A significant breakthrough took place in Round 20 of the 2016-17 Hyundai A-League when a 3-0 victory for Kevin Muscat’s Melbourne Victory over Paul Okon’s Central Coast Mariners at the Central Coast Stadium was juxtaposed by the first-ever defeat for Graham Arnold’s Sydney FC, a 1-0 upset by the Western Sydney Wanderers at ANZ Stadium. A Besart Berisha brace (25′, 90′ + 1′) combined with 58th minute insurance from James Troisi sunk the Mariners, while a rare goal from the Wanderers talisman Brendon Santalab (26′) gave Sydney FC a massive blotter that could make the league title a race.
— Hyundai A-League (@ALeague) February 19, 2017
Or will it? Sydney FC remain eight points ahead of the Victory for the Premiership plate and with just seven rounds to go, the Sky Blues remain in the hunt for the prize. But with this defeat coming on the heels of another crunch-time clash with another upset-minded club in Melbourne City at AAMI Park (the Victory host Adelaide United at the same venue the next day), there is reason to believe that this might still be a race and it might surprisingly come down to the wire.
|1||Sydney FC||20||14||5||1||41||10||+31||47||Qualification to AFC Champions League group stage and Finals series|
|2||Melbourne Victory||20||12||3||5||42||24||+18||39||Qualification to AFC Champions League second preliminary round and Finals series|
|3||Melbourne City||20||8||6||6||35||28||+7||30||Qualification to Finals series|
|6||Western Sydney Wanderers||20||5||9||6||24||29||−5||24|
|9||Central Coast Mariners||20||5||4||11||23||38||−15||19|
Updated to match(es) played on 19 February 2017. Source: A-League
Rules for classification: 1) points; 2) goal difference; 3) number of goals scored.
“We’re definitely going to keep fighting for top spot,” Troisi said to Fox Sports. “As long as we focus on ourselves and play the way we want to play, when we win that’s what it’s all about. We’re very happy. There’s a lot of tough games coming up, for the other teams as well, so it will be interesting.”
“It’s a good test to be honest,” said Sydney FC’s Alex Brosque. “The reality is we’ve lost one game all season. “For (Wanderers), they’ve needed something this year and they got a good win so good on them. But we’ll just keep doing what we’ve been doing all year (which is) playing well. We’ll pick ourselves up for Melbourne City and get three points over there.
“I think if you carry on winning, or not losing, you’re doing well. Unfortunately tonight a couple of decisions didn’t go our way, but we’ve had some go for us previously, so we live with what happened tonight. We will bounce back, have a good week at training and go down for a big one in Melbourne.”
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