Melbourne Victory v Sydney FC
With one falling foul of the Victorian lockdown, and the other cancelled due to Sydney’s record downpours, we finally got the first Big Blue of the season in week 15!
It was wonderful to see Victory’s active support back in at AAMI Park for the first time, and they were in fine voice ahead of this long awaited clash between two of the league’s oldest rivals.
Like most derbies, things got off to a cagey start. Both sides spent much of the first half feeling each other out, taking speculative shots from range and leaving in niggling challenges.
The game changed with just over 30 minutes on the clock, with Victory’s diminutive forward Elvis Kamsoba heading for an early shower after picking up a second yellow card.
The Victory have had a hard enough time keeping teams at bay with eleven men on the field this season, and it took the Sky Blues just ten minutes to make the most of their man advantage, veteran Bobô popping up with an easy tap in to give Sydney the lead heading in to the break.
If you’ve watched any Sydney games this season, you’ll know just how woeful Kosta Barbarouses has been in front of goal, but even the misfiring All Whites forward managed to get himself on the scoresheet today. The former Victory man lashed home early in to the second half to double the Sky Blues lead, and was rewarded for finally breaking his goal drought with a shower of bottles from the home fans.
Steve Corica made a triple substitution just before the hour mark, and it was substitute Alexander Baumjohann who slotted home a late penalty to confirm the Sky Blues victory.
Any hopes of last weeks shock draw with Central Coast kick starting an upturn in form for the Victory were brought back down to earth with a bump today. The slide looks no sign of slowing any time soon and the inexperienced Brebner looks at a loss for answers. Rooted to the foot of the ladder on eight points, their season is effectively over. With no risk of relegation, it looks like the Victory are content to see out the season with Brebner at the helm, before clearing house and going back to the drawing board ahead of the 2021/22 season.
Brisbane Roar v Western Sydney Wanderers
Brisbane were looking to put an end to an extended winless streak as they returned to A-League action against Western Sydney.
Wanderers were in need of a win after falling to a significant defeat at the hands of Melbourne City last week, and started strongly. They dominated the early minutes and were rewarded with a quick opener, former Brisbane youngster Kwame Yeboah punishing his former side within 12 minutes.
After surviving an early barrage, the Roar found a way back in to the game. Joey Champness was in fine form, and nearly scored a phenomenal solo effort that would have undoubtedly been a goal of the season contender if not for the gloves of Daniel Margush. The Wanderers defence just couldn’t handle Champness going forward, and another mazy run led to Riku Danzaki smashing home the equaliser early in to the second half.
Other than their early goal, Western Sydney were pretty poor going forward. In a similar vein to Perth the previous day, their attackers were lethargic and failed to make any real movement off the ball in a bid to break down a Roar defence that were without their key man, captain Tom Aldred. Daniel Margush was undoubtedly their stand out player, the 23 year old making seven saves to save his side from further blushes.
Brisbane really deserved more from this game, and will definitely be disappointed to come away with just a point. Now winless in eight, five of those being stalemates, as head coach Warren Moon said in his post match press conference, the Roar need to turn these draws in to wins if they are to break in to the top six.
Macarthur FC v Perth Glory
With both Melbourne City and Adelaide slipping up yesterday, the Bulls were able to jump in to second place with a comfortable home win over the Glory.
Richard Garcia named a strong back four, featuring Jason Geria, Darryl Lachman, Kosuke Ota and (finally) Sebastian Langkamp, but they were unable to prevent the home side from taking a two goal lead in the first 45 minutes.
It took less than ten minutes for the Bulls to find their way through Garcia’s new defensive line, Matt Derbyshire drifting in between the two centre backs, stretching to poke home an Ivan Franjic cross.
Markel Susaeta was in dangerous form throughout, and earned the Bulls their first every penalty after he went down in the box under pressure from Langkamp. Derbyshire converted from the spot, firing his shot straight down the middle to beat Liam Reddy for the second time.
While the Bulls were excellent, Perth made life easy for them with a pretty lacklustre performance. Just a few short weeks ago they had one of the most devastating attacking line ups in the A-League, but today players were slow and static. With Neil Kilkenny sitting at the base of the midfield looking to ping passes from deep, he couldn’t find any of his attackers making runs off the ball, and Diego Castro was well below par.
The introduction of Carlo Armiento livened up the Glory attack in the final half hour, and he forced a couple of saves from Adam Federici, but they never really threatened the Bulls lead. They will need to pick themselves up and put in a much better performance if they hope to come away with anything against Sydney when they make the short trip up the M5 on Wednesday.
Western United v Melbourne City
Melbourne City had the chance to go top of the league on Thursday morning, and would have felt confident in doing so against a Western United side that had never succeeded in picking up a point against them.
City’s confidence received yet another confidence boost, with Craig Noone and Jamie Maclaren combining to give City an early lead. Maclaren forced the Western United defenders in to a rushed clearance to prevent him running in behind, heading the ball out as far as Dylan Pierias. The young wing-back was easily outmuscled by an on-rushing Craig Noone, the former Premier League winger laying off to Maclaren and continuing his run in to the box. The free scoring Maclaren drew the attention of the United defence before passing to Noone who finished clinically in to an empty net.
City were dominant throughout, and had countless chances to increase their lead, but the Green and Black defence threw everything behind the ball to ride out the onslaught of Maclaren, Nabbout and Noone.
United thought they had got themselves back in to it early in to the second half, City defender Nuno Reis and Iker Guarrotxena colliding in the box while contesting for a ball. Their clash of heads and shoulders led to a lenghty VAR review, but the on-field decision of no penalty was upheld.
The introduction of Alessandro Diamanti in the 57th minute proved the catalyst for a shocking comeback, the veteran Italian sparking his side in to life despite clearly still in discomfort from the back and rib issue that have effected him in recent weeks.
In the ten minutes that followed him entering the fray , Western United delivered a two punch combo to bring City’s phenomenal six run winning streak to an end.
As the clock ticked past the hour mark, Besart Berisha found himself on the end of a long cross, which he duly poked back to a rising Lachy Wales, the young striker heading home for his first goal in the Green and Black.
Berisha and Wales combined again for the second, Diamanti delivering a superb long ball up to Wales, who returned the favour by delivering a cross for the A-League’s all time leading scorer to rifle home.
With twenty minutes on the clock, City pushed for an equaliser.
Rostyn Griffiths was involved in all two great chances, first deflecting a Ben Garuccio effort on to the post, before missing an absolute sitter from six yards with five minutes remaining. Jamie Maclaren missed in equally frustrating fashion less than a minute later, poking his effort wide from close range.
Despite being the dominant force for almost all of the match, City paid for their missed chances, meaning Western United collected their first ever win over their cross town rivals.
Central Coast Mariners v Adelaide United
With City falling to a shock defeat, Thursday’s second fixture became a top of the table clash, with an in-form Adelaide looking set to knock the Mariners off top spot in their own backyard.
Things got off to a shaky start for Adelaide, conceding a penalty for a Craig Goodwin handball after another lengthy VAR review. With 17 minutes on the clock, Matt Simon stepped up to the spot and delivered his penalty straight down the middle, young goalie Joe Gauci making the save with his boot despite having made his dive to the left.
Simon looked to make up for his error, heading home the opener at the far post, only to see the linesman lift his flag for offside!
The Mariners did well to keep the constant threat of the Adelaide attack at bay, their physical defence and some key blocks from Kye Rowles ensuring the two sides were level heading in to the break.
The Coasties got off to a terrible start, conceding almost immediately after heading out from the sheds, Kusini Yengi getting on the end of a pass from Ben Halloran and squeezing an effort past Birighitti for his third goal of the season.
VAR was brought in to play again in the 54th minute, as Adelaide conceded another penalty for handball after lengthy review. This time, captain Oli Bozanic took on the spot kick, only to be denied by Gauci again!
With a goal ruled out and two saved penalties, you felt his just wasn’t going to be the Mariners night.
But in a similar vein to the clash in Melbourne earlier in the day, a key substitution kick-started an amazing comeback.
Alen Stajic replaced Matty Simon with the season’s breakout star Alou Kuol for the final half hour, and within ten minutes they were back in the game.
Bozanic made up for his missed penalty, unleashing a long-range effort between three defenders to finally beat Gauci for the equaliser, before Alou Kuol followed up with the winner. Josh Nisbet chased a ball in to the box, leaping over a diving Gauci who spilled his save. The diminutive midfielder somehow managed to pounce on the loose ball, laying it back for Kuol to hammer home from close range. The young talisman immediately leapt the advertising boards to celebrate their amazing comeback with the erupting Gosford crowd!
Despite looking certain to concede their place at the top of the ladder to one of the league’s two in-form sides, the Mariners showed real character to battle back against all the odds to once again go four points clear and continue their fairytale run.