The Saturday before Christmas brought a quality of football all fans could enjoy.
From wonder-kids to late drama, Round 9 was taken to a whole new level as the Wellington Phoenix stamped their authority and the two Melbourne sides treated fans to another classic.
Wellington Phoenix 4-1 Brisbane Roar
If you needed convincing Wellington Phoenix were a different side this year under Mark Rudan, then this was the game for you.
For the first time in a long time the Phoenix looked like a side capable of playing finals.
Three consecutive wins sees Wellington currently sitting in fifth and starting to catch the eye of opposition teams who may have pencilled them in as an easy win a few weeks ago.
Wellington hit the front courtesy of a long throw into the box which was tapped in by the high pressing defender Steven Taylor, though the ball appeared to have come off Brisbane Roar’s Avraam Papadopoulos on the way in.
After the week Brisbane’s had they were not going to go down without a fight.
On the cusp of half time Henrique turned back the clock with a top corner finish to breathe life into the game and ask some questions of the Phoenix.
Brisbane would have taken the lead minutes after the break had it not been for Adam Taggart slipping at the last second which saw a golden chance go begging.
This missed opportunity opened the door for a Phoenix onslaught led by Roy Krishna and Sarpreet Singh who in 15 minutes did enough damage to put the game to bed.
David Williams gave the Phoenix the lead in the 75th minute and opened his goal scoring account for the season before Roy Krishna added a third from the penalty spot.
Singh continues to improve with every game but he took himself to a new level in this second half, his growing confidence personified with every successful dribble and was even rewarded with a goal to finish the game off.
Wellington’s form could have picked up at a better time as they travel to Melbourne for their toughest task yet to face Melbourne Victory, whereas Brisbane again travel to face Sydney FC in a season defining match.
Melbourne City 1-1 Melbourne Victory.
Who could have predicted this result midway through the second half?
Melbourne Victory were in cruise control after a vintage Ola Toivonen goal assisted by Kosta Barbarouses saw them take the lead and they never looked like conceding.
Enter Dario Vidosic.
The player many fans have looked to lift in Fornaroli’s absence stood up when it counted to head home a 92nd minute equaliser to salvage a point for his side.
As Kevin Muscat would go on to say after the game, that’s football.
The result perhaps foreshadowed by Keisuke Honda’s omission due to soreness and fatigue but even without him the Victory put in a performance Kevin Muscat was very proud of after the game.
“It can feel like you’ve lost when you concede late but I thought there was a lot to like about our performance,” Muscat said.
“In the first half we were playing some good stuff without hurting them too much
“In the second half we asked more questions of them and scored a tremendous goal
“There wouldn’t be too many teams who could have stopped that goal.”
And what a goal it was.
Instead of blazing away into the box Kosta Barbarouses remained composed before finding an unmarked Ola Toivonen at the back post for the easiest of finishes.
The Victory did have Lawrence Thomas to thank for in the first half as Melbourne City put their rivals on the back foot on occasion, forcing Thomas into some world class saves in a matter of seconds.
Thomas was then called into action as Lachlan Wales broke free of Thomas Deng but was let down by a heavy touch which set up a collision with the Victory goalkeeper.
The result means Victory miss the opportunity to return to the top of the table, whereas Melbourne City remain in fourth.