Mike Mulvey's league leaders claimed all three points despite being outplayed early in their match at home to New Zealand opposition, while the Wanderers banished their worries1. The mark of champions? Roar win the hard way (Dan Colasimone @ Suncorp Stadium)
If the Roar went through something of a slump recently, registering a loss and a draw in their last two matches, then the rest of the competition needs to be a bit concerned, as the Brisbane side still sat five points clear at the top before taking on Wellington at Suncorp Stadium. Mike Mulvey's men showed great composure to come from a goal down to roll the Phoenix thanks to a late Luke Brattan goal, especially considering how comfortable the Kiwis looked for most of the first half.
The win keeps Brisbane ahead of the chasing pack, and was also notable for the debut of yet another teenage wunderkind in Devante Clut, who scored a cracking goal of his own. Ernie Merrick said after the game that he was pleased with his side's efforts, and so he should be, as they could quite easily have come away with a point or three from this one. Mulvey pegged the Phoenix for a top four finish, and the way they are playing, that may well come to fruition.
2. Adelaide escape off-day, Heart revival continues (Steve Barrett @ Coopers Stadium)
Having been up for some time now, Adelaide United experienced an inevitable letdown on Saturday, but suffered no real collateral damage after escaping with a last-ditch 2-2 draw against Melbourne Heart. The undisciplined manner in which the Reds conceded both second-half goals - from a penalty and then a goal on the end of a free-kick - will be of some concern for Josep Gombau's charges, recently priding themselves on their catalogue of clean sheets. An undefeated fortnight on the road coming up will wipe away the memory of United's ho-hum performance against Melbourne and ensure the Reds re-emerge as a genuine title contender.
For a team sitting stone-cold last on the A-League ladder, the mood in the Heart camp is one of buoyancy with a realistic sense that more prosperous days are ahead. John van 't Schip's men followed their drought-breaking win over the Newcastle Jets with a 2-2 draw against the heavily-favoured Reds, the two promising results sandwiching the exciting news that English Premier League powerhouse Manchester City had purchased battling Heart. There's a spring in the step of the second Melbourne team. With captain Harry Kewell recapturing some of his old magic, giant Dutchman Orlando Engelaar on the comeback trail from a broken leg and Iain Ramsay nearing career-best form, last-placed Heart surely can't make the finals but they certainly have the talent to shape them with some late-season giant-killing performances.
3. Settled Mariners looking the goods (Hamish Neal @ Bluetongue Stadium)
The Central Coast Mariners' first-half effort against Newcastle was possibly their best this season, while Matt Simon and Daniel McBreen scoring again will give them both huge confidence in the final three months of the regular season. Having played the same starting eleven in back-to-back games for the first time has delivered some stability for Mariners coach Phil Moss. In replacing sacked coach Gary Van Egmond caretaker Clayton Zane has a mighty, and in all probability unlikely, task to get Newcastle into the top six. Their youngsters were amongst their best and they need to play as often as possible to build confidence and cohesion.
4. Muscat under the pump as Victory fall apart (Iain Strachan @ Etihad Stadium)
For the first time since taking over from Ange Postecoglou, Kevin Muscat is now under genuine scrutiny as Melbourne Victory head coach after overseeing successive 5-0 thrashings. Sunday's loss at home to arch-rivals Sydney FC was the navy blue and whites' worst ever home defeat and the margin could have been even greater if the Sky Blues had taken all of the chances they were presented with by a truly inept home team. There has been a fair amount of turmoil at Victory in recent weeks, with Mitch Nichols forcing a move to Japan and Tom Rogic arriving on loan, captain Mark Milligan out following knee surgery and players away on international duty with Australia's Under-22 side. Constant changes to the defence due to injury, suspension and absentees have seen the team ship 15 goals in their last five matches, while struggling to create at the other end. Muscat has to take his squad by the scruff of the neck and put things right if they are to revive their flagging hopes of a top-two finish. But if they don't get it right soon, it will be a berth in the finals they are trying to save.
5. Rampant Wanderers back on track (John Greco @ Pirtek Stadium)
Slump? What form slump? The nasty S-word had been mentioned about the Western Sydney Wanderers after just one win from their previous four games heading into the clash with Perth Glory.
But it took just 45 minutes of complete dominance to dispel any notion the Wanderers had hit a wall. Only some superb goal-keeping from Danny Vukovic prevented Tony Popovic's side from a huge Australia Day win.
With the likes of Tomi Juric, Jerome Polenz, Mateo Poljak and Iacopo La Rocca still to come back into the side, the Wanderers are set to push the Brisbane Roar all the way over the next few months.
And the manner of the defeat shouldn't spell disaster for the Glory either.
While Kenny Lowe's side have fallen out of the top six due to their first loss in four games, they shouldn't dwell too much on this performance and they are still very much contenders for a finals spot.
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