Round 5 of the A-League brought some further clarity to some clubs, muddied the waters for others and confirmed a compelling battle for the league's top spot. Both Wellington Phoenix and Melbourne Heart remain winless, Western Sydney Wanderers remain undefeated but Brisbane Roar are again top of the ladder at the conclusion of the weekend. Here's a quick look at each of the five games from the fifth week of the season:
Friday November 8: Melbourne Heart 0 - Western Sydney Wanderers 1
The weekend opened at AAMI Park with the usual Heart crowd of just over 8000. Western Sydney spent two days atop the ladder after this one, having taken a first half lead through Shannon Cole's 27th minute goal. The home side were not completely outplayed, and a Mate Dugandzic shot did hit the crossbar late in the game, but for the tenth consecutive time, dating to last season, the Heart failed to win. Tony Popovic's Wanderers continue their streak of twelve unbeaten, again dating to last season, and have shown resolve to grind out victories at home or away. Perhaps Western Sydney are less explosive than they were in their debut season but they already seem to be as composed and a serious challenge for a second premiership.
Saturday November 9: Wellington Phoenix 1 - Perth Glory 1
Playing at AMI Stadium in Christchurch, Wellington could not make its early goal stand and drew its third game of the young season. Andrew Durante, spared from an early exit for New Zealand duty, knocked in a fourth minute goal to give the nominally home side a bright start. Ryo Nagai answered for Perth just before the half-hour, claiming level terms after a nice build-up from Scott Jamieson. Louis Fenton was removed at half-time after allowing so much possession from his right back position, but the damage was done with Nagai's goal. Despite frantic attempts late in the game to find a winner, neither side could quite get past the other and 1-1 remained as the final score. The road point for the Glory is a nice one, considering the distance traveled, and they slid up to fourth place. Ernie Merrick's Phoenix will remain thankful for Melbourne Heart as Wellington inch up to ninth.
Saturday November 9: Adelaide United 1 - Newcastle Jets 2
Round 5's most surprising result came at the Coopers Stadium as Newcastle scored on either side of half-time to win its first game of the season. Adelaide had been playing attractive football but failing to earn results to match the style of play. While the season is by no means lost, this result is the most damning given the Jets' struggles in the early part of the year. Kew Jaliens scored the opener in the 41st minute and Adam Taggart gave the visitors a 2-0 lead in the 52nd, forcing Josep Gombau's side to really go for it over the final half-hour. Fabio Ferreira pulled one back twenty minutes from time with a nice header but a red card to Nigel Boogaard in the 90th minute put the hosts a man down for injury time. Emile Heskey finally debuted this season for Newcastle, as did Cassio and Bruce Djite for the Reds. Such is the state at the bottom of the ladder that Newcastle's first win moved them into a finals position while Adelaide, who have played so well, finish the round in eighth.
Saturday November 9: Sydney FC 3 - Melbourne Victory 2
The weekend's most exciting match came in Sydney as the Sky Blues might have just saved Frank Farina's job with a pulsating win over rivals Melbourne Victory at the Allianz Stadium. Richard Garcia scored in the 3rd minute and Seb Ryall's face deflected a ball over the line in the 15th as Sydney jumped out to a stunning early lead. But Conor Pain set a ball perfectly in place for Archie Thompson three minutes later and James Troisi scored just before half-time to level terms for the Victory after Marc Warren was sent off. Pablo Contreras gave away a penalty in fouling Alessandro Del Piero who then converted from the spot in the 37th minute on the occasion of his 39th birthday. All told, five goals, a penalty and a red card before half-time. The second half saw some nice chances for both sides but despite the man advantage, Kevin Muscat's charges could not come back for a level score again. Perhaps Farina's job would not have been lost this weekend, but a shorthanded win against the club's oldest rival certainly puts him in position to stick around for a while longer.
Sunday November 10: Central Coast Mariners 0 - Brisbane Roar 1
Kwame Yeboah was on the park for just two minutes before notching the weekend's most dramatic goal for visiting Brisbane at Bluetongue Stadium. The 19-year-old scored on a scorching shot in the 89th minute to take two points from a Mariners side missing Michael McGlinchey and Storm Roux due to New Zealand duty. Apart from their well played but ultimately failed result against Melbourne Victory in Ange Postecoglou's final A-League match, the Roar have been deserving of their top record, outscoring the other four opponents 10-1. The Mariners tried to slow the game down and limit Brisbane's chances but the Roar's depth showed through again with the insertion of Yeboah late in the game. The match did mark the return of Daniel McBreen, but it could take some time before his presence can be worked into balance with offseason recruit Marcos Flores.