The Hyundai A-League will go into Christmas with the tightest competition in its four-year history, with just nine points separating top from bottom.
The Hyundai A-League will go into Christmas with the tightest competition in its four-year history. Just nine points separates top from bottom and just seven points from fourth to bottom, after a weekend which saw the bottom three record wins against sides all vying for either top or second spot on the ladder.
Adelaide remarkably still sit top of the table, despite not playing in the last two weeks, a scenario that will no doubt please Reds coach Aurelio Vidmar, as they head into a busy period of matches. On Friday, Wellington Phoenix maintained its good form over Central Coast Mariners with a 1-0 win, while Newcastle Jets hit their straps finally with a resounding 4-1 win over a disappointing Melbourne Victory.
On Sunday, Sydney FC continues to frustrate their loyal supporters with a 4-1 loss to Perth Glory.
Results – Round 16
WELLINGTON PHOENIX 1 beat Central Coast Mariners 0
NEWCASTLE JETS 4 beat Melbourne Victory 1
Sydney FC 1 lost PERTH GLORY 4
Shane Smeltz scored his 10th goal of the season to move Wellington into equal 4th position on the competition table. His 2nd minute headed goal maintained Wellington-s dominance over Central Coast Mariners this season and again highlighted how difficult they are to beat in at Westpac Stadium. Blustery and cold conditions greeted players and fans, but it didn-t take long for Phoenix to show they meant business. Leo Bertos used his pace to get the better of Dean Heffernan on the right and his pinpoint cross to the back post found Smeltz, who had intelligently peeled off Pedj Bojic, to head home. It was the perfect start and Bertos could have made it an even better one just four minutes later, when he ran at the defence, who were back-peddling, but his attempted curling shot went wide of the far post. Adrian Caceres had the chance to level it midway through the first half but spooned his shot over the bar from close range. The Mariners, with Mile Jedinak controlling play, were always looking likely, but Glen Moss blocked Jedinak-s shot and Caceres- effort from the rebound was cleared off the line, one sensed it was the Phoenix-s night. Smeltz had a great chance to double the lead late in the match, but his first time shot went agonisingly the wrong side of the far post after good work again by Bertos. However his early goal proved enough and saw them draw level with the Mariners on 22 points.
Bottom side Newcastle Jets finally managed to break the shackles, thumping Melbourne Victory 4-2 at EnergyAustralia Stadium, with midfielder Matt Thompson grabbing a hat-trick. The luck finally went the Jets way and made it three away losses on the trot for Melbourne, who will be now looking forward to playing five of its last six games at home. The Jets led 4-0 before Melbourne grabbed what were merely two late consolation goals. But the night belonged to Thompson, who actually has the most Hyundai A-League appearances to his name, with his finishing a real feature of the match. His opening goal came in the 16th minute, somewhat against the run of play, meeting a delightful cross from Marko Jesic with a diving header that gave Michael Theoklitos no chance. Jesic and Thompson both went close again as the Jets continued to attack, while up the other end Archie Thompson and Danny Allsopp both had chances to pull a goal back. The pivotal moment came in first half injury time, when Jesic-s cross took a deflection, which gave Thompson the time to get in front of his marker at the near post and he neatly turned the ball past Theoklitos with his left foot. The Jets picked up where they left off after the break and it was soon 3-0 and Thompson had his hat-trick slipping past Kevin Muscat and dinking his shot past the advancing Theoklitos. It didn-t stop there however and finally after so many near misses, Korean Jin-Hyung Song had his first goal for the club, racing onto a Joel Griffiths cutback to touch his shot past Theoklitos. Melbourne to their credit didn-t give up and Danny Allsopp pulled a goal back with a nice finish and Ney Fabiano bundled home a quickly taken free kick from Muscat.
Sydney-s miserable form and results continued at the Sydney Football Stadium, going down 4-1 to a rejuvenated Perth Glory. While Sydney will point to a weight of possession and a huge tally of corners, apart from 3-4 chances, most of their best moments coming from set pieces. Perth on the other hand, looked hungry and played perfectly on the counter-attack with there often maligned defence superb. They opened the scoring after 11 minutes, when Adriano Pellegrino neatly touched home Nikita Rukavytsya-s low cross. John Aloisi had a golden opportunity to equalise when he was nearest to Shannon Cole-s dangerous free kick, but he could only guide it wide with the lightest of touches. Perth lead was extended in the 34th minute when young Sydney defender Anthony Golec could only guide a Nikolai Topor-Stanley header past his own keeper. Aloisi-s wretchered day only got worse before half time when he spurned an easier chance late in the half. Alex Brosque saw his shot parried by the impressive Tando Velaphi straight to Aloisi just a metre out from an open goal, but somehow an off balance Aloisi couldn-t manage a touch on the ball, much to his and the disbelief of everyone in the ground. Those misses came back to haunt him as it was 3-0 soon after the break, when Wayne Srhoj met a Rukavytsya cross with a powerful finish. A magnificent volley from Stuart Musialik with 30 minutes to go gave Sydney some hope of a revival, but it was cut short ten minutes later, when Robbie Middleby headed into his own goal from Pellegrino-s terrific cross. The win edged Perth to within a win of the top four, while Sydney is still only two points outside the four.
Weekend Goals Tally: 11
Card Count: 10 yellows – 0 reds
Goal of the Week
It was a bad day at the office for Sydney FC, but the one bright spot was an absolute gem from Stuart Musialik. Shannon Cole-s free kick rebounded out to the edge of the box where Musialik was standing. The midfielder let loose with a brilliant left foot volley that gave Tando Velaphi no chance.
Player of the Week
Only one player in contention this week and that is Jets midfielder/defender/ or is that striker Matt Thompson. Scored a magnificent hat-trick, with three very different finishes that were all brilliantly converted. Was a constant menace all night for the Victory defence and may have had a couple more goals with a little more luck.
One to Watch
Andrija Jukic is on the radar of several Hyundai A-League clubs from reports, but Perth will no doubt be looking to keep him in the west. He has performed very well for the Youth team, his form getting him onto the bench for the last couple of games. One to watch for in the years to come.
10 – Shane Smeltz (WP)
8 – Matt Simon (CCM), Nikita Rukavytsya (PG), Eugene Dadi (PG), Danny Allsopp (MV)
7 – Charlie Miller (QR), Travis Dodd (AU), Cristiano (AU), Mile Jedinak (CCM)
6 – Joel Griffiths (NJ),
5 – Archie Thompson (MV), Sasho Petrovski (CCM)