Third Spot Up For Grabs

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Mark Bridge scored a hat-trick last home game. Image courtesy of Images
Ange Postecoglou and Tony Popovic were both defenders back in the old National Soccer League for South Melbourne and Sydney United, respectively, but you could hardly accuse either of adopting a defensive mindset at the clubs they currently coach. Postecoglou’s Melbourne Victory side has produced some of the most entertaining football in the A-League this season, even if the team gives its coach plenty of heart flutters with some haphazard defending at times. Popovic, meanwhile, has transformed debutants the Wanderers from stonewallers in the early rounds to a team which is capable of beating any team in the league.

Postecoglou labelled Etihad Stadium an amusement park after another chaotic clash there in Victory’s latest win. Melbourne defeated Newcastle 3-2 , but not for the first time Victory looked as though it might find a way to throw away the three points. The standout performance came from young New Zealander Marco Rojas who bagged a pair of stunning goals against the Jets, giving him nine for the season which is the second highest tally in the A-League.

It has been feast or famine on the road for Victory with three wins and three defeats. One of those triumphs was a 2-0 win over the Wanderers at Parramatta Stadium in late November. That was one of only two clean sheets Victory has kept all season. Melbourne’s defence will be stiffened by the return of skipper Adrian Leijer from suspension.

The Wanderers have improved significantly since that defeat, posting three straight wins over Brisbane, Sydney FC and Adelaide United, before sharing the points with Glory in Perth last start. That draw was made all the more meritorious considering Western Sydney did it without playmakers Shinji Ono and Youssouf Hersi, but both will line up against Victory. Ono ran rings around the Reds two weeks back and the Japanese superstar will be vital if the Wanderers are to leapfrog Melbourne in to third place. 

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