Apologies for the lack of a report last week, but we’ve doubled up this week!
Round 16
Wellington Phoenix welcomed Newcastle Jets and in a thrilling contest the home side won 2-1. The Jets, despite losing, had their best game in a number of months and had it not been for Wellington’s keeper Stefan Marinov the result could have been different. Marinovic, a New Zealand international, has played across Europe and in the MLS for the past 10 years before returning to his homeland for this season.
On the weekend the Phoenix would have been so pleased with that decision. Jaushua Sotirio, and a man we mention every week Ulises Davila, were both on the score sheet for Phoenix in the 53rd and 69th minute respectively whilst Abdiel Arroyo was Jets sole goal-scorer in the 66th minute. The win sees Wellington sitting comfortably in 4th spot.

The Big Blue saw Melbourne Victory host Sydney FC in the traditional Australia Day weekend match in what was a 1st v 8th match-up. Victory started the better and had a number of chances but were wasteful upfront. As expected, it turned out to hurt them as Sydney worked their way into the game and were clinical when afforded an opportunity in front of goals. Sydney had 5 shots on target scoring 3 goals, Victory had a whopping 19 shots on goal (8 on target) and yet could not trouble the scorers. For FC Adam Le Fondre (27th minute), Kosta Barbarouses (53rd), who was up against his old team and having to endure snake noises throughout the game from the crowd, and Alexander Baumjohann (85th minute) were on the score sheet for FC. Sadly, for Sydney FC, Baumjohann received a soft red card and will miss 2 games. For Victory, well they have plenty of work to do to reach their previous high standards.

Brisbane Roar visited Gosford to take on the Central Coast Mariners. These are two teams that in brighter days played one of the all-time great A-League grand final, yet are now both cellar-dwellers. It took 86 minutes for Roar to finally break the deadlock with Corey Brown scoring on his return for Brisbane. Brown appears to be loving football again after virtually being frozen out this year at Melbourne Victory despite playing almost every game last year. Mariners would be disappointed as they dominated play, having double the scoring shots, but finding the net and getting past Roar keeper Jamie Young (who has hit a purple patch) too difficult.

Melbourne City welcomed Perth Glory (2nd v 3rd), two teams that love to attack and in what was expected to be a pulsating game was a surprising nil-all draw. The game was notorious for Glory Keeper Liam Reddy, who ended a tense first half with two of the strangest minutes of stoppage time the league has witnessed. Reddy received the ball from a headed pass from a teammate, before looking to make a long pass to one of his forwards. With no pressure from opposition strikers, he stood stationary inside his own box for 92 seconds, even juggling the ball. Referee Daniel Elder did not ask the keeper to move the ball on and was chatting with a Perth defender while waiting for the play to continue.

The crowd booed Reddy’s antics, which certainly weren’t happy waiting for him to re-start the game, yet when he did eventually kick the ball, it went immediately out for an opposition throw-in. Just a bizarre couple of minutes for Liam Reddy

Finally, Western United hosted Adelaide United at Western Bulldogs ground in Footscray. Besart Berisha, in his 200th A-League game was outstanding, but it wasn’t enough for Western United who went down in a 7-goal thriller which post-game, it was declared the game of the season. For Western United Berisha scored in the 12th and 43rd minutes, his 1st was a peach of a goal on his left foot. Captain Alessandro Diamente used all his guile to score in the 54th minute. For Adelaide, Nikola Mileusnic 9th and 15th minute and Riley McGee 18th minute saw a total of 5 goals scored in the first half. Nathan Konstanopolous broke the deadlock in the 79th minute seeing Adelaide take home the chocolates. Adelaide, after copping a roasting from Dutch coach Gertjan Verbeek, have now won their last 2 games.

Western Sydney Wanderers had the bye.

In the Asian Champions league, Melbourne Victory had a surprising win defeating Japan powerhouse Kashima Antlers for qualification into the AFC Champions League. Andrew Nabbout scored a brilliant goal in the 54th minute whilst keeper Lawrence Thomas was outstanding. The win now sees Victory qualify leaving the Kashima Antlers in disbelief. A remarkable result when you consider Kashima Antlers were the 2018 ACL champions and a powerhouse of the J League.

The result followed positive news in Asia with the Olyroos during the week now qualifying for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Interesting to see how this plays out as all teams are allowed 3 over age players.

Round 17
Sydney welcomed a resurgent Brisbane Roar who were busy in the January Transfer Window (the period during the year in which a football club can transfer players from other playing staff into their playing staff. Such a transfer is completed by registering the player into the new club through FIFA). The Roar let Marquee man Roy O’Donovan return to Newcastle, having been starved of opportunities of late, and a player of his pedigree easily becomes frustrated. Sydney, through the league’s best marquee, Adam Le Fondre got the lead in the 54th minute through a penalty (it was the first penalty Roar have conceded for the year).

The goal was a controversial one with Roar’s Scott Neville adjudged to have handled the ball in the box which lead to a penalty and yellow card. It was Neville’s 2nd yellow for the night, leaving Brisbane with 10 men for 40 minutes. Sydney were never going to lose once this occurred. Roar’s CEO David Pourre will be asked for a “please explain” after he criticised the referee publicly.

In stifling conditions Newcastle Jets welcomed Western United with the match played in 40-degree heat. This is bound to reinvigorate calls for the league to begin matches later in the evening in these circumstances. United’s coach Mark Rudan was quoted as saying “I thought it was incredible from both sets of players, how they were able to withstand that heat and humidity. It doesn’t make for good viewing and you’re putting the players welfare at risk”. The game saw the jets totally dominate with 27 to 6 advantage in shots on goal yet despite this the game was a goalless draw.

In the surprise of the week Adelaide United easily accounted for Melbourne City. City were uncharacteristic and conceded 3 goals all to set plays going down 3-1. United’s Ben Halloran was the star scoring in the 12th and 41st minute with George Blackwood putting the game beyond doubt in the 47th minute. Craig Noone was City’s only goal scorer in the 16th minute.
City’s Harrison Delbridge felt the wrath of this coach Erick Mombaerts after he was red-carded for a studs-up tackle on Adelaide’s Nikola Mileusnic – he was initially given a yellow card by referee Alex King however on video review, King changed his decision to straight red which meant Delbridge was given his marching orders. “It’s always a similar situation,” Mombaerts said. “He lost his emotional control and he has made a mistake before … now he didn’t control his tackle. He takes the ball, but it’s dangerous. It’s too much, three red cards. It’s too much, you have to have better emotional control.”

Mombaerts also fears the worst for 24-year-old, Scottish international Jack Hendry a two-time Scottish Premier League winner with Celtic. Currently on loan from Celtic. “He has a big injury,” Mombaerts said post-match. “For me, it’s most important … the injury of Jack. “We can lose a game; we will be better next time. But if we lose this player for a long time it will be a big problem for us. “I don’t know exactly but I think it’s a big injury.” Hendry was expected to have scans on return to Melbourne. It all led to a disappointing night for Melbourne City.

Perth Glory hosted Melbourne Victory, who were playing their 3rd game in just 8 days. This was one of the games of the season with the final result being 2 all. The 4 goals scored for the match were all high quality and both sides will take a lot out of the game. Victory will take a lot from the game for the fact they dominated a top team and should have won, whilst Perth will also take some solace for the fact that despite being beaten in all components of the match were able to scrap and get a draw after falling behind on two occasions.

With Victory missing Robbie Kruse and Leigh Broxham, gun Swede Ola Toivanen and Andrew Nabbout stepped up scoring in the 23rd and 58th minute respectively. Perth responded to each of these goals in the 45th and 90th minute via Bruno Fornaroli and Nicholas D’Agostino. The latter following on his good form with the Olyroos, and looks a real player of the future with his intensity and goal sense.

In the final game of the week, Central Coast Mariners welcomed Western Sydney Wanderers with interim coach Jean-Paul de Marigny in his first game since replacing the sacked Marcus Babbel. The change worked wonders with the Wanderers playing with freedom from the outset. Mariners Matt Simon was his teams sole goal scorer in the 82 minutes via a penalty whilst the Wanderers scored through Nicolai Muller, Mitchell Duke and Simon Cox in the 42, 76 and 95th minutes respectively. Cox is from the Republic of Ireland and has played in excess of 400 games across the UK and will add extra firepower to the Wanderers.

This week’s games:
A wounded City play Victory on the improve. Victory to win 2-1.

Perth host Wellington in the “Distance Derby”. This will be a 1 all draw.

Sydney host the Wanderers; this will be a thriller. Sydney to win 3-2.

Roar welcome Adelaide United expect a 1 all draw.

Jets welcome neighbours Mariners, Jets to finally get on the scoreboard and win 2 nil.