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Monday, February 6, 2012
A-League tops and flops

Rob Brooks

Two European coaches announced they would return home from their respective stints in the A-League at the end of the season, as Vitezslav Lavicka and John van't Schip called time on their Australian sojourn. On the field, Wellington Phoenix continued their rise toward the top of the table, while the league-leading Central Coast Mariners were undone by title holders Brisbane Roar. A goalless Melbourne derby provided more highlights in the stands than on the pitch, and the Newcastle Jets thrashed Sydney FC.

TOP TEAM

Wellington Phoenix edge the Newcastle Jets as this week's top team. The Phoenix made it four victories on the bounce with a 2-1 victory in Adelaide, showing they will be a real threat come finals time. Their ability to score goals from midfield - this week through Tim Brown and Dani Sanchez - evidently making them a real handful for the rest of the league. Indeed, if Wellington continue on in such fine form, they will surely secure a home final and will therefore have a strong chance of progressing to this season's grand final. That will re-open the debate about the New Zealanders entering the AFC Champions League, but for now they will simply be enjoying the ride to the top.

FLOP TEAM

Sydney FC have been known to start matches poorly this season, but their diabolical first 45 minutes against Newcastle was a new low. 3-0 after 38 minutes was probably all Sydney deserved as they invited the Jets deep into their own territory, despite playing at home. A spirited comeback in the second half provided the fans with some hope, but it was shortlived as Gary van Egmond's men ran out 5-2 victors, forcing Sydney outside the top six.

TOP PLAYER

Thomas Broich pulled the strings in Brisbane Roar's 2-0 triumph over Central Coast Mariners in a re-match of last campaign's grand final. The German played with his usual flair and panache, stroking passes through the Mariners' defensive line with ease. A thunderous 30-yard strike in the first half clattered against the post, denying Broich what would have been a contender for goal of the season. Broich, though, did not need a goal this week to show why he is arguably the A-League's best player.

FLOP PLAYER

It has been a tough week for Mariners goalkeeper Justin Pasfield. Standing in for Mat Ryan (away on national team duty), the shot-stopper made two crucial errors on home soil. After being beaten at his near post by an Erik Paartalu strike to concede an early opener, Pasfield was undone by Besart Berisha's somewhat tame effort moments later. Partially unsighted, Pasfield still should have got a firm hand onto Berisha's shot to keep Central Coast in the contest.

TOP COACH

Gary van Egmond has endured something of a topsy-turvy start to his A-League return with Newcastle, but his charges appear to be gathering momentum at the right time of the season. The Jets looked every bit finals contenders in their thumping of Sydney, particularly in the first half when they cut the Sky Blues to shreds down the flanks. Van Egmond's shift of regular right-back Tarek Elrich into a more attacking role is starting to bear fruit, while the combinations of Francis Jeffers, Jeremy Brockie and Michael Bridges have made the Jets a real darkhorse.

FLOP COACH

Vitezslav Lavicka announced he will leave the A-League at the season's end to return to his family in the Czech Republic. Some Sydney FC fans on Sunday will no doubt have wished the news had a more positive effect on their side. In Sydney's less impressive performances this campaign, there has been a real lack of energy and dynamism to their play, for which the coach must take reasonable responsibility. The lethargy and poor structure in the defending for Tarek Elrich's cross for Jeremy Brockie's goal to put Newcastle 3-0 up is a case in point.

GOAL OF THE WEEK

Ruben Zadkovich produced a top-quality finish in the Jets' win. A first-time left-footed half-volley beat Liam Reddy and nestled in the bottom corner of the net to cap a well-worked team move.

SAVE OF THE WEEK

At the other end for Newcastle, Ben Kennedy showed great desperation to keep out a Joel Chianese effort in the second half; first parrying the initial strike before reclaiming with an acrobatic leap to diffuse the situation.




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