Del Piero Done As Perth Sneaks In
By Ed Wyatt
You can almost imagine the folks at Football Federation Australia (FFA) headquarters sitting around on Sunday morning sipping their lattes and cursing Danny Vukovic. When the Perth Glory keeper saved a sizzling shot from Dario Vidisic on the last kick of Saturday night’s match, it meant the Glory’s 1-1 draw had clinched the sixth and final playoff spot and Sydney FC was out of the hunt.
Sydney FC’s exclusion means two big things: not only has Alessandro Del Piero’s magical season come to an end, but the FFA is robbed of a potential money-making blockbuster next week, with Perth now headed to Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium for a meeting with Victory instead of ADP and Sydney.
To be honest, the Sky Blues have only themselves to blame, after digging an early-season hole that proved a little too deep. New coach Frank Farina changed the mindset and improved the fitness, but ultimately the club’s poor goal difference (third worst in the league) was its undoing.
Friday night’s 3-1 blowout at the hands of a rampant Brisbane Roar – who have suddenly rediscovered their mojo – meant that the fate of Farina and Co. was in the hands of Perth and Adelaide. When Vukovic denied Vidosic, it was all over for the Sky Blues.
On the flip side, the FFA would be ecstatic with Western Sydney. The club they started from scratch – and still own – crushed the Newcastle Jets 3-0, clinching the top spot on the table and the Premiers’ Plate trophy.
It was an amazing accomplishment and there were extraordinary scenes at Newcastle’s Hunter Stadium where an estimated 9,000 Western Sydney fans had gathered to celebrate with their team. In what many thought a strange decision, the FFA did not award the Wanderers the plate on the night, ostensibly because the match was not played in Sydney, but more than likely it had to do with worries about crowd trouble.
In other matches, Central Coast beat Melbourne Heart 2-1, and while Mariners’ head coach Graham Arnold rested a number of players, he did not go through with his promise to play the youth team. Heart narrowly avoided finishing on the bottom of the table thanks to its crosstown rivals Melbourne Victory, who beat Wellington 3-2 in Sunday’s final match. The Phoenix have the dubious honour of finishing last.
So the Finals series is now set, with Western Sydney and Central Coast earning a week off. All games are knockout.
A-League Finals Series
Bye: Western Sydney Wanderers (1) and Central Coast Mariners (2)
Game #1: Melbourne Victory (3) v Perth Glory (6), Friday, Etihad Stadium
Game #2: Adelaide United (4) v Brisbane Roar (5), Sunday, Hindmarsh Stadium
Western Sydney Wanderers v lower seeded winner
Central Coast Mariners v higher seeded winner
Grand Final at home ground of higher seeded team (if available and meets capacity requirements)