The following are previews with betting tips for Round 14 of the 2015/16 A-League season.
Friday, 8 January
Central Coast Mariners v Melbourne Victory
7:40 PM AEDT, Simonds Stadium, Geelong
In a spiteful affair that will long be remembered for Roy O’Donovan’s nasty headbutt on Manny Muscat, the Mariners 3-1 victory was just their second of the season. In what has now become commonplace in the A-League, an appalling refereeing performance took centre stage as Kris-Griffiths Jones awarded the Mariners a contentious spot kick which led to the opening goal while the whistle-blower deemed O’Donovan’s “Glaswegian kiss” as an act justifiably punishable with a yellow card. Along with the Mariners, Melbourne Victory had a breakout win as they recorded an unconvincing 1-0 triumph over bogey side Newcastle. In what was an error-riddled contest, Victory made the breakthrough with a rare piece of quality when Kostas Barbarouses carried the ball down the right flank before curling a sublime cross-field pass to Ben Khalfallah; the Tunisian coolly slotting home into the bottom left-hand corner.
Following a meeting of members from the match review panel, it has been decided that Roy O’Donovan will be suspended for 8 matches. It is no surprise then that the Mariners signed young striker, Trent Buhagiar, to a contract that will see him at the club at least until the end of the current season. Trent is joined by new signings from the Victorian NPL – goalkeeper Alistair Bray and former Melbourne Victory midfielder Francesco Stella. First choice keeper, Paul Izzo, is unavailable due to his involvement with the Olyroos squad. Victory gaffer, Kevin Muscat, must reshuffle his pack with no less than 5 Olyroos in his squad with Geria, Deng and Connor Pain notable absentees. Hume City winger, Jai Ingham, joined the reigning champions in midweek to bolster numbers as the Victory aim to string a few wins together at regular AFL venue, Simonds Stadium, in Geelong.
Nick’s tip: Over 2.5 goals @1.60 (Pinnacle)
Saturday, 9 January
Sydney FC v Newcastle Jets
5:15 PM AEDT, ANZ Stadium
Sydney FC are probably still kicking themselves following their 2-2 draw against a depleted Melbourne City outfit. The Sky Blues could of been four or five up by half-time as they laid siege on the City goal with youngsters Andrew Hoole and George Blackwood guilty of some poor finishing. Their dominance was so evident that City manager John Van’t Schip was forced into an early tactical substitution; resulting in a more even contest and a goal for the home side following an expert corner kick delivery from Harry Novillo. In an end to end spectacle, Serbian import Milos Ninkovic shined the brightest as his brace ensured that Sydney left Melbourne with a deserving share of the spoils. Newcastle’s spell on Melbourne Victory, at The Hunter, was finally broken with a late Ben Khalfallah strike. The Jets were good in patches in what was a largely scrappy affair but the need for a striker remains an urgent priority.
If the Sky Blues have serious aspirations of claiming the premiership, they can’t afford to slip up against the struggling Jets with a series of tough fixtures on the horizon. Newcastle’s good early season form seems a long time ago as they look to snap a run of 9 matches without a win and even more alarmingly, a streak of 5 without registering a single goal. The return from suspension of former Socceroo, David Carney, will at least give the Jets some creativity in the final third but he alone is not the answer to Newcastle’s woes. Sydney FC lose youngsters Gersbach and Hoole to Olyroos duty with Naumoff and Jacques Faty likely to fill the void.
Nick’s tip: Newcastle Jets +1.5ah @1.72 (Pinnacle)
Melbourne City v Western Sydney Wanderers
7:30 PM AEDT, AAMI Park
In what is the match of the round, third placed Melbourne City will aim to derail Western Sydney’s tilt at the title with the visitors currently sitting joint top and 10 matches undefeated. Melbourne City’s squad depth was tested to the brim last week in the 2-2 draw against Sydney FC. John Van’t Schip just about got a pass mark in the post analysis after his side failed, initially, to cope with the absence of Aaron Mooy and several other key players. Such was City’s injury crisis that they were forced to hand a debut to 18yr old midfielder Ali Eyigun – a cameo that lasted just 34 minutes with the youngster replaced by the impressive Michael Zullo. The formation/personnel re-think definitely altered the balance of the game in City’s favor and in the end, it was a case of a point well-earned rather than two points squandered. Western Sydney’s scoreless draw against Adelaide United was shrouded in controversy with referee, Ben Williams, admitting post-match that he wrongly waved away legitimate penalty shouts (one for each side). Both sides had their chances in an open contest that ultimately was not given a chance to flourish by the man in charge.
Melbourne City will hope to get some bodies back from the treatment table as winger Stephan Mauk departs with the Olyroos. There were a lot of positives to take from last week’s performance with Melling, Koren, Hughes and Zullo all pulling through unscathed (after their respective injury lay-offs) while Novillo and Fornarolli continued their almost telepathic understanding. Western Sydney are purring along just nicely at the moment but the form of marquee striker Federico Piovaccari does remain a concern. Melbourne City have surpassed their more illustrious neighbours (Melbourne Victory) in having the most potent strike force in the league. If Mooy returns to supply the ammo then the Wanderers’ unbeaten streak could be in serious danger of coming to an end.
Nick’s tip: Over 2.75 goals @1.8 (SBOBET)
Perth Glory v Adelaide United
9:40 PM AEDT, nib Stadium
This one is set up to be a real firecracker with both sides hunting down sixth spot currently occupied by a faltering Wellington Phoenix. Perth will fancy their chances of getting straight back on the winning trail despite losing 2-1 at league leaders Brisbane. Glory put in a really good shift and would of had something tangible to show for their efforts were it not for Jamie Young’s heroics in the Brisbane goal. Not too dissimilar to the hosts, Adelaide United continue to show improvement in the last month or so after a run of wretched results. Of course, the return of club captain and keeper Eugene Galekovic has had a huge part to play in that as Adelaide United reeled off their fourth clean sheet (in five games) in the scoreless draw at Western Sydney, last week. The recent emergence of Jordan Elsey at the centre of defence is also a huge positive not just for Adelaide United but Australian football; so much so that veteran defender Osama Malik has been deemed surplus to requirements and is on the cusp of joining Melbourne City.
These two have met twice already this season with the home side coming out on top on each occasion. Perth has lost just once at NIB Stadium whereas Adelaide United are still searching for their first win on the road. The onus will be on Perth to make all the running as they trail their opponents by two points whereas Adelaide United will be happy to stay compact and choose their moments to spring an attack. Perhaps this very reason will suit the away side as Perth are not accustomed to playing on the front foot.
Sunday, 10 January
Wellington Phoenix v Brisbane Roar
5:00 PM AEDT, Westpac Stadium
The Phoenix will be aiming to bounce back from a morale sapping defeat when they host league leaders Brisbane Roar. It must be said, Wellington rarely get the rub of the green when it comes to borderline decisions and such was the case in the 3-1 defeat at Central Coast. Despite some questionable referee calls, there’s no doubt that the Phoenix are coming up well short in comparison to their energetic performances of last season while elementary errors are also creeping into their game. Club captain, Andrew Durante, was at fault for two of the goals and he along with many others will be looking to redeem themselves this weekend. No such dramas for John Aloisi’s Brisbane Roar who seem to have rekindled some of the magic of yesteryear. Even if they were not at their mercurial best in the 2-1 win over Perth, Henrique came off the bench to score a sublime goal and prove that he is by far the league’s most deadly super sub.
In addition to a long list of injuries, the Nix are without stalwart Manny Muscat after he received a two match ban following on from his altercation with Mariner, Roy O’Donovan. Brisbane lose three players to Olyroos duty with forwards Jamie MacLaren and Brandon Borello leaving the league leaders a little light in the attacking third; Jean Carlos Solorzano and Henrique are likely to deputize in their absence. Wellington won 3-2 at this venue way back on Matchday 3 but the Roar go into this contest as deserving favorites.
Nick’s tip: Brisbane -0.25ah @1.68 (SBOBET)