ASA: Arch rivals Marconi Stallions and Sydney United both kept their top-six hopes alive with vitally important wins in round 22 NSL action last weekend. Marconi finished strongly to end Brisbane Strikers unbeaten home run, while United virtually ended the hopes of Newcastle United.
Sydney United moved back into sixth position that was temporarily taken away from overnight, courtesy of two first half goals from Brendan Santalab and new signing from Wollongong Liam Austin.
Up at Perry Park, Marconi came off its month long hibernation, to get a priceless win against the Strikers and continue its impressive record in the Queensland capital.
The win keeps Marconi three points adrift of Sydney United, but with matches in hand and the two due to play in two weeks time, it will be an interesting couple of weeks. Both also have midweek matches (last Wednesday night) with Brisbane and Sydney replaying their abandoned game from last week and Marconi visiting second placed Parramatta (Round 19).
Played in high humidity, Marconi surprisingly came home the strongest and after captain Brad Maloney had broken the deadlock in the 66th minute, the Stallions were able to grab a late goal from Australian Under 23 member Nick Carle.
Marconi clearly had the better of the first half, as Brisbane looked out of sorts and continually turned over possession.
However the breakthrough came when Carle and Alex Brosque had successive shots parried by Strikers keeper Scott Higgins, but Maloney was left with a simple tap in.
With Brisbane pushing players forward in search of an equaliser, they were exposed at the back and Carle made no mistake with his one-on-one against Higgins.
The loss puts Brisbane in a precarious position and they are only four points clear of 7th position and must win its game against Sydney on Wednesday to give themselves some breathing space.
United however did itself a huge favour with its victory over Newcastle, not only keeping themselves in sixth spot, but also killing off one of its main rivals in the process.
In the end the win was achieved relatively easily, with Newcastle showing little fight and creativity to pose a serious threat to the well-organised United defence.
Newcastle lined up with an attacking formation, but it was United that was exploiting all the space in Newcastle’s defensive region.
Sydney almost had the lead after 15 minutes when Matthew Langdon hit a cracking drive that Tom Willis parried away at full stretch.
Seven minutes later Sydney did have the lead, when Damon Collina’s long ball was flicked on by Paul Ivanic and Santalab running onto the ball, held off Michael Prentice and fired home past Willis.
They doubled the lead five minutes before half time when a Langdon cross from the right, was flicked on by Santalab at the near post and Ivanic managed to get a leg to it and it bobbled home.
The second half was virtually a repeat of the first with the better chances falling to Sydney.
In the 60th minute, Michael Cunico went one-on-one with Willis, but scuffed his shot that allowed Willis to save comfortably.
Newcastle’s only two highlights came from the same players with under 23 hero Ryan Griffiths supplying crosses to Esala Masi, but the Fijian headed both chances wide.
The final chance of the game predictably fell to Sydney, with Franco Parisi getting clear in the box, but from a tight angle he shot hit Willis and went wide.
While Newcastle is still only three points off sixth spot, they have a tough draw and are conceding games to all the teams above them on the table.
NSL Round 22 Results:
FOOTBALL KINGZ 2 (N Hickey 51′, J Rowley 94′)
SYDNEY OLYMPIC 4 (P Cardozo 8′, A Juric 28′, P Bojic 58′, H Ishida 63′)
PARRAMATTA POWER 4 (A Milicic 16′, F Rech 40′, S Petrovski 49′, A Gumprecht 63′)
WOLLONGONG WOLVES 3 (J Van Blerk 3′, C Nwaogazi 23′, N
SOUTH MELBOURNE 4 (A Leijer 23 o. g., K Sarkies 41′, M Curcija 52′, S Tunbridge 90′)
MELBOURNE KNIGHTS 0
PERTH GLORY 2 (D Mori 30′, 34′)
ADELAIDE UNITED 0
BRISBANE STRIKERS 0
MARCONI STALLIONS 2 (B Maloney 66′, N Carle 87′)
SYDNEY UNITED 2 (B Santalab 22′, L Austin 40′)
NEWCASTLE UNITED 0
NORTHERN SPIRIT – BYE
Points Ladder - After Round 22
TEAM P W D L B GF GA PTS
Perth Glory 19 14 2 3 2 44 18 44
Parramatta Power 19 12 2 5 1 47 24 38
South Melbourne 19 11 3 5 2 38 14 36
Brisbane Strikers 19 8 5 6 2 21 23 29
Adelaide United 18 7 7 4 2 19 18 28
Sydney United 18 7 6 5 2 16 14 27
Sydney Olympic 20 6 7 7 1 22 27 25
Marconi Stallions 17 6 6 5 1 18 19 24
Newcastle United 20 6 6 8 2 18 24 24
Wollongong Wolves 20 6 5 9 2 30 38 23
Northern Spirit 19 6 2 11 2 26 30 20
Melbourne Knights 20 4 4 12 1 14 37 16
Football Kingz 20 2 3 15 2 18 45 9