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A-League tops and flops

This weekend saw the league-leading Central Coast Mariners have their game against Gold Coast postponed due to flooding in Queensland and the Wellington Phoenix moved into second with a thumping victory over Melbourne Heart. The Newcastle Jets turned around their fortunes on the road in Brisbane, while Adelaide were stunned at home by Perth Glory. Melbourne Victory, meanwhile, kicked off the round against foes Sydney FC, but in a result which sums up both clubs' season, neither could jag a winner.


Wellington Phoenix looked a shambles at the start of the season, but new ownership has evidently provided the resources needed for on-field success. The New Zealanders recorded a well-deserved 3-1 win over the fifth-placed Melbourne Heart to send a signal of intent to the rest of the league. They may still be ten points short of the Mariners, but a few more results like this will see them become genuine contenders come finals time.


It has been a tough season for Adelaide United fans and Sunday afternoon, unfortunately, proved no different. The Reds have been improving of late, but were thumped at home by Perth Glory, leaving coach John Kosmina to blast the effort and naivety of his side. Many, including myself, predicted big things of Adelaide this season, and their team sheet suggests a team which should be challenging for honours. But a lack of cohesion has hampered their campaign and a change of coach appears to have done little to fix the crux of the problem. If Adelaide are to reach the finals, results and performances like this will simply not be good enough.


Paul Ifill again showed why he is one of the finest imports to have graced the A-League stage. The former Crystal Palace man bagged a brace and generally tore the Heart defence apart with his intelligent hold-up play and diagonal runs in behind. A goal in the third minute set the scene while his second-half rounding of Clint Bolton to put the result beyond doubt capped a wonderful individual display.


In a round which saw 12 goals scored in four games, it would be easy to pick out a defender or goalkeeper in this category. However, for wasting a number of chances early on Bruce Djite altered the match for his side for the worse. Had Djite hit target with just one of his gilt-edged opportunities in the opening 25 minutes before the wheels fell off for United, it could have been a different match altogether.


Ricki Herbert was given a terrible off-season to prepare his squad for the campaign ahead, but the Wellington coach has grafted his team into second place, all but securing a spot in the finals. The Phoenix defence were miserly, offering the Heart nothing in front of goal, while the midfield pressed perfectly to inhibit the likes of Matt Thompson and Jonatan Germano. The only negative for Herbert was the injury picked up by Leo Bertos, which has turned out to be less serious than first feared.


John Kosmina may have accused his charges of being "not mentally and emotionally resilient enough", but he too must take responsibility for such a poor result at home. The Adelaide defence, in particular, looked ragged and without a plan in their loss to Perth. The axing of Jon McKain as captain after Kosmina took over from Rini Coolen likely didn't help matters. Hindsight may show this as a glitch in their comeback, but only time will tell and, for now, it will do little to ease the anger of Reds' fans.


Liam Miller's slaloming run through the Adelaide defence must get the nod. The former Manchester United midfielder has arguably gone missing at times this season, but he showed the full range of his skillful repertoire as he capped a great result away from home for Perth.


Sydney FC shot-stopper Liam Reddy kept his side in the contest with a brilliant save off the foot against Victory striker Archie Thompson. A draw did neither side any favours, but Reddy's reflex parry along with a similar effort from Melbourne counterpart Ante Covic, salvaged something out of the game.


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