Western Sydney Wanderers vs Brisbane Roar (1-1 Draw)
This meeting between the first and second placed clubs on the current A-League ladder was certainly one that lived up to all the hype, with the accompanying solid crowd numbers at Wanderland and plenty of television coverage reinforcing the importance of the match. Last season the Roar had been the Wanderers’ bunny, losing all four of their games, yet in 2013/14 the Brisbane team under Mike Mulvey has rarely looked troubled, and gave the sophomore WSW their first three goal defeat in Round Seven. The home team has also had some indifferent results in previous weeks, with only four points earned from twelve available from four rounds. So whilst there was plenty of positives to be drawn upon by the Wanderers in playing at home in front of the always passionate RBB they were certainly not all-consuming favourites.
The Wanderers opened brightly and with a starting line up that was close to their best XI it was surprising that they were unable to convert some excellent work from stalwarts Hersi and Ono before the first ten minutes of the match were up. The visitors were under no compunction to parallel the missed opportunities from the Wanderers, and when Broich made progress down the left flank of the home team and fed the ball to Besart Berisha, it seemed almost inevitable that Ante Covic would not be able to deflect or stop the Albanians shot. The resulting goal was quality, but also seemed to act as a catalyst for the visitors. They went into a deep defensive formation that found most of their energies focused on the likes of Stefanutto, Brown and Brattan launching some nasty hacking challenges on a rampant Youssouf Hersi. Whilst referee Kris Griffith-Jones could find a yellow card for Spiranovic’s clumsy studs up challenge that failed to connect, none of the trips or professional fouls committed by the Roar were similarly censured. Alongside the Dutch winger Ono, Mooy, Spiranovic and Santalab all went close to put the Wanderers back on equal terms in the first half yet none of their efforts could find the net.
The second half saw more of the same, with the Roar sitting back deep and the Wanderers pressing for an equaliser. Mooy, Hersi, Ono, Bridge, Santalab and Polenz all created opportunities yet either through bad luck, good defence or a slight misdirection the ball refused to go into the visitor’s net. In the 69th minute Polenz killed the best chance for the Roar to increase their lead when Henrique was on goal, then with time running out Aaron Mooy demonstrated his value yet again to the Wanderers faithful, and to his new paymasters at Melbourne Heart for next season, putting in a cross to Labinot Haliti on the 84th minute, which was smartly tucked into the Roar’s goal. Even with the draw a favoured result with so little time to go the Roar came back to life, yet neither side could find a winner. It had been a classic match and some (well, those who are more foolhardy than me) would predict this may have been a portend of the upcoming 2013/14 Grand Final.
Central Coast Mariners vs Melbourne Victory (1-3 Melbourne Victory win)
Some maxims in the A-League’s brief history deserve plenty of respect. For example, Brisbane will struggle against the Jets, or the Victory and the Reds will always have an added edge of barely suppressed anger. However one that is losing its lustre this season is that the Mariners are always able to churn out good players and defend well at home, and for primie facie evidence for this argument one needs to look no further than this match against the Victory. In a result that demonstrated how inconsistent almost all teams are in 2013/14, the Mariners started with a frenetic energy that seemed to end up with the appropriate result thanks to Bernie Ibini scoring in the 10th minute. Nathan Coe’s fumble/parry fell nicely at the returning Mariner’s feet and he took the shot with the requisite ease. However in what were ominous portents for the home team Tom Rogic was showing plenty of class both before and after the first goal, and he almost helped set up Archie Thompson for an equaliser before the first 30 minutes were up. Yellow cards were coming thick and fast and whilst none was awarded due to a Mariner’s foul just before half time, Gui Finkler’s excellent distance shot from the dead ball position created the opportunity for James Troisi to score off the rebound, leveling both teams up at one goal apiece.
The second half was barely underway when the Victory struck again, thanks to some excellent work from Traore (who has been rather quiet of late) who centred his pass into the Mariners’ box, where Thompson met it and elegantly angled the ball into Reddy’s net. There may have been just cause for an off-side call however the goal stood. Not long thereafter Eddy Bosnar backed up his first half free kick rocket that almost scored with another attempt on Coe’s goal, however it failed to penetrate the goalie’s defences. The same couldn’t be said in the 61st minute of Reddy’s handling of a Troisi shot, and when the Victory midfielder took his chance to bring up his brace of goals the visitors were up 1-3 and looking far better than shown in recent weeks. Ex-Mariner wunderkind Rogic was arguably most indicative of the differences between the two teams, as he has become part of a formidable and relatively stable Victory team, whereas the Mariners have had so many changes in staff and players it must be almost impossible for Phil Moss to create a cohesive structure. This win for Kevin Muscat’s team has certainly dulled some of the blades that were poised to go into his back if the Victory had lost again, and returned them to definite top 2 contention. For the home team perhaps we are seeing an end to the great results wrought by a club that continually has been able to reinvent itself.
Sydney FC vs Adelaide United (0-3 Adelaide win)
It is desperately unfair on the visiting Reds that after this match almost every single focus placed on the game was diverted away from their excellent form and dominant performance. Instead this was the game where the ever-fragmented, madly inconsistent Frank Farina coached Sydney FC imploded under the stress of piss-poor playing on the pitch and revolting fans in the stands. There is no doubt that the combination of seasons where the results of Sydney FC have not meant their most ardent fans’ expectations contributed, plus there is a serious disconnect between the fans and the club management. However what must seriously undermine so much of the passion and drive for the fans of the Sky Blues is that contrasted with teams like Adelaide, and of course their cross-town rivals the Wanderers, there is such a gap between football cultures it has become embarrassing. The Cyrillic Tifo calling for club owner David Traktovenko and the resultant brouhaha over Cove members being expelled from the game was symptomatic of a failure in club systems and beliefs that the players on the field could only but replicate.
When it came to the on-field action the only remotely promising moment for the home team came in the 8th minute when promising young SFC player Hagi Gligor massacred the chance to put the Sky Blues up one goal to the good, after some neat work from the left flank and Serbian striker Despotovic. Less than 8 minutes later Reds import Isaias switched the ball deep out of the visitors’ own half to the feet of Ferreira, who in taking the ball into the SFC box got it away to Bruce Djite. The home teams’ backs were utterly embarrassed by Djite who was able to avoid the tackles of three defenders and softly prod the ball past Janjetovic. The lead could have been tripled by Michael Zullo and Marcelo Carrusca however Jurman cleared the ball off the line in the former instance and the woodwork saved Sydney FC in the second. Ferreira however made no mistake in the 25th minute with his opportunity after yet another long aerial pass found him outpacing the defence, and with Sydney FC down by two goals and looking utterly hapless and hopeless it was literally game over. ADP briefly showed his own class with a well took free kick before the first half ended, but with the local fans protesting or booing no one but the few traveling Reds fans, staff and players were enjoying the game at Allianz.
The second half was an unedifying affair as off-field controversy was drawing more attention than the players on the field. The evening was summed up for the home supporters by Jeronimo’s goal in the 79th minute, which put into glaring focus the inadequacy of Sydney FC’s defence and attack, as well as Frank Farina’s structures. The final whistle couldn’t come soon enough for the home team, and whilst Adelaide had every reason to celebrate a clinical, professional performance their task was made easier by Sydney FC letting the visitors run rampant. Frank Farina and Sydney FC have become the joke of the A-League this season, and sadly for them no one knows when the final punchline will be delivered.
Newcastle United vs Wellington Phoenix (2-3 Wellington Phoenix win)
The Jets’ run of bad luck and bad results continued at the hands of one of the most improved teams in the A-League, with Clayton Zane unable to get the result he needed against the visiting Wellington Phoenix at Hunter Stadium. After a bright start from the home team with Taggart and Goodwin giving the Nix cause for concern and Hernandez and Huysegems doing the same back, it took a classy moment of Phoenix creativity in the 20th minute to break the deadlock. Costa Rican Carlos Hernandez threw the Jets defenders into confusion with some great ball control and his shot that flew into Newcastle’s net utterly flummoxed Birighitti. However the lead was short lived thanks to some equally good work from Caravella and Goodwin, with the young Jet slotting home his shot with aplomb. Both teams’ defensive efforts were finding it hard to keep up with the fluidity of attack, and whilst Hoole almost added to the Jets’ tally it was Belgian key player Stein Huysegems who delivered for the visitors before the end of the half.
The second half got off to a wonderful start for the Jets with Craig Goodwin adding to his first half goal, and his scoring effort was one of the best seen at Hunter Stadium this season. The inability of the Jets to get maximum value out of their younger players such as Goodwin, Hoole, Taggart and Brillante has been a consistent problem this season, and made even more obvious when their quality does come out on display. The next twenty odd minutes were rather fraught for both teams, with discipline issues to the fore. Ernie Merrick made a couple of substitutions and it was one of the changes, Jason Hicks who was able to get through Goodwin, Hoole and Jaliens and score a pearler in the 69th minute. Up 2-3 the visitors quelled some last minute attacks from the Jets plus mounted a couple of their own which failed to increase the lead, leaving them at the end of the match victorious. For the Jets it was a cruel result which sadly reflected the problems with their defensive structures, and for the Phoenix Ernie Merrick and particularly Hernandez and Huysegems did everything right.
Melbourne Heart vs Perth Glory (Melbourne Heart 2-1 win)
A controversial ‘home’ game for the Heart, this match was played as a community game in the Murray River region city of Albury under far from positive conditions. The amount of travel required for the visitors was arguably too much and then to make things worse a heatwave hit the area to such an extent that the game was put back two hours. Even this change failed to address the concerns of those playing and those coaching. The 38 degrees C temperature certainly impacted on the first half with scoring opportunities matched by the frequency of drinks breaks. Dugandzic, Ramsay and Behich all caused the Glory some worries and with 6 attempts on goal versus none from the visitors Melbourne Heart were the better team before the break.
The second half saw the match come alive thanks to a Kisnorbo goal scored from a corner. The Glory were struggling to match their opponents and this was borne out by the substitution of Sidnei for Sernas. More drinks breaks and more substitutions were taken, with Kewell leaving the field for the Heart and Rostyn Griffiths being swapped by Kenny Lowe with Nebjosa Marinkovic. The visitors then took advantage of a corner that was clumsily cleared by Andrew Redmayne after Shane Smeltz took his shot, and in the following seconds Perth’s Steve McGarry slammed the ball home. Scores could have ended all tied up however second half sub for the Heart and iconic goal scorer David Williams took advantage of a bad turn over from the Glory’s Chris Harrold, and in a welter of feet and legs in the visitors’ box Williams eventually headed the ball into the net. Having scored with only minutes to go yet again Williams had repeated the Heart’s efforts from the previous round. A commendable win under extreme circumstances, the possibility of the current season’s cellar dwellers to maybe make the finals is now being talked about seriously. Meanwhile for Perth they are staring down the barrel of dropping further down the ladder, with not much hope to see the trend being reversed.
Best Game: Whilst the Jets versus Phoenix game had plenty of good goals and was a close run affair, the quality of football in the Friday night match between the Wanderers and Roar was just that little bit better. It also had all the hallmarks of two champion teams battling out as an entree for further clashes later in the season.
Best Goal: Berisha’s goal for the Roar was class, and the manner in which Djite capitalised on a wonderful pass to get past Sydney’s defences and score for the Reds was impressive. However the most attractive and well taken goal this round was Goodwin’s second for the Jets against the Phoenix. A brilliant one man effort that was polished off with a swerve that added a poetic flourish to his work.
Best Team: The Roar and Wanderers were both very good, and deserve to share this distinction insofar as they were so evenly matched and playing such an intense match. However the manner in which Adelaide dismantled Sydney FC and the win by Wellington over the Jets also deserve kudos.
Worst Team: Yet again Sydney FC deserve this dishonour and if anything they were even worse than last week’s loss against the Heart. Simply incompetent on almost every level.