Almost every time we think we know something about the A-League, the next round of games seems to splinter previous held notions and recasts the league for the next weekend. Perth Glory, Nathan Burns and John Aloisi showed this week that narratives are not necessarily based in reality. Here's how the A-League's ninth round happened:
Friday December 6: Adelaide United 1 - Brisbane Roar 2
Two more goals for Besart Berisha sent Brisbane Roar five points clear atop the A-League ladder on Friday night in Adelaide. The visitors' 2-1 victory at the Coopers Stadium came thanks to a Brisbane comeback after Osama Malik opened scoring for the home side in the 7th minute. Having never scored in his first forty-nine games in the competition, Malik has now scored twice in the past four games. But unlike his first goal, in Perth in Round 6, Malik's goal did not lead to a result for the Reds. Instead, Berisha won a penalty and converted in the 21st minute to level the score before winning the game with a bizarre goal in the 72nd. In between, Adelaide had plenty of chances but either could not put them on frame or they were denied by Matt Acton, playing again in place of Michael Theo. The loss keeps United without a win since the opening round of the season while the Roar are the undisputed leaders of the pack. Adelaide next host Central Coast Mariners on Saturday December 14 at the Coopers Stadium while Brisbane make the long trip to Wellington to play the Phoenix at Westpac Stadium on Saturday the 14th.
Friday December 6: Perth Glory 4 - Wellington Phoenix 2
Sidnei scored the game's first and last goals as Perth Glory sandwiched a pair of Wellington Phoenix goals in a 4-2 win at the nib Stadium on Friday night. The Glory, missing a bevy of players due to injury (Scott Jamieson, William Gallas, Shane Smeltz), suspension (Jacob Burns) and transfer (Steve Pantelidis), turned to youngsters without much starting experience to face Wellington. There was little choice for Alistair Edwards but his teenaged players did well enough to allow their more experienced teammates to score four times. Sidnei's brilliant opener was canceled out by Stein Hueysegms and Paul Ifill before the Glory got back on track on the hour. Sidnei assisted on Michael Thwaite's equalizer before Adrian Zahra scored the match winner in the 82nd minute. Sidnei's second came in injury time, capping off a fine performance and leaving the Phoenix without a win entering the tenth round of the season. Perth will return to the east coast on Friday night with a chance to get back into a finals position against Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park. Wellington host top of the ladder Brisbane on Saturday in a game that looks even less likely to produce Ernie Merrick's first Phoenix victory.
Saturday December 7: Western Sydney Wanderers 1 - Melbourne Heart 1
Though they still have not won a game this year, Melbourne Heart did well to share points with Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday afternoon at Pirtek Stadium. David Williams scored for the fourth time this season as Heart took an unlikely lead at the home of the premiership holders. But as has been the case each time the Melbourne side have held a lead in this season, their opponent came back to earn a draw. Aaron Mooy scored the equalizer for the Wanderers in the 44th minute, leaving the length of Heart's lead at just six minutes. Yet the visitors held on to snag a point for the second straight week and move level on points with Wellington Phoenix. Granted, they are still bottom based on goal difference but at least there is some life in John Aloisi's team. Meanwhile, the Wanderers failed to beat either the Phoenix or the Heart in consecutive weekends, which will be extremely disappointing for Tony Popovic. Western Sydney are still second but travel to the Hunter Stadium on Saturday December 14 for a huge game against third place Newcastle Jets. Heart go back to Sydney, this time to the city for a Sunday game against Sydney FC.
Saturday December 7: Central Coast Mariners 1 - Sydney FC 0
Daniel McBreen sent Sydney FC to its first loss since November 2 compliments of a wonderful backheel goal in the first half at Bluetongue Stadium on Saturday night. Over 10,000 came out for the game against the red hot Sky Blues but it was Central Coast Mariners who rediscovered their form following last week's 0-0 draw with Melbourne Victory. A week after the send off for Peter Turnbull and Graham Arnold, Phil Moss advanced his own cause with the club's third win of the season. For Sydney, the loss ends a club record streak of four straight wins and keeps the Sky Blues from any result other than a win or a loss this year. Whereas Frank Farina was very much under fire a month ago, this loss against the reigning champions will not necessarily reignite the flames that previously threatened to consume him, thanks to the winning streak. Sydney will host a much more respectable Melbourne Heart side on Sunday December 15 than the one they easily defeated at AAMI Park back on November 15. The Mariners go to Adelaide to face the struggling Reds with a chance to more seriously cement their status as a finals team.
Sunday December 8: Melbourne Victory 1 - Newcastle Jets 2
The weekend's final match was the 1000th in the history of the A-League. Newcastle Jets' Nathan Burns did his best to celebrate the occasion in scoring two goals at AAMI Park, on either side of James Troisi's goal for Melbourne Victory. The win for Newcastle was a nice rebound after last week's 2-0 loss to Sydney FC and sends the Jets back to third place, just a point behind Western Sydney Wanderers. For the Victory, who are only in a finals position on goal difference, the game was the first this season at AAMI Park after four home games at Etihad Stadium to start the year. Kevin Muscat's side has been up and down since he took over for Ange Postecoglou, sometimes exerting themselves as a top level team while other times failing to live up to what were high but reasonable expectations. A quick turnaround awaits Melbourne as they'll host injury-plagued Perth Glory on Friday night December 13 back at AAMI Park. The Jets host Western Sydney on Saturday December 14 at the Hunter Stadium with a chance to give Brisbane a serious challenge for the top rung of the ladder.