ASA: The teams for the final NSL Championship Series have all been decided, following tonight’s 4-2 loss by Sydney United at the hands of league leader Perth Glory, with Nick Mrdja scoring a hat-trick for Glory.
The only thing to decide now is which positions the top-six will finish and that could be decided on Wednesday night at Hindmarsh Stadium, if Adelaide can take a point from its match against Parramatta Power. A point will ensure Adelaide finishes in third spot, a remarkable achievement for a team formed a month before the season started.
That will also decide the semi finals to be played with Brisbane unable to finish any higher than sixth and Perth and Parramatta already confirmed as the Major Semi Final teams.
Given that scenario the Elimination Semi Finals will be Adelaide v Brisbane and Marconi v South Melbourne.
If Adelaide doesn’t get the point it needs against Parramatta, Marconi still has an outside chance of securing third, although it must win in Perth for that to happen, which given Perth is unbeaten at home this season, is unlikely.
Perth meanwhile has ended Sydney United’s brave run at the top-six with an exciting 4-2 win at the Sydney United Sports Centre.
Mick Mrdja, back in the starting line-up, made his intentions clear and given coach Mich d’Avray food for thought coming into the finals, by grabbing a hat-trick, with his third goal coming with virtually the last play of the game.
The match however saw Perth and United managed to produce a match of the utmost class.
In a surprise move Damien Mori played in the defence for the visitors and Anthony Doumanis and Franco Parisi started on the bench for the home side.
It was the locals who started well with Mark Beldham just managing to put the ball wide of the far post in the third minute.
In the 16th minute Wayne Shroj could only shoot the ball at the keeper after good lead up work from Jade North. In the 22nd minute Beldham had another opportunity, this time laid on by Dean Heffernan in the area but Beldham tripped up on the ball and could not get a shot away.
Despite United great start it was they that gave the lead away when in the 27th minute, Joe Vrkic gave the ball away and Nick Mrdja ran onto it and fired home with a cracking shot from 25 metres, leaving Liam Reddy grasping at air.
In the 41st minute, after a number of United chances went astray, Perth doubled their lead, again thanks to the feet of Mrdja. The ball was chipped into the path of Mrdja and he beat the defence trying to track back, and Liam Reddy scrambling towards him, to score his second of the match.
Right on half time United had the chance to get back in the match but several shots on goal in the final frantic minute were either saved by Vince Matassa in the Perth goal or blocked on the line by Glory players.
In the second half United again started strongly but were blocked by the Perth defence, with Mori in particular doing well, all be it his head was all bandaged up after a first half head clash. In the 49th minute it looked as if Perth would score on the break once more as Adrian Caceras from the left beat his marker and played it back into Greg Sharland but like Beldham for United in the first half, he tripped up on the ball and the chance was blown.
Brendon Santalab and Labinot Haliti were very involved in the following passages of play and United looked likely to get back into the match. In the 66th minute Franco Parisi, finally on as substitute, managed to fire over the bar from just 15 metres out.
Two minutes later though Brendon Santalab saw Matassa out of position and from the left he put his free kick in at the near post. United were back but it seemed they would be denied as two minutes later Brad Hassell took a controversial free kick quickly, with United not yet set, and the ball went into the back of the net.
Perth 3-1 but United were not going to lie down. Franco Parisi flew down the right flank, held it up at the byline and then played it to Dean Heffernan unmarked on the far post, and Heffernan slotted home. United threw everything in the final minutes, even with ten men after Brendon Santalab came off with a bad ankle injury.
In the last minute of the match Nick Mrdja scored from the break collecting his hat trick and sending the large Perth contingent of supporters into raptures.
After the match Mich d’Avray was happy with his team’s performance, especially given the number of players not normally in the starting line up who were playing.
Grant Lee was obviously disappointed with the result, especially with the three mistakes his players made leading to three of the Perth goals.
NSL 2003-04 – Round 25 results
(Round 21 Deferred Fixture)
ADELAIDE UNITED 1 (C Veart 3′)
MARCONI STALLIONS 0
(Round 21 Deferred Fixture)
NORTHERN SPIRIT 1 (J Richter 60′)
FOOTBALL KINGZ 0
NEWCASTLE UNITED 0
MELBOURNE KNIGHTS 2 (A Pelikan 64′, 75′ pen)
PARRAMATTA POWER 3 (F Rech 4′, A Milicic 34′, M Thompson 82′)
SYDNEY OLYMPIC 2 (Z Caravella 3′, P Cardozo 43′)
BRISBANE STRIKERS 0
WOLLONGONG WOLVES 1 (C Nwaogazi 34′)
SYDNEY UNITED 2 (B Santalab 69′, D Heffernan 78′)
PERTH GLORY 4 (N Mrdja 28′, 38′, 92′, B Hassell 70′)
SOUTH MELBOURNE 1 (V Coveny 71′)
NORTHERN SPIRIT 2 (A Kwasnik 52′, J Richter 68′)
MARCONI STALLIONS – BYE
TABLE - After Round 25
TEAM P W D L B GF GA PTS
Perth Glory 23 18 2 3 2 54 20 56
Parramatta Power 23 15 3 5 1 56 30 48
Adelaide United 22 11 7 4 2 27 21 40
Marconi Stallions 23 10 7 6 2 27 23 37
South Melbourne 23 11 3 9 2 39 21 36
Brisbane Strikers 23 9 5 9 2 25 29 32
Sydney Olympic 23 7 7 9 2 26 31 28
Sydney United 23 7 7 9 2 18 25 28
Northern Spirit 23 8 3 12 2 29 32 27
Wollongong Wolves 23 7 5 11 2 31 41 26
Newcastle United 23 6 6 11 2 18 30 24
Melbourne Knights 23 6 4 13 2 21 41 22
Football Kingz 23 3 3 17 2 21 48 12