Prove your worth
That’s reportedly been the message from the Western Sydney hierarchy after Josep Gombau failed to find a result away to Melbourne Victory on Saturday night.
The Wanderers came out rather inspired at AAMI Park but could not overcome Victory’s relentless pressure, losing out 3-1 for a second successive defeat and third from their past five matches.
With a finals football berth listed as his sole objective for the season, Gombau has been given two matches to prove his worth in Wanderland.
But with Brisbane holding a two-point cushion in sixth place, a result of their narrow 1-0 victory over the Central Coast Mariners, next week’s crucial clash leaves the Wanderers needing nothing less than a win at ANZ Stadium.
“It’s a final for both teams,” Gombau said of the Roar’s visit. “We are now seven, they are six. It’s a big, big game.
“Playing at home, if we put the intensity that we put today; for sure we can get the result and win the game.”
Western Sydney have managed just two wins at ANZ Stadium this season, losing out on three occasions – including a 2-0 defeat to John Aloisi’s men.
Bearing the aforementioned in mind, should the Wanderers fail yet again, Gombau’s time may be up.
Let the records show
Sydney FC made A-League history on Thursday night after their 3-2 victory against Perth Glory clinched the Premiers’ Plate for a second consecutive season.
The defending champions raced to a 3-0 lead at the break courtesy of Adrian Mierzejewski and a Bobo brace, the Brazilian’s 24 league goals setting a new record for a single season, before Adam Taggart’s second-half double gave the finals-chasing home side some measure of hope.
After a shaky month following Graham Arnold’s decision to depart for the Socceroos at season’s end, Sydney appear to have finally rediscovered the form their fans have become accustomed to.
But despite these record-breaking achievements, Arnold refuses to let them celebrate.
“We don’t want to see the plate until the Melbourne Victory game, the last game of the season (for Sydney FC),” Arnold said.
“We still have some targets to hit from here until the end of the competition. We’ve set some new goals the other week to raise our performances.”
The Sky Blues will now return to continental football needing a win away to Suwon Bluewings on Tuesday to keep their Asian Champions League hopes alive.
A viable solution
As one full season with the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) comes to a close, one thing remains clear: it still needs work – not regarding the decisions made, but rather the time taken for them.
Fans waited five minutes for play to resume on Saturday night following Michael Thwaite’s send-off, after the VAR intervened to hand Kosta Barbarouses a red card of his own.
Though the technology called both decisions correctly, the manner in which they took place left a fog of frustration hanging over AAMI Park as an end-to-end first half between Melbourne Victory and Western Sydney Wanderers came to a sudden stop.
And while changes concerning the VAR’s rules of officiating are governed by FIFA, a few feasible tweaks could sway those against its presence back onside.
To avoid further fan furore, instances under review should be visible for those in attendance on stadium screens, as is the case across sports both home and abroad.
In doing so, the deliberation process between referee and VAR could then be reduced to a specific time-scale no longer than a substitution (30 seconds) to avoid football’s frantic and enjoyable pace suffering further disruption.
If FIFA’s decision to use the VAR at the upcoming World Cup wasn’t clear enough, it's here to stay, but the manner in which it remains could make the world of difference.
Reach out and touch it
Adelaide United took another telling step towards the A-League finals with a comfortable 3-1 win over Wellington Phoenix at Coopers Stadium.
Goals to Johan Absalonsen, Ben Garuccio and Nathan Konstandopoulos sent the Reds on their way to all three points in front of 11,738 supporters – their largest home crowd (at said venue) of the campaign.
After an inconsistent start to the season, Adelaide have tasted defeat on just three occasions since the turn of the year and have become a genuine dark horse entering the finals.
With 36 points and two games to play, United need at least one point to mathematically secure their place in the top six, and will mark next Sunday’s clash with Sydney FC as the fixture they set out to claim it.
“Sydney is the best team in the league,” head coach Marco Kurz said.
“But we will play our best if we can to give them problems and maybe catch some points from Sydney.”
Kurz has been linked with the defending champions in recent weeks, as the Sky Blues look for a replacement that will follow in Graham Arnold’s established footsteps.
Something isn’t right
After taking the A-League by storm and presenting Sydney FC with arguably their toughest domestic challenge of the past two seasons, the Newcastle Jets are in trouble.
Despite their second-placed status long solidified going into the finals, Ernie Merrick’s men have encountered a slump in form not seen since last season’s last-placed finish.
Their 3-0 defeat at home to Melbourne City on Sunday night was the Jets’ second straight defeat and marked the first time this season in which they have failed to score a goal.
Andrew Nabbout’s exit for Urawa Red Diamonds and Nigel Boogaard’s injury shortly after their triumph at home to Sydney last month have since been accompanied by three lacklustre performances.
And while fans may not take too kindly to this ill-timed slump, striker Roy O’Donovan remains calm.
“We’re guaranteed second spot,” O’Donovan told Fox Sports. “Maybe a little bit of that syndrome has set in where maybe we’ve rested a little bit or taken our eye off the ball.”
“Ernie (Merrick) is going to give us a good talking to. But we’ll peak at the right time.”
The Jets will next face Perth Glory on Friday night, knowing a win will ease any existing pressure and restore hope to the Hunter faithful.