Melbourne win A-League Minor Premiership

January 25, 2009
By Ian McCullough

Melbourne Victory clinched the A-League minor premiership title and booked a place in next year's Asian Champions League after Adelaide United only managed to beat Central Coast Mariners 1-0 at Bluetongue Stadium on Sunday.

Aurelio Vidmar's men will now face Ernie Merrick's Victory side in the major semi-final with Queensland Roar and the fourth-placed Mariners set to meet in the second semi-final.

First legs from both games will take place between February 6-8 with the draw to decide venues to take place on Monday morning.

It is only the second time Melbourne have booked a finals spot but the last time they reached this stage, in 2007, they won the grand final after destroying Adelaide 6-0 at Telstra Dome.

Socceroos striker Archie Thompson grabbed five of the six goals that day and he was on target again on Friday night as the Victory ended Wellington Phoenix's finals hopes with an unconvincing 2-0 win.

Despite being under the pump for most of the second half, Thompson struck late to add to Kevin Muscat's first-half penalty.

Brazilian Cristiano grabbed the late winner for Adelaide against the Mariners to grab second spot for his side by virtue of having less goals than Melbourne.

Adelaide needed two goals against the Mariners to win the minor premiership and head into the finals on the back of a marathon season which has seen them reach the Asian Champions League final and play three games in the World Club Championship.

Queensland Roar, who will be looking to make up for last year's preliminary final disappointment, go into the business end of the season as the form team.

Frank Farina's side have lost just twice since round 11 in November and beat Perth Glory 4-2 in an absorbing encounter at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday.

In Sergio van Dijk the Roar have a striker in red-hot form and former Socceroos supremo Farina said he is happy with his side's state of mind.

"Our last number of games here we have come home strong and not let too many things affect our mental or physical attitude," Farina said.

"When you've got the pace that we have and big Sergio (van Dijk), who is in fantastic form at the moment, it's going to be a problem for any team.

"As long as we can maintain that over the next month or so, we are going to have a good shot."

The Central Coast have plenty of finals experience, having appeared in two of the last three grand finals but they have hit a terrible run of form which has seen them taste defeat in their last three games.

The loss of Mile Jedinak to Turkey has hit them hard and they will need to find their form quickly if they are to end their wait for an A-League crown.

In the weekend's other game, Sydney FC ended their poor season on a winning note with a 4-0 win over bottom club Newcastle Jets at Sydney Football Stadium.