Perth Glory v Sydney FC
Sydney have been punished numerous times this season for failing to capitalise on their dominance, and this was certainly the case at HBF Park.
The Sky Blues absolutely dominated the first half, attempting eleven shots in the first 45 and forcing Liam Reddy in to five key saves to keep his team alive. Despite leading the way in possession, chances created, corners, crosses and attempts on goal against a fairly anonymous Perth, it was the Glory that broke the deadlock, Fornaroli tapping in a low cross from Castro on the goal line in added time.
Sydney thought they had found a way back in to the game just before the hour mark, Bobô bundled over in the box by Malik for a penalty. However, VAR intervened again and overruled the on field decision, with the Brazilian found to be offside by mere millimetres.
Bobô forced two great saves from Reddy in short succession, but finally found a way past the shotstopper with a clinical strike in the 62nd minute to draw his side level.
Perth supporters went wild as Andy Keogh put the home team ahead with ten minutes to go, only for the linesman to lift his flag and rule it off for offside.
Despite sustained pressure for the final twenty minutes or so, Perth were just unable to find a winner in this tight game in Western Australia. Now without a win in five games, the Glory drop down to tenth, just two points above Newcastle Jets though they still have three games in hand.
They will be disappointed to have failed to take advantage of their second half dominance, but this was a much better performance all round from Perth.
There was no birthday three-pointer for Sydney head coach Steve Corica, but he will undoubtedly be pleased with his four match unbeaten streak. Bobô continues to improve the more games he gets under his belt, and his presence up top will inspire confidence in the rest of the team as they prepare for a trip to Adelaide on the weekend.
Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne Victory
There was just one change for Wellington on Wednesday morning, Steven Taylor returning to the starting line up for his 50th appearance on his return to the A-League.
Elvis Kamsoba came in to the eleven for Grant Brebner’s men, making his first start of the campaign to lead the line for the Victory in Gestede’s absence.
Melbourne were looking for an early goal but their attacking intent left them open to a devastating counter attack, Reno Piscopo playing a superb cross field ball to David Ball. The English striker stretched the play wide, creating space for Ulises Dávila to receive, the Mexican quickly offloading to Tomer Hemed, the Israeli capping off a fantastic team counter with his third goal in as many games.
Despite their poor form and conceding early on, the Victory kept their heads up and the pressure on, Robbie Kruse and Callum McManaman both causing the ‘Nix problems but they were unable to capitalise.
David Ball grabbed a second for the ‘Nix after 35 minutes, poking home the ball during a scrabble in the box to put the home side two ahead. There were claims for an Alex Rufer hand ball and it certainly looked to be the case during the VAR review, but the officials upheld the on field decision and awarded the goal.
Former Scunthorpe midfielder Clayton Lewis looked like he had put the game to bed, rattling a vicious left footed strike downward off the crossbar, beating Action despite but failing to cross the line.
Melbourne almost pulled one back in added time, Kamsoba feeding Folami who forced a sensational save from Oli Sail within the six yard box, securing the Phoenix’s lead.
The ‘Nix headed in at the break with a two goal lead but returned without Reno Piscopo. The tricky Aussie looked to have picked up an achilles injury in the dying moments of the first 45 and was duly replaced at half time, Cammy Devlin coming in to midfield with Clayton Lewis taking Piscopo’s place out wide.
The third goal came just after the hour, McGarry finding Ulises Dávila in acres of space, allowing the skipper to fire past Acton in to the bottom corner. The mounting pressure led to things boiling over shortly after, a push and shove breaking out between Dávila and the Victory players, Adama Traore picking up a yellow for his efforts.
After nearly scoring with a superb strike, Clayton Lewis took the opposite approach in the second half, basically walking it in to the net for his first ever A-League goal, and Wellington’s fourth.
Victory finally managed to get on the score sheet, Elvis Kamsoba personifying the Big V’s woes by finding the back of the net with an audacious chip over Oli Sail before immediately hitting the deck with an injury.
Another abysmal performance and another defeat piles further pressure of the Melbourne Victory and Grant Brebner. They’ve now lost seven of their last eight games, and conceded seventeen goals in the four games since their MW9 win over Wellington.
It remains to be seen how further they must fall before changes are made, but you feel something must be done, and soon, if they have any hopes of saving their season.
Melbourne City v Central Coast Mariners
Alen Stajcic had never won at AAMI Park, and the Mariners had failed to pick up a win there since 2014 as they travelled to Melbourne to take on the in-form team in the competition.
There was a lucky escape for the Mariners early on, the Coasties spared a penalty for handball in the box thanks to a mistimed run from Jamie Maclaren had put the striker in an offside position in the lead up.
Adrian Luna made his return from a hamstring slightly earlier than planned, called off the bench after twenty minutes to replace Nuno Reis who was forced from the field with a groin injury.
The first half was closely contested and the Mariners back line did well to keep the City forwards quiet, but they were unable to prevent leading goalscorer Jamie Maclaren from finally breaking the deadlock on the 30 minute mark.
Connor Metcalfe delivered a superb ball from midfield to Florin Berenguer, allowing the Frenchman to feed the Socceroo striker free on the edge of the box. The Mariners back line gave Maclaren enough space and he punished them for it, defeating Birighitti with a low drive for his 90th A-League goal.
Once they had found the back of the net, City could smell blood and went in for the kill. Over the next ten minutes they piled on the pressure in an attempt to further their lead. The Mariners were left scrambling but some excellent saves from Mark Birighitti, somehow, managed to keep them at bay.
Mariners made the only change during half time, Michal Jonata coming on for debutant Maxi Balard to try and sure things up in midfield for the visitors.
Jack Clisby attempted to kick start a rare Mariners attack just before the hour, carrying the ball out in to the centre of the park only to run in to a brick wall in the form of Nathaniel Atkinson. The City midfielder dispossessed the advancing defender and kick started a counter, finding Andrew Nabbout out wide. Clisby had done a good job of keeping Nabbout quiet, but with him out of position the scrambling Mariners backline allowed the winger to unleash a dangerous shot, which deflected off a defender in to the path of Atkinson, who got on the end of the attack he started to grab City’s second.
The away end erupted when Alou Kuol entered the fray in the 67th minute, filled with Goulburn Valley Suns fans at AAMI Park to support their former record goalscorer, and the former NPL forward appeared to have won his side a penalty with less than ten minutes to go. Kuol appeared to be brought down in the box by Curtis Good, however, after a VAR check the on-field decision of no penalty was upheld.
While the weather-disturbed preparation would hardly have helped the Mariners’ cause, City were simply just too good for their opponents today. City kept their foot on the gas throughout, and the game could have ended with a much higher score-line if not for a sensational performance between the sticks for Mark Birighitti.
The 2 – 0 win over the league leaders extends the Mariners abysmal record at AAMI Park, and further cements City’s status as the ones to beat as the A-League title race hots up…
Western Sydney Wanderers v Perth Glory
The Bankwest pitch looked in perfect for the opening clash of MW13, despite enduring a full 80 minutes of NRL action the night before.
Graham Dorrans returned to the Western Sydney starting line up after his injury, while Richard Garcia made two changes to his Perth side for their cross-country trip.
There was a confident start from both teams, but it was Perth who enjoyed the chances early on. Fornaroli and D’Agostino looked lively, and both managed to test Daniel Margush within the first ten minutes. However, that was all we would see from the Glory attack for the remainder of the first half.
Wanderers had a big chance to take the lead via Bernie Ibini, who got his foot on to the ball at short range, but was denied by a incredible reflex save from Reddy. The ball deflected out to James Troisi, but under pressure from a sliding Luke Brodnar, he ballooned the rebound in to the air.
Perth have been caught by teams on the break numerous times this season, and it looked like they had been undone on the counter yet again, Wilmering unleashing Bernie Ibini with a superb ball over the top, the Nigerian born forward getting in behind to finish coolly past Reddy. However, after consulting with VAR Craig Zetta, the referee chalked off the opener for a marginal offside decision.
Ibini was at it again in the 28th minute, getting on the end of another through ball from the wings to find the back of the net, only to see his second attempt ruled out for offside once again.
The Wanderers had a third goal ruled out just after the half hour mark, Dorrans finding Wilmering surging down the left flank. The young wing back burst past his marker to square for Mitch Duke, sliding to get his foot to the ball under pressure from Kosuke Ota, only to see his effort ruled out for yet another offside!
It would be completely understandable if frustration had set in, but the home side kept their foot on the gas and were finally awarded for their sustained pressure in the dying moments of the first half. They had to wait until added time to finally get on the scoresheet, James Troisi turning away from his defender and lofting a fantastic hanging cross for Mitch Duke to leap above the Perth defence to head home a well-deserved opener.
Perth’s were punished again after the break, Keanu Baccus lifting the ball over their high defensive line to leave young defender Luke Brodnar alone against Mitch Duke, who left the 20 year old in his wake to score his second within moments of the second half commencing.
Wanderers got their third less than five minutes in to the half, Ibini breaking clear of the Glory defence and in on goal. Lachmann tried to rectify for the defensive error by chasing down Ibini in the box, but the Wanderer was able to ride his challenge enough to feed James Troisi for his finish. It looked like Ibini might have another effort ruled out for offside, but this time VAR was on his side.
Mitch Duke nearly bagged his hattrick on the hour mark, another long ball cutting through the Perth defence to find the forward through on goal. Reddy rushed out of his area to meet Duke, who poked the ball past the Glory ‘keeper, but was unable to find the empty net from a tight angle.
There would be no third goal for the Duke of Western Sydney, as he left the field along with Bernie Ibini minutes later, with Kamau and Yeboah taking their place after 65 minutes.
The Wanderers became more cautious as the clock dwindled down, but continued to test Perth on the break, Kamau and Yeboah both testing Reddy in the final 25 minutes, but neither were able to add to the score line.
Perth have been a constant threat in front of goal this season, but today the Glory were absolutely toothless. They out-passed their opposition and had nearly triple the amounts of crosses and corners, they even had more shots (16) than the Wanderers, but managed just one shot on target in over 90 minutes of football.
A first win over Perth since round one of the 2017/18 season sees the second placed Wanderers move within just three points of Central Coast, who face a tough test against Melbourne City on Monday.
Richard Garcia will need to pick up and dust off his Perth side pretty quickly, as they face a tough test against a revived Sydney side on Wednesday.