Five things we learned from A-League round 15

Melbourne Victory are poised to make a run at first place in the competition, provided they can safely negotiate a tricky little period before coming to grips with Sydney FC in the "Big Blue".

Melbourne Victory

Melbourne Victory celebrate their win against Brisbane Roar. Source: Getty Images

1. Melbourne Victory have got Sydney FC right where they want them

If Victory hold their form between now and then, they will be playing for the competition lead when they meet Sydney FC at Etihad Stadium on January 26.

Even if it doesn't work out that way, the Australia Day clash will still be the most eagerly-anticipated game of the season because the two teams have pulled away from the other eight on the table.

The Sky Blues have held the lead since round one, but Victory's 3-2 win over Brisbane Roar and Sydney's 0-0 draw with Western Sydney Wanderers, left second-placed Victory just five points behind Graham Arnold's side with a game in hand.

The task between now and Australia Day is greater for Victory, because they are away for both a catch-up game against Wellington Phoenix on Tuesday and a round-16 match with Perth Glory on Saturday. Sydney will be at home for their round-16 game against Adelaide United on Friday.

The Sky Blues were playing better than Victory in the early rounds, but Victory have arguably played a bit better than Sydney recently.

It promises to be a tremendous contest when they next meet.

2. The match officials were awful

Not all of them, but enough of them to make any mention of the ones who went well seem pointless.

Melbourne Victory striker Besart Berisha's red card (so bad a decision it has already been rescinded as an obvious error).

No-one picking up Sydney FC defender Michael Zullo's hand-ball, which should have resulted in a penalty, or even the considerable deflection of the ball, which should have led to a Western Sydney Wanderers corner at least.

The oh-so-soft penalty awarded to Newcastle Jets after Morten Nordstrand went down way too easily in the box.

Those were just the pick of the bad calls. The match officials are having a poor season.

3. Melbourne City can't hang on to a lead

City's 2-1 loss to Adelaide United, after leading 1-0, continued a disastrous trend for the biggest-spending club in the competition.

In five of their last six games they have given up the lead a total of seven times. They didn't win any of the five games, finishing with three draws and two losses.

City led 1-0 against Sydney FC (drew 1-1) and 1-0 against Melbourne Victory (lost 2-1), before being pulled back no less than three times against Perth Glory (1-0 to 1-1, 2-1 to 2-2 and 3-2 to the final score of 3-3). They led 1-0 against Central Coast Mariners in a game that finished 2-2.

The only recent game in which City have turned a lead into a win was in their 1-0 victory over Western Sydney Wanderers.

4. Brisbane Roar aren't getting any better against 10 men

For the second time in three rounds, Brisbane failed to take advantage of the numerical advantage after the opposition had a player sent off.

The score was 3-2 to Melbourne Victory when Victory striker Besart Berisha was red-carded in the 58th minute against Roar. There were no more goals in the game.

In round 13 against Sydney FC, Brisbane were down 2-0 when Sky Blues captain Alex Brosque was sent off in the 65th minute. That was the end of the scoring there as well.

Sure, some teams adapt better than others to defending with 10 men, but that is simply not good enough from Roar.

5. Central Coast Mariners have reached the crossroads for this season

They play better and appear to have a better attitude than they did last season, but the fact is that after 15 rounds of this season last-placed Central Coast only have 10 points.

That is just one more than at the same time last season.

The Mariners have lost six and drawn one of their last seven games and fell to last place with their 1-0 loss to Wellington Phoenix. Adelaide United overtook them with their win over Melbourne City.

Will the frustration of losing get to the Mariners and see them collapse over the second half of the season? Or will they lift and maybe even get back out of last place?

It's going to be a huge test of their character.


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4 min read
Published 16 January 2017 at 7:28am
By Greg Prichard