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Tuesday, February 28, 2012
A-League tops and flops

Rob Brooks

Brisbane Roar's return to top form continued this week as they thumped Perth, while their rivals Central Coast suffered a shock defeat in Melbourne. Newcastle Jets snuck into the top six at the expense of Sydney FC, and Gold Coast remain rooted to the bottom of the table following a 1-1 draw with the Victory. Meanwhile, the battle between Football Federation Australia and Gold Coast owner Clive Palmer rumbled on after the Queensland club wore jerseys with "Freedom of Speech" emblazoned across the front.


Brisbane Roar made it four wins on the bounce with an emphatic 3-0 triumph in Perth over the Glory. Ian Ferguson's men had no answer for the constant barrage of pressure piled on by the Roar. Henrique started the scoring in the first half before the A-League's leading marksman Besart Berisha bagged a second-half brace to round off the scoring. The win leaves Brisbane breathing down the neck of the Mariners at the top of the table in what should be a thrilling end to the regular season.


Though Perth suffered a heavy defeat, Adelaide United showed little in their outing in Newcastle. The Reds are all but out of finals contention now to end a disappointing campaign despite having a strong squad on their books. Adelaide again looked out of sorts on Friday evening, with simple switches of play and diagonal balls missing the mark. Up front, the talent of Dario Vidosic seems wasted and it's no wonder the former Nurnberg striker kicked out in frustration after being substituted in the second half.


Besart Berisha has proven himself to be the competition's most consistent goalscorer this season and his two goals against Perth move his tally to 17, six clear of his nearest rivals Jeremy Brockie and Shane Smeltz. The Albanian has been lethal for the defending champions this term, and his regular scoring has no doubt kept Brisbane in contention for more silverware. Berisha is on target to surpass the regular season goalscoring record set by Smeltz in 2009-10 and at this rate could easily set a mark that will not be topped for some years.


Jacob Burns was guilty of giving the ball away far too cheaply to allow Brisbane to score their opening goal when he gifted possession to Berisha. With the Roar in fine fettle, errors such as Burns' will be punished, and to do so at home in such a high stakes game is not what is expected of a club captain. Never far from controversy, Burns was also involved in the sending off of Henrique, who retaliated with a slap to the Glory skipper following an elbow to the jaw of the Brazilian. Referee Strebre Delovski evidently ruled Burns' elbow to be accidental, but there is reason to suspect the whistle-blower may have been conned.


Ricki Herbert edges the achievement of Ange Postecoglou this week as Wellington lifted themselves out of a slump in Sydney. The New Zealanders were compact and disciplined throughout the contest, and were tested for extended periods by the Sky Blues. But after suffering two straight defeats in recent weeks, the Phoenix played to their game played expertly, hitting swiftly on the counter to snare a valuable three points on the road to move back into third position. If Herbert can guide his team to victory next week at home to the Gold Coast, the Phoenix will find themselves in a superb position heading into the finals.


John Kosmina was surprisingly upbeat after Adelaide's loss to the Jets. The Reds boss refused to concede his side's chances of a finals berth were at an end, but more confusing was his analysis of Adelaide's performance. He said: "The guys have put in the effort, it is not like we are playing badly at all, we are playing good football, we played good football tonight, we played enough good football to deserve a result or at least some sort of an outcome. I have had a look at the stats, they [the Jets] had a bit more possession but they played a lot of it in their half of the field, and we made them turn the ball over a lot, but we made one silly mistake and it cost us." Newcastle had 57% of the ball and Adelaide's only real opportunity came from a Sergio van Dijk strike from 25 yards deep into the second half. Adelaide will need to find some real answers if they are to overcome a streak of one win - against bottom-placed Gold Coast - in nine matches.


Carlos Hernandez delivered yet another cracking strike in the Victory's draw with Gold Coast, hitting a sweet right-footed first-time strike to give Jerrad Tyson no chance.


Newcastle Jets' Ben Kennedy had precious little to do against Adelaide, but made an excellent save to his left when Sergio van Dijk hit a bullet from long distance. The diving effort helped Newcastle claim all three points en route to a top-six spot.

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