Yesterday’s frantic finale at Coopers Stadium was one the craziest finishes in A-League history, and it’s likely to have repercussions far beyond the destination of the three points.
Did Brisbane Roar goalkeeper Michael Theo strike Adelaide United defender Dylan McGowan with an elbow in injury time during the Roar’s controversial 2-1 defeat?
Watching in real time, it looked like McGowan wrapped his arm around Theo and in trying to shake off the defender, Theo subsequently struck him with an elbow to the face.
But if you watch the replay, Theo’s first instinct is to look instantly to his right – or in other words, behind him on his goal side – as though he has no idea where McGowan is standing.
And that would make sense given that it was McGowan who initiated the contact, having charged up to Theo from behind and grabbed the goalkeeper with his left arm.
If anything, the foul should have gone the other way, and had referee Stephen Lucas blown his whistle immediately for obstruction – a rule that is essentially no longer enforced – the visitors could have taken their free-kick and flown home from Adelaide with a valuable point.
Instead, the Roar are left to rue a costly defeat, and there could be some major headaches to contend with given the serious allegations made against assistant coach Ross Aloisi following an incident in the tunnel at the end of the game.
It’s hard to escape the feeling that none of this would have happened if the A-League already made use of video assistant referees, which are now only a matter of weeks away from being introduced.
Say what you will about the increasing encroachment of technology, but had the VAR system been in use, it surely would have highlighted the fact that it was McGowan who committed the first foul against Theo.
As it stands, the penalty awarded against the Roar was as cruel as it gets – not least because they had already made all three substitutions.
So it was that midfielder Thomas Kristensen stood up to Sergio Cirio from eleven metres, and it was the Spaniard who prevailed with a coolly taken penalty.
While the defeat is unlikely to cost the Roar a spot in the finals, the fallout from the spiteful encounter will no doubt rumble on for some time yet, and it will be interesting to see what punishment Theo ultimately receives.
Meanwhile, Western Sydney Wanderers had no such trouble in dispatching Wellington Phoenix 3-1 in Sunday night’s other fixture, with the Phoenix effectively kissing their top six aspirations goodbye with barely a whimper.
In a season in which the Phoenix should have been expected to prove their worth to the A-League, the Kiwi outfit have been a major disappointment.
Mind you, it was Western Sydney’s first win at Spotless Stadium this season, and that poor form was invariably reflected in the stands, with only a small crowd in attendance.
Wanderers fans will no doubt point to the relatively late Sunday evening kick-off as the reason for the low turn-out, however that’s the price A-League clubs simply have to pay if Football Federation Australia is to allow clubs playing in the AFC Champions League additional time to recover.
The Wanderers have at least rediscovered their scoring touch, on a weekend in which rivals Melbourne City underlined their pedigree by hammering a lacklustre Newcastle Jets 4-0.
City were as impressive as the Novocastrians were poor, and one of the major disappointments from a grinding regular season campaign has been the inability of the bottom four to apply sustained pressure to the top six.
But the major talking point from the second week of the split round was undoubtedly the stoppage-time drama in Adelaide.
The Reds may still prop up the standings, but they’ve just delivered the Roar’s late-season hopes a hammer blow.