Adelaide United showed no ill-effects of their trip to Japan for the FIFA Club World Cup, keeping their lead of the competition table after a crucial Round 17.
Results – Round 17
Newcastle Jets 1 lost CENTRAL COAST MARINERS 2
Perth Glory 0 lost ADELAIDE UNITED 1
MELBOURNE VICTORY 3 beat Sydney FC 2
QUEENSLAND ROAR 3 beat Wellington Phoenix 2
Central Coast Mariners went briefly to the top of the table, with a come-from-behind win over Newcastle Jets in yet another tough and exciting F3 derby at EnergyAustralia Stadium. Matt Simon-s late goal gave the Mariners the win, which keeps their finals hopes well and truly alive, while any late charge the Jets might have made towards the finals now looks closed. The Jets got off to the perfect start when they were awarded a penalty after Andre Gumprecht had fouled Marko Jesic on the edge of the penalty box. Joel Griffiths made no mistake with his spot kick into the roof of the net. The Jets continued to have the better of the first half in front of an excellent Boxing Day crowd, but were unable to add to their tally of goals. The Mariners picked up in the second half and with Matt Simon and Adrian Caceres coming off the bench, their attack looked more potent. In the 66th minute Sasho Petrovski leveled it up, timing his run perfectly to meet Dean Heffernan-s excellent cross and giving Ante Covic no chance. The match was decided by Simon-s superb show of strength to hold off the attention of two defenders on the edge of the area, to make room for a shot which he duly placed under the advancing Covic with 10 minutes to play.
The biggest crowd to attend a Hyundai A-League match at Members Equity Stadium in Perth of 12,581 witnessed a tight, tough affair that saw Adelaide United record a 1-0 win. The win maintains Adelaide-s lead at the top of the table, while Perth-s late finals charge will depend on results in the final two games of the round over the weekend. Kristian Sarkies scored the only goal of the game with a 40th minute thunderbolt. Both sides had good chances at the start with Fabian Barbiero seeing a first minute shot deflected wide, while Eugene Dadi headed wide of the post. Glory looked the more likely in attack, but Adelaide showed their stubborn resistance and against the run of play took the lead. Cristiano-s low cross was only half cleared to the edge of the box and Sarkies thumped his shot past Tando Velaphi. Glory continued to attack in the second half, but again the Adelaide defence hard to prize open. Jamie Harnwell was pushed forward late in the game and he forced a magnificent save from Eugene Galekovic, the Adelaide keeper somehow keeping out Harnwell-s powerful header at full stretch.
Substitutes Nick Ward and Ney Fabiano came to Melbourne Victory-s rescue at the Telstra Dome, as they overturned a two-goal deficit inside the first five minutes of the match to record a thrilling 3-2 win against Sydney FC. In a match that produced three absolutely superb finishes, Sydney got off to a blistering start to stun the home crowd of over 26,000. They had the lead after just 26 seconds on the clock, when Shannon Cole was given too much space on the edge of the box and he curled a beautiful shot into the top corner. If that wasn-t enough for the large crowd to take in, just over two minutes later it was 2-0 when Alex Brosque laid off a square ball to Brendan Gan, who unleashed a 25 metre rocket that gave Michael Theoklitos no chance. But Melbourne, coming off three straight losses on the road, was determined not to make it four and Archie Thompson pulled a goal back after 14 minutes when he wasn-t picked up from a quick free kick and he slotted home. Both sides traded good chances before Ward made an immediate impact after coming off the bench, with an equally impressive strike from 20 metres that sailed into the top corner. With the game now level it was there for the taking by either side and it was Victory-s Brazilian Fabiano that got on the end of a Danny Allsopp knockdown to stab home from two metres out and give Victory the three points and maintain their charge to the finals.
The latest of Frank Farina-s young guns Thomas Oar, has earned Queensland Roar a valuable three points with a thunderous strike in the dying minutes of an exciting clash against Wellington Phoenix. Roar twice had to come from behind against a determined Phoenix, before Oar grabbed the limelight with his stunning finish from an 18 metre free kick that left Glen Moss grasping at thin air, with only minutes remaining. Phoenix looked impressive early on and Jon McKain went narrowly wide with a header before they went ahead in the 11th minute after Luke DeVere headed into his own goal from Shane Smeltz-s dangerous cross. Queensland, searching for its third home win on the trot, as expected came back into the game and it was no surprise they equalised prior to the break. Sergio Van Dijk-s thunderous free kick was tipped onto the bar by Moss, the ball bouncing back onto the keeper, with Matt McKay getting a touch before Moss could get a hold of the ball. The second half started in sensational style, with Troy Hearfield getting on the end of a Leo Bertos cross to head home and send Phoenix back in front 40 seconds after the restart. But within minutes it was level again, Michael Zullo whipping in a terrific cross which Van Dijk tucked home at the near post. Queensland dominated most of the play in the second half and looked the most likely to grab a winner. When Zullo attacked the defence in injury time, Andrew Durante brought him down just outside the penalty box, earning him a red card and gave Oar the chance to thump home his match-winning goal.
>Weekend Goals Tally: 14
Card Count: 19 yellows – 2 reds
Goal of the Week
What a choice this week, with three goals from the Melbourne v Sydney game all contenders for Goal of the Season. However hard to go past young 17-year-old Thomas Oar who took it upon himself to try and win it for Queensland Roar in just his second game and came up trumps with a magnificent strike from the edge of the box. His shot may have taken the slightest of deflections, but even so there no way Glen Moss was going to save it as it slammed into the roof of the net.
Player of the Week
Goalkeepers don-t often get the plaudits they deserve, so this week Eugene Galekovic gets the honour. He has had a tremendous season and was one of the main reasons Adelaide got as far as they did in the Asian Champions League. On Friday night he was again superb and his save to deny Jamie Harnwell an equaliser at the death, was truly world class.
One to Watch
Perth Glory unveiled former Dutch international Victor Sikora on Friday as a short-term replacement player for Amaral, with a view to a permanent move next season. The former Ajax star showed some touches in his 30 minutes on the park, enough to suggest he could be a handy asset in the remaining weeks of the season.
10 – Shane Smeltz (WP)
9 – Matt Simon (CCM),
8 – Nikita Rukavytsya (PG), Eugene Dadi (PG), Danny Allsopp (MV)
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)