Captain's knocks, new faces and match-winning braces: The A-League players who were the difference in Round 19
Round 19 was an interesting weekend of football with no draws, 19 goals in six matches, two five-goal games on Sunday and for the…
After another gruesome round of tipping, the panel is back on the horse and prepared to have another shot, as the A-League Men enters its final month of regular season play.
Many a sides’ chances of finals’ play could be killed off this coming weekend, with Western United, Newcastle Jets, Macarthur FC and Perth Glory all teetering on a knife’s edge heading into Round 23.
Melbourne Victory and Brisbane Roar still hold miracle hopes yet this could be the final week they exist, should three points not come their way.
Good luck with your tips for the round and be sure to enter them in the sheet below to have a say in the roar of the crowd. The tipping looks likely to come down to a three horse race between the people, Texi Smith and yours truly and here is the way the panel sees all the action unfolding in Round 23.
Draw, Adelaide, Brisbane, Western Sydney, Perth, Draw
Western United will be kicking themselves after throwing away what looked like a certain victory against Sydney FC last weekend. The defending champs desperately need all three points to keep their faint finals hope alive, but they may have left their run too late.
They aren’t helped by the lack of a home ground, and their peripatetic travels take them to Ballarat for this clash. The Mariners have proved tough to beat at home, but they’ve only taken a point from their last three away games. This could finish all square.
Not only are Adelaide United unbeaten since January 7, they saw off Western Sydney Wanderers with relative ease in a spiteful encounter in Parramatta last weekend. They won’t fear the visit of Sydney FC at the fortress that is Coopers Stadium, and they’ll hope for a decent Easter Friday turn-out in what is undoubtedly the highlight fixture of the round.
The Sky Blues had Robert Mak to thank for their spirited comeback in that 3-3 draw with Western United. But it’s hard to see how the Reds don’t prevail here.
Brisbane Roar were turned over by the Central Coast Mariners last weekend, with the club having more or less given up on this season. Interim coach Nick Green would do well to give a few of the Roar’s fringe players a run, while the Jets go into this encounter on the back of a similarly mediocre run of form.
They’ve conceded stoppage-time equalisers in each of their past two games, and I suspect they’ll cop an ambush from a Brisbane Roar side that can safely go into the clash with nothing to fear.
Talk about a season to forget for the Bulls. Mile Sterjovski might be a better cultural fit for the south-western Sydney battlers than Dwight Yorke turned out to be, but the problem for the former Socceroo is that results just aren’t going his way.
The Bulls have taken just one point from the last three games and threw away the lead in their defeat to Perth last weekend. The Wanderers are missing skipper Marcelo through suspension, but they should have the quality to claim all three points in Campbelltown.
Melbourne Victory go into their clash with Perth on the back of playing 69 minutes against Melbourne City midweek. They recorded back-to-back wins either side of the international break, but they’ll do well to avoid finishing bottom of the standings this season.
Perth Glory have taken seven points from the last nine on offer to leave Ruben Zadkovich dreaming of a spot in the finals. They’ll struggle to get there unless they win games like this one, and they’ll never have a better chance to claim all three points at AAMI Park.
Melbourne City needed a stoppage-time equaliser from teenager Max Caputo to claim a share of the spoils in their 1-1 draw with the Newcastle Jets, and there’s no doubt they’ve gone off the boil in recent weeks.
They’re not helped by having had to play their half-finished Melbourne Derby in midweek, and they’ll face a fired-up Wellington Phoenix side, still chasing their own spot in the finals. They come into this game on the back of a couple of disappointing defeats, but they should be good for a point here.
United, Adelaide, Newcastle, Western Sydney, Victory, City.
The Mariners spanked the Roar last time out but…..that is the wooden spoon-bound Roar. United to keep their hopes alive with a home win. The Reds should beat Sydney comfortably, especially considering the Sky Blues cannot defend and Adelaide can certainly attack. 4-1.
If Newcastle get the points against Brisbane, they could well sniff a finals appearance. The Hunter needs that and I’m backing it in. More misery for the Roar. It is hard not to see the Wanderers bouncing back after a loss, and they should against a Macarthur team that looks depleted and bordering on disinterest.
I’m tipping Victory to keep their slim finals’ hopes alive with a win over the Glory in Melbourne on Sunday afternoon, yet would prefer to see the visitors keep their charge going. Sadly, I think it ends here for Perth Glory. Melbourne City have been rubbish lately and they need a win. The Phoenix on the road is a perfect set up for them. 3-0 to the home side.
Draw, Adelaide, Draw, Western Sydney, Perth, City
Central Coast bounced back into form last week, though Western United may harness one last push. Adelaide are rampaging at the moment and must take this form into the finals, they should have enough against Sydney at home.
Possibly the two most disappointing sides meet when the Roar face the Jets, they’ll disappoint us again. Macarthur have fallen away terribly, they’ll be no match for their cousins up the road.
A big opportunity for Perth to face the Victory after a midweek match, this may finally be the week that the Glory has a win on the road. Wellington will be looking over their shoulder after a couple of disappointing losses, they’ll throw everything at City but I’m not sure it’ll be enough.
Central Coast, Adelaide. Draw, Western Sydney, Victory, City
United let slip a two goal lead and a chance to vault into the top six at the expense of last week’s opponents Sydney FC. The Mariners are on a weekly peaks-and-troughs run at the moment. This one is the designated trough, and they’re not good value in Melbourne. Lucky this is being played on Mars.
Adelaide are like the perfect date; entertaining and winning. Sydney dug themselves out of a hole last week but the Reds are the form team of the A League and almost unstoppable at home.
The Jets are running out of time to sneak into the playoffs despite an encouraging draw against City last start. The Roar are running out of just about everything but seem harder to toss north of the border.
Come on. The Wanderers will win this 4-0, they always do. The Bulls have fared horribly against their nearest neighbours this season. Even though the Wanderers lost last week, it’s hard to see them dropping anything at Campbelltown except opposition heads and hearts.
Having finally got the spectre of “that” derby game settled midweek, the Victory will be eager to recapture their late season form. Perth are on the road again, but unlike Willie Nelson, it’s not something they can’t wait to do.
They won on Wednesday but something hasn’t been the same about City in a while. Jamie Maclaren has had his longest goal drought in many seasons and the aura of dominance is not as evident.
The Phoenix conspired to lose at home to Victory last week and their season – so promising a month ago – is starting to falter. But Oskar Zawada keeps scoring so they’ve just got to find a way to keep the other guys out.
United, Sydney, Newcastle, Western Sydney, Victory, City
Western United let a commanding lead slip in Sydney last week and with Central Coast Mariners arriving on the back of a thumping win against Brisbane Roar, this could spell trouble in Ballarat.
Dylan Pierias is finally showing us what he can offer and should continue his exciting running football here, but the Mariners have plenty of firepower themselves. Football though, works in mysterious ways, and when Michael Ruhs steps onto the field in the second half with the scores poised at 0-0, the plot will be written.
Alessandro Diamanti creating a late chance for Ruhs who slots a great finish to win the game for the ‘home’ side in this low-key Good Friday afternoon clash.
Adelaide United are on the sort of run that wins a premiership. Think Manchester United in 1996 overhauling Newcastle United for the crown in the EPL. Sydney FC are that festering boil of a team that just won’t go away, somehow clinging to their sixth spot despite playing anything but championship football.
This is set up for a fire-cracker, and it will be one-way traffic in a pulsating first half as Sydney hang on to parity. Inspirational, rousing words from Steve Corica will have the Sky Blues firing after half time and the top six within reach for the visitors.
Brisbane Roar will try and pick up the pieces against the Jets, who were so unlucky and a little wasteful in their draw at reigning premiers Melbourne City. Redcliffe is not an easy place for visiting teams, and Jay O’Shea will remind Newcastle of that, as the league’s basement club take an early lead in front of a sparse holiday weekend crowd.
The Jets will be level by half time through Jason Hoffman to reignite their top-six aspirations, and the A-League’s Jack Grealish will come off the bench to nick a win; Daniel Stynes’ spaghetti legs weaving through the defence to slot a Ninkovic-style winner for the visitors.
Somewhat of a derby, but not really, this fixture gives Wanderers fans the impression that they are doing a big away trip while remaining inside the Sydney metropolitan area. The Bulls do have a lot of class in their team, despite being third from bottom, but a win here could catapult them up the table into the top six.
It won’t happen though, as the Western Sydney midfield simply swamps the less forceful Macarthur team, and once they get going, Calem Nieuwenhof and Romain Amalfitano are like Rolls Royce’s; big turning circles, but very difficult to stop. Oli Bozanic will open the scoring midway through the first half and the goals will flow.
Victory’s bounce in form has seen them quietly reduce the gap to sixth, and Perth’s travel sickness will continue at AAMI Park. The visitors though, will patiently wait for their opportunities, Adam Taggart playing a lone forward role to perfection, and they will be unfortunate not to be ahead at the break.
Jack Clisby’s long-range effort off the post will change the game and Victory will push forward late on; Nishan Vellupillay with the goal in the last five minutes to break Glory hearts. Victory for the finals, you heard it here first!
Melbourne City need to assert their premiership credentials in this Easter Monday spectacular against an equally shot-shy Wellington Phoenix. City mustn’t realise the weapons they have in their arsenal, and with Florin Berenguer seamlessly in for Scott Jamieson, there should be nothing stopping the home team from racking up the chances.
|WUN vs CCM
|ADL vs SYD
|BRI vs NEW
|MAC vs WSW
|MVC vs PER
|MCY vs WEL