Five things we learned from A-League Round 22

The A-League championship is there for Sydney FC to win if they go in with their heads screwed on at the business end of the season.

Holosko Bobo

Filip Holosko, left, and Bobo celebrate Sydney FC's win over Melbourne Victory Source: Getty Images

1. Sydney FC have got the wood on Melbourne Victory

Before this season, the Victory had gone nine straight "Big Blues" without defeat against Sydney - four wins and five draws.

That included a fabulous, 3-0 win in the 2014-2015 grand final.

But the boot is well and truly on the other foot now, after Sydney's 1-0 win over Victory on a rain-soaked Allianz Stadium.

That made it three wins from three games for the Sky Blues against Victory this season, and if the two teams go on to meet again in the grand final - as is highly anticipated - the game will be in Sydney.

The Victory are the second-biggest danger to Sydney winning the championship. The biggest danger to the Sky Blues, is themselves - if they happen to go in thinking they only have to turn up to win.

2. Two down, two to go

Sydney FC are going to win the Premiers' Plate and Melbourne Victory are going to take the other coveted spot in the top two. Those two questions are answered.

Now all that is left to find out is which two teams are going to run third and fourth, and get home games in the first week of the finals, and who is going to finish sixth and grab the last spot in the finals.

Melbourne City, Brisbane Roar and Perth Glory are playing musical chairs with third, fourth and fifth places at the moment.

Last week it was Perth third, City fourth and Brisbane fifth. Now, after this latest round, it's City third, Roar fourth and Perth fifth. No doubt there will be more twists and turns during the last five rounds.

Out of the four contenders for sixth place, Western Sydney Wanderers and seventh-placed Wellington Phoenix each picked up a point and Newcastle Jets and Central Coast Mariners were both beaten.

None of those four look capable of doing anything at the business end of the season.

3. Most of the 50-50 calls go against you when you're down the table

Western Sydney Wanderers got lucky with the calls in their recent derby win over Sydney FC, but when you're in the bottom half of the table luck deserts you more often than not.

Wanderers coach Tony Popovic would have already been well aware of that, but the Gods of football chose to remind him of the fact anyway in his team's 0-0 draw with Adelaide United.

A Dimas goal was disallowed when the referee ruled Wanderers striker Lachlan Scott had illegally relieved prone Adelaide goalkeeper Daniel Margush of the ball, but replays showed Margush never had genuine possession. That's why Scott was able to rip it away with his boot.

Fortune simply tends not to favour the struggling teams. That's just the way it is - not only in football, but all sports.

4. Jamie Maclaren and Adam Taggart are ready if Ange Postecoglou wants them

Australia coach Postecoglou will name a squad of 28 to 30 players on Wednesday for crucial 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches away against Iraq on March 24 and in Sydney against United Arab Emirates on March 28.

And strikers Maclaren (Brisbane Roar) and Taggart (Perth Glory) can't do much more to impress him than they have done recently.

Maclaren scored a double in the Roar's 3-1 win over Newcastle Jets. He has 13 goals in 18 games this season, including five in his last four appearances.

Taggart scored once in the Glory's 3-3 draw with Wellington Phoenix, taking his total for the season to 11 in 14 games. That includes four in his last five outings.

Maclaren played in Australia's most recent game, against Thailand in November. It's reasonable to assume he will be there again.

The bigger question is whether Postecoglou believes it is time to bring Taggart back into the fold.

Taggart played for Postecoglou at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, but then had two years ruined by injury. He's looking sharper with every game this season.

5. Mark Jones is even more frustrated than he was last week - if that's possible

The Jones-coached Newcastle were leading 1-0 at home against Brisbane Roar when a Jets player, Jason Hoffman, received a second yellow card and was sent off.

Jones was then banished to the stands for his reaction to the fourth official after the decision was made. Brisbane used their one-man advantage to go on and win, 3-1.

Last week, Jones was frustrated when his team failed to capitalise on a 1-0 lead at home against Central Coast Mariners and the match finished 1-1. The Jets had been bombing way too many chances for several weeks.

Newcastle could so easily be in the top six. But, instead, they're three points out of it in eighth place.

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5 min read
Published 6 March 2017 at 10:13am
By Greg Prichard