The following are previews and betting tips for week 2 of the A-League finals series.
SATURDAY (APR 7)
Perth Glory v Wellington Phoenix (AEDT 1930)
Perth face Wellington on Easter Saturday in a do or die knockout final after both clubs progressed to this matchup via elimination final victories last weekend. The Glory cruised past Melbourne Heart 3-0 as Shane Smeltz scored a stunning hat-trick, while the Phoenix recovered from a Sydney comeback to secure a dramatic 3-2 win in Wellington. The big players made their mark on the big stage, Smeltz for Perth and Paul Ifill took on the responsibility to take and score Wellington’s winning penalty kick as the clock ticked towards full time at Westpac Stadium.
This should be the game of the weekend as both teams are equally good at scoring and conceding goals! Strangely though, the scoreline has been a low-scoring 1-0 in all three previous times the clubs have played this season. Perth winning 1-0 at home early in the season, before each team took 3 points from a pair of matches in Wellington. This is the Glory’s third match in a row at nib Stadium and they have made it into a fortress, winning 6 of their last 7 at the venue, with the only defeat coming against an in form Brisbane outfit.
I’ll be betting on Shane Smeltz to fire the Glory into a Preliminary Final.
Andy’s Bet: Perth to win @ 1.87 (TAB Sportsbet)
Andy’s Bet: Shane Smeltz to score first @ 5.00 (Sportsbet)
SUNDAY ( APR 8 )
Central Coast Mariners v Brisbane Roar (AEDT 1700)
Brisbane are staring at a home Grand Final. With the second leg of the A-League major semi final to be played this Sunday afternoon, the Roar need only avoid defeat to the Central Coast by 2 or more goals to earn the right to host the season decider for the second successive season.
In poker terms, Mariners boss Graham Arnold is sitting on a short stack after Brisbane counterpart Ange Postecoglou played all the aces last week to guide the Roar to a 2-0 victory. Arnold will have to decide whether to go ‘all in’ early in the second leg by committing extra numbers in attack and leaving space at the back for Brisbane to potentially score a tie-ending goal. It is quite a decision as Central Coast’s preferred system has been to keep things tight at the back and score the 1 or 2 goals needed for victory. In fact, so defensive has their strategy been, the Mariners have only scored more than 2 goals twice in their last 16 league outings, and those goal scoring sprees only came against the bottom two clubs – Gold Coast and Adelaide.
I reckon Brisbane are the form team of the competition and will punish the Mariners if the Central Coast don’t commit to a strategy with conviction.
Andy’s Bet: Brisbane to win or draw @ 1.65 (Sportingbet)