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Australian Football Column: Western Sydney Wanderers a step closer, Phoenix respond and more


A brand new feature on this website is the introduction of weekly & fortnightly columns focusing on various leagues, countries and regions across the World. Andrew Cussen analyses and gives his opinion here on the talking points in Australian football.

Phoenix Here to Stay

This past weekend saw eight of ten Hyundai A-League sides take to the pitch in action, while the Western Sydney Wanderers continued on their Asian journey. The Melbourne derby dominated discussion in the papers and online, so let’s explore that, and some other big issues from the past seven days.


CONTENDERS SHOW WHY THEY SHOULD BE FEARED

Sydney FC, Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United produced strong wins this weekend to reinforce their championship credentials. Sydney and Adelaide both won 2-0 against Brisbane and Perth respectively, albeit in very different manners, while Melbourne Victory came from behind twice to run out 5-2 winners over their recently rebranded cross town rivals Melbourne City.

Sydney’s two goals were as spectacular as they come from Marc Janko and then Miloš Dimitrijević, but questions have to be asked of stand in keeper Jamie Young, once an England youth international. Sydney had just 30% of possession against the patient Roar, but remained solid at the back and took their chances. Sky Blues fans will be hoping that the win is a sign of much needed consistency that has plagued Sydney FC for the past few seasons.

Adelaide cut swathes through a Perth Glory side that had looked quite good in their opening two matches, with Adelaide’s Spanish speaking players at the fore. Marcelo Carrusca and Sergio Cirio combined for the opening goal, before exciting teenage winger Awer Mabil sealed the game in the second half. The Reds look a real force this season and there was a sense that this could be their year amongst the crowd on Sunday afternoon.

Victory showcased their defensive vulnerability in the derby, but it was their attacking firepower that won out on the night as they scored four second half goals. The navy blue half of Melbourne recovered from two first half mistakes by goalkeeper Nathan Coe to blow away City in the latter stages, with new signing Besart Berisha scoring a hat trick and veteran Archie Thompson a double. The Victory are less than convincing defensively but if they continue to click in the final third, it may not matter.

The top three on the table are Victory, Sydney and Adelaide. They appear to be the benchmark at this stage and don’t be surprised if that’s the top three come finals time.


WANDERERS A STEP CLOSER TO CONTINENTAL GLORY

The Western Sydney Wanderers did not play in the A-league this weekend, indeed they will not play in the competition until November 7. This is because Saturday night saw them host the first leg of the Asian Champions League Final against Al-Hilal, the showpiece event of the Asian club football calendar.

The Wanderers have been in poor domestic form this season, losing their opening two A-League matches as well as being dumped out of the FFA Cup by lower division side Adelaide City. However, this is largely due to the prioritisation of their Champions League campaign, where their defensive style has suited the competition perfectly.

The Wanderers won the first leg 1-0 and will be relieved to have escaped without conceding an away goal, given that their Saudi Arabian opponents had 19 shots during the match. Al-Hilal host the second leg on Sunday November 2 (Australian time) and will be backed by a raucous crowd of over 60,000. If the Wanderers can hold onto their advantage, they will become the first Australian club ever to win silverware in Asia, after Adelaide United came closest when they also reached the final in 2008.


WELLINGTON CRUSH THE JETS AFTER A BIG WEEK OFF THE FIELD

It’s been a big week or so for the Wellington Phoenix. First they were lambasted for their poor financial contribution to the Australian FA’s pockets and low crowds, and then criticised again on New Zealand TV by a former footballer who suggested the club were failing (You can read why that is not the case here).

In response, the Phoenix fans unveiled a banner with a simple yet strong message before kickoff on Sunday.

The Wellington players also responded, with the Phoenix running out 4-1 victors over the Newcastle Jets. Nathan Burns scored a first half brace and Michael McGlinchey added a third before the Jets scraped one back in the dying minutes through Joel Griffiths. Although the match was won, Phoenix captain Andrew Durante put the icing on the cake with a headed goal deep into added time.

It was a dominant performance from the Phoenix and they now lie in fourth position with two wins from three, but their biggest test yet awaits next Monday night when they face the Victory in Melbourne.


EXTRA TIME DRAMA AND FRUSTRAING OFFICIATING

Sydney FC and Adelaide United met on Tuesday night in an FFA Cup quarter final match that went beyond 90 minutes and was full of controversy. Visitors Adelaide opened the scoring through prolific winger Sergio Cirio, with the hosts levelling through marquee (salary cap exempt) signing Alex Brosque shortly after halftime.

But the match descended into chaos in the latter stages of the second half, with Sydney FC’s captain for the night Nikola Petković sent off for catching United winger Fabio Ferreira with a high boot. Both players go for the ball and miss it but Petković’s foot is high and it’s a clear foul worthy of a yellow card. But the referee in charge Ben Williams has something of a reputation for excessive punishment and brandished the red instead.

The decision infuriated Sydney FC coaches and players and there were several incidents during extra time that caught the eye, with a number of cards being shown as both sides became increasingly frustrated with the officiating.

Adelaide striker Bruce Djite scored once in each half of extra time to ensure United won 3-1 and progressed to the semi finals, with the remaining two quarter finals to be played this Wednesday evening. Williams was stood down from refereeing in the A-League this past weekend as a result of his performance.


TALENT RADAR PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

21 year old Forward Corey Gameiro was inconsistent but showed flashes of his potential during Sydney’s win over Brisbane, playing 89 minutes for the Sky Blues. Midfielder Terry Antonis, 20, and winger Bernie Ibini, 22, also performed ably, playing the full 90 minutes. Gameiro has two goals and an assist so far this season and will be looking to continue that form when Sydney host Central Coast Mariners next Sunday afternoon.

Last week we briefly mentioned Victory fullback Scott Galloway, who this week performed exceptionally well against Melbourne City. The 19 year old kept David Villa quiet for most of the night before being replaced for tactical reasons after 69 minutes. The youngster still has a lot to learn but has shown he is not overawed by the big occasions.

Awer Mabil scored Adelaide’s second goal after coming off the bench, with a smart finish at the near post that sent Perth keeper Danny Vukovic the wrong way. Mabil then showed why he’s not the finished article just yet with a shocking miss in front of an open goal. Rumours have emerged this week that Dutch Champions Ajax are interested in Mabil, but the fans’ favourite still has plenty of improvement left in him. He is a clear talent but needs to nail down a starting place in the United lineup.


Written by Andrew Cussen

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