With the sixth edition of Australia’s A-League half way through, it continues to throw up surprises, making any guesses as to eventual champions hard to back up. A week ago, top of the table Brisbane Roar, who have swept all before them on their surge up the table, started to feel the effects of the rapid-fire fixture list. Nine games in 35 days proved one too many as they mailed in what seemed like the weakest performance of their season so far, this time at home to bottom of the table North Queensland Fury.

Class, however, tells, and without ever looking convincing, Brisbane kept at it and eventually grabbed a late equaliser to save a point, a significant point. This kept them three above Adelaide United, the champions-elect until injury stole some of their brightest lights. A good victory in Melbourne against Melbourne Heart saw Adelaide return to winning ways and keep the pressure on Brisbane with a game in hand on their Queensland rivals, and if they are fighting it out for the title both will be thinking the other could buckle any week now.

Adelaide may have suffered a blip, but things off the pitch have improved at least as a local consortium have taken control of the club, taking it off the FFA’s (Football Federation Australia) hands and leaving the Fury as the only club without an owner in the A-League. “We paid more than we wanted to and less than they [the FFA] wanted,” consortium member Greg Griffin revealed after the deal was done, adding: “None of us expect this to be a loss making exercise… we are not here to lose money, we are here to make it." An ominous thought indeed in a league where that has proven difficult to achieve. Certainly, honours on the pitch will be a vital part of that process as will a continued investment in youth.


Adelaide’s success this term has been built on keeping players healthy and a fine goal scoring record, but equally important has been their goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic who has pulled off more saves than anyone else in the league by some margin. Stats may lie, but his continued heavy involvement is cause for concern as Adelaide fail to take control of games, not least against Melbourne Heart where they were behind in all the numbers bar the most important one of all, actually scoring.

Melbourne Heart, for their part, will be sitting calmly in mid-table, one spot above their local rivals Melbourne Victory and happy with their relative success. It was one of the big imponderables as to whether the Heart, in their first season in the league, could pull it all together and construct a team from scratch and hit the ground running. After some early jitters they have certainly been consistent, but have yet to find a winning combination up front to get the goals needed for a sustained assault on the summit.
Looking over their shoulder at Melbourne Victory, they are no doubt cursing their luck at seeing striker Archie Thompson rushing back to fitness. When he regains his sharpness there is no reason to think the striker won’t resume his mantel as deadliest finisher in the A-League, a title only briefly lifted from him by goal machine Shane Smeltz. Victory need him too, since no one else in the team seems capable of hitting the target and scoring quite as sweetly. Melbourne Victory’s attacking midfielder Carlos Hernandez leads the league in both shots on and off target, but remains with just three goals to his name.

Behind the two Melbourne teams lurk the Newcastle Jets who have managed just 11 goals in 15 games this season. One was enough to make it past Wellington Phoenix last week, but their pitch continues to need running repairs during games and they don’t seem to have the standout individuals to make a concerted push beyond sixth, the last of the playoff spots.

Wellington meanwhile continue to struggle on the road, but nothing like Perth Glory who just continue to struggle. Against Sydney FC at the Paramatta Stadium last week, they put in a poor performance, letting Sydney score twice in the second half. It was certainly the case of the least worst team winning.

Sydney, at least, have got back in to the habit of winning and can surge past Perth from second last with their games in hand, starting with a trip to Melbourne Heart. Wellington’s poor run of form is more prosaic in that expectations were so raised by a third placed finish last season. Forward Paul Ifill is tentatively sanguine about their chances, saying: "We have got four games in 11 days and I think that will make or break our season. If we don’t start picking up points out of these next 12 we are in trouble." The first of these, the midweek game against Melbourne Heart went swimmingly for Ifill as he bagged two goals, before again striking once against Melbourne Victory as the spoils were shared at 2-2.

With unpredictability all round, it was left to Central Coast Mariners and Gold Coast United to produce the least predictable result of all, with the Queenslanders running out 3-2 away winners, the last three of these goals coming in a frantic four minute burst midway through the second half, with Steve Pantelidis dragging Gold Coast ahead, Adam Kwasnik equalising for Mariners 60 seconds later and substitute Andrew Baricic scoring the decider.

This was an entertaining game and the fight shown by Gold Coast will be encouraging for coach Miron Bleiberg; win their games in hand and Gold Coast are top, although Blieberg’s strategy seemed based on a misapprehension saying of the Mariners “We knew they were only human and they’d run out of petrol in the second-half.”

Meanwhile, for Central Coast Mariners, the midweek F3 derby against Newcastle Jets ended in another disappointment as the tanks ran dry. Leading until deep in injury time, the home side snatched a point with Sasha Petrovski managing to poke home after showing some deft skill. Central Coast then went on to have a game to forget however, as Brisbane visited and romped to a 5-1 victory. Newcastle Jets took a week off, and promptly beat Los Angeles Galaxy (2-1) in a high profile friendly. It was a good pay day for the Jets, whose new owners are also seeking that elusive profit.