Victory inflicted the first loss for Queensland Roar on the road this season, securing a 2-1 win on a rough Telstra Dome pitch. Unfortunately a lot of talk before and after the game was about the playing surface, which somewhat diminished what was actually a good game of football. With both coaches agreeing for the game to go ahead. Serginho Van Dijk had the first good chance of the game after almost ten minutes, but he headed Michael Zullo-s cross over the bar from six yards. Archie Thompson had a similar chance for Victory, but his header glanced wide of the post. The match livened up somewhat in the second half with Melbourne looking to attack with more intent. They were rewarded in the 55th minute, when Archie Thompson teed up Danny Allsopp at the near post and he duly made no mistake. Victory added a second goal 12 minutes later when an innocent looking free kick saw Rod Vargas nip in and with his back to goal glance the ball over Liam Reddy and into the goal. The introduction of Tahj Minniecon added spark to the Roar attack, but with 15 minutes remaining it was captain Craig Moore who pulled a goal back with a powerful header from a corner. Victory had three great chances to put the game beyond doubt, but wasted them and was thankful that Michael Theoklitos made a great save in the dying minutes to deny Mitch Nichols an equaliser.

A crowd of just over 23,000 was on hand at Adelaide Oval to see Adelaide United go back to the top of the table with a 2-0 win over Sydney FC, who are now likely to miss its first finals series since the Hyundai A-League began. Brazilian pair Cassio and Alameo scored the two goals with Adelaide-s experience in the end telling against an undermanned Sydney side. The first half was a tight affair with Steve Corica and Rob Cornthwaite trading chances midway through the half. Cassio was in everything and had several half chances before making one count just before half time. Travis Dodd did ever so well to work his way into the box and then regain possession for his side when it looked like it might go out for a goal kick, poking it to Kristian Sarkies who flicked it onto Cassio. The midfielder with a posse of defenders around him, took a touch to his left and squeezed his shot through and inside the far post. The points were secured with seven minutes remaining, Alameo racing onto a long through ball and volleying his shot past Ivan Necevski. The win sets up a mouthwatering top of the table clash on Tuesday night in their postponed match against Melbourne Victory at the Telstra Dome.

Wellington Phoenix ensured the top four was not going to get too far away from them, with a 3-0 win over defending Champions Newcastle Jets at Westpac Stadium. A Shane Smeltz double, plus the opening goal from Leo Bertos early in the second half, gave Wellington what appeared a fairly convincing win. But to be fair to Newcastle, if wasn-t for Phoenix keeper Glen Moss in the first half, the match might have had a quite different story to tell. Moss had a running battle with Jets defender-come-striker Tarek Elrich, which the Phoenix custodian finished on top and left the Jets frustrated at the break. The Jets had some outstanding opportunities in the first half, with most falling to Elrich, but Moss was equal to anything that came his way making superb saves time and again to deny the Jets. Then in the second half with Newcastle still enjoying good periods of play, came the classic sucker-punch with former Jet Troy Hearfield delivering a delightful cross that just missed Smeltz, but found Bertos- hip at the back post and the ball trickled across the line much to the disgust of Ante Covic, who couldn-t believe his bad luck. Five minutes later, Smeltz showed just why he is the best striker in the league at the moment, outmuscling Mark Milligan and calmly chipping the ball over a stranded Covic. Smeltz rounded out the scoring with four minutes of normal time left, converting a spot kick after Hearfield was brought down in the box. The win leaves Wellington just a point outside the top four and the only team outside of the top four with a realistic chance of making the finals.

>Weekend Goals Tally: 10

Card Count: 8 yellows - 1 red

Attendance: 69,515

Goal of the Week How many times do you find a single goal game often ends up being an absolute screamer for the winner. John Hutchinson knows how to score a special goal and on New Years Eve, he once again conjured a magic finish from distance with a curling shot with the outside of his foot that beat Tando Velaphi at full stretch and then proceeded to hit both posts before going safely across the line. Just for good measure it came late in the game much to the relief of the Mariners fans.

Player of the Week For the second week running a goalkeeper gets a mention, with Glen Moss almost single-handedly keeping Wellington in the game with some magnificent saves in the first half especially. He was flying everywhere to prevent that ball going into the back of the net and his outfield players did him justice by scoring three goals in the second half. A special mention to Mile Jedinak, who was again among the Mariners best players in their 1-0 win and for the wonderful performances he has put in for the Mariners over the past two years, which had him one of the Hyundai A-League-s best players in many people-s eyes.

One to Watch Such has been the plight of Newcastle and Sydney this season with injuries they have had to unearth some junior talent and there have been some good ones. Another to join those ranks is Sean Rooney who has played with both clubs this season. Starting at Sydney, Rooney proved a reliable source of goals in their Youth team and still heads the Youth League Goalscorers chart, but the chance to play first team football at Newcastle proved hard to resist for the strongly built youngster and after several substitute appearances, started against Wellington and was inches from his first Hyundai A-League goal.

Leading Goalscorers 12 - Shane Smeltz (WP) 9 - Matt Simon (CCM), Danny Allsopp (MV) 8 - Nikita Rukavytsya (PG), Eugene Dadi (PG), 7 - Charlie Miller (QR), Travis Dodd (AU), Cristiano (AU), Mile Jedinak (CCM), Joel Griffiths (NJ), 6 - Archie Thompson (MV), Sasho Petrovski (CCM) 5 - Sergio Van Dijk (QR)