Five things we learned from A-League Round 21

Their fans can give them a good clap, but the last team into the A-League top six will just be making up the numbers.

Jones Popovic Aloisi

A-League coaches Mark Jones, left, Tony Popovic, centre, and John Aloisi were left frustrated on the weekend Source: Getty Images

1. Whoever finishes sixth will be kidding themselves in the finals

If you allow more than half of the teams in the competition to qualify for the finals, which the A-League does, you risk rewarding mediocrity.

Occasionally the talent is spread wide enough to reasonably justify six of the 10 teams making it, but this is not one of those years.

It is clear now - maybe not mathematically, but certainly in the mind of any sound-thinking person - that five finals spots are wrapped up and Western Sydney Wanderers, Newcastle Jets, Wellington Phoenix and Central Coast Mariners are battling it out for the remaining one.

None of the four teams are capable of holding form for an extended period.

The Mariners have done easily the best of them over the last five rounds, picking up 10 points from a possible 15, but they are still behind the other three on the ladder because they were coming from so far back.

They had picked up just one point from 24 in the eight rounds immediately before that.

Neither the Jets nor the Mariners were good enough to win when they met on Sunday, and it finished in a 1-1 draw.

2. Brisbane Roar blew it

Yes, the Roar have had a busy time lately with midweek AFC Champions League games and plenty of travelling.

And, yes, eight members of their starting side against Wellington Phoenix were backing up four days after one of those ACL matches.

But they were playing at home against a Phoenix outfit that had lost three in a row, including a 5-1 flogging at home against Melbourne City at their last start.

Plus, Wellington had stood down three players - Roly Bonevacia, Ryan Lowry and Tom Doyle - for disciplinary reasons and were also without stars Gui Finkler and Michael McGlinchey.

Brisbane lost 2-1 and dropped from fourth to fifth on the table. As it turned out, a win would have seen them rise to third.

That's blowing it in anyone's language.

3. Manny Muscat's madness prevented a proper inquisition of Sydney FC

The game between the Sky Blues and Melbourne City was intriguingly poised at 1-1 when City defender Muscat got his second yellow card, resulting in a red, late in the first half.

Muscat's prolonged tug on the shirt of a breakaway Alex Brosque followed his clumsy challenge on Filip Holosko, resulting in a his first yellow and a penalty, which Sydney converted.

City were in the process of giving Sydney a thorough examination and it was going to be interesting to see how the Sky Blues came through it after their bid to go through the season unbeaten had finally ended with their loss to Western Sydney Wanderers.

But with 11 men against 10, it ended up a comfortable 3-1 win to Sydney. Now we wait to see how they shape up in the latest "Big Blue" against Melbourne Victory at Allianz Stadium on Friday.

4. People are taking Perth Glory seriously - sort of

The Glory are certainly out from under the radar, having jumped back into the top four for the first time since round seven (they're now third).

But you get the impression that while people generally like what they see from them, they're still not totally convinced.

This next three-game stretch will provide the acid test - away against a Wellington Phoenix team that will be buoyant after getting a shock win on the road against Brisbane Roar, away to Melbourne Victory and at home against Sydney FC.

5. Mark Jones is a frustrated man

The Newcastle Jets coach found it hard to come to terms with his team not going on with the job after leading 1-0 at home against Central Coast Mariners.

Jones said the Jets had plenty of opportunities but that after getting into good areas they were too sloppy on the ball, and that the equaliser came from a corner his team didn't need to concede, which was then poorly defended.

It has been Groundhog Day recently when it comes to Newcastle failing to capitalise on goal-scoring chances.

Jets fans must have a pounding headache.

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4 min read
Published 27 February 2017 at 8:36am
By Greg Prichard