Melbourne tops table again
  Tue 6th Jan 2009
2008/2009 Hyundai A-League - Round 15 between Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United at Telstra Dome
Melbourne Victory 1 (Nick Ward 58') defeated Adelaide United 0
Source: Back of the Net
Melbourne Victory made it three wins out of three against championship rivals Adelaide United in the catch-up round 15 game, originally scheduled for mid-December, played at Docklands Stadium on a warm January Tuesday evening. The win puts Melbourne atop the A-League once again, swapping places with Adelaide, although Adelaide is poised just two points behind and with a home game against Queensland Roar in hand.

Nick Ward scored the only goal of the game just before the hour, heading powerfully home from a corner. There was little otherwise to separate these two pedigree teams, both surely destined to fight out for this year's title.

"You could see our boys were fired up for that," said Victory coach Ernie Merrick after the game. "We persisted, and we got the result."

"We wanted to put Adelaide under pressure from the first minute," he said.

Adelaide coach Aurelio Vidmar was disappointed at his side's endeavour on the night. "It was an extremely flat performance," he said, echoing his remarks after Adelaide's last visit to Docklands in September when it also lost 1-0. "Melbourne (was) extremely good tonight. We had no aggression, no desperation - not much at all."

"There was probably only a handful of payers who (would) have come off that pitch and said that they gave everything that they possibly could," he said.

In a fast paced opening quarter-hour, Melbourne Victory continually pressed, creating good chances for Tom Pondeljak, Carlos Hernandez, Ward, and Danny Allsopp, but none had the cutting edge required to turn the edge in territory and possession into a scoreboard advantage.

"We were out of the box at a hundred miles an hour," said Merrick. "We were unlucky not to score a couple of goals before the break."

Hernandez was the main avenue of creative Victory play, sufficiently so for Adelaide's sturdy central defender Sasa Ognenovski to crash the Costa Rican into the ground to break up yet another promising Melbourne lightning attack.

Daniel Mullen later brought down Hernandez in a similar position as once again he'd skipped clear of Adelaide attention and looked to set free Pondeljak wide on the right.

Neither challenge evinced more than a word from referee Matthew Breeze, although the Korea-bound Ognenovski was later to earn a place in the book alongside Allsopp as both became involved in an off-the-ball clash twelve minutes from time.

Victory's high-tempo start did not bring off an early return on investment, and by midway through the half, Adelaide began to exert influence of its own.

It was Cassio who brought up the first shot of venom. After being fed the ball in a central position, the Brazilian turned sharply and let loose from 20 metres. Victory goalkeeper Michael Theoklitos went down to his left to ensure it went wide when it was not obvious it would.

Travis Dodd later took advantage of an attempted clearance from Matthew Kemp which rebounded off the speedy Adelaide winger and into the Victory penalty-area. Dodd's cross to Cassio was not fully taken advantage of, but the ball seemed to spend an age pin-balling around in the danger area before Ward took it off the toe of Kristian Sarkies just as the youngster was about to pull the trigger.

Sarkies was substituted shortly after for Alemao, and underwent some pitch-side treatment before taking his place on the United bench. According to Vidmar, Sarkies sustained a knock to his ankle in the game's early moments and did not sufficiently recover.

Minutes before the interval, Billy Celeski looked to have wriggled though the Adelaide defences requiring a last-ditch effort from Ognenovski to scramble away the danger.

Immediately after the restart, Allsopp burst through the static Adelaide defence into a promising position, but over-hit his cross as Archie Thompson took up a far-post position.

Galekovic needed to be at his best to divert wide a free-kick from Hernandez awarded just outside the penalty arc after Pondeljak had been brought down by Robbie Cornthwaite, earning the big defender a yellow card.

Melbourne's next corner produced the goal.

Celeski swung in the ball to an area midway between the six-yard box and the penalty-spot. Ward had slipped his maker and rose unchallenged to direct his bullet-like header crashing into the net.

Adelaide should have equalised within minutes as Cristiano beat an ineffective Victory offside attempt by remaining behind the ball even though he was goal-side of the Victory defence. Daniel Mullen pumped forward a ball to Scott Jamieson in space on the right. Jamieson sent in a perfect cross to the Brazilian who had slipped behind the Victory defence centrally. Cristiano made less of the chance than he should have, but Victory still needed a desperate deflection by Theoklitos to divert it for a corner.

Although Adelaide continued in its attempts to get the goal that would allow the team to retain its league leadership, none looked convincing. Indeed, the margin was nearly doubled in the game's last minutes as Ney Fabiano, coming on as a replacement for the hard-working Pondeljak just after the half's midpoint, blustered his way through an exposed Adelaide defence, only to shoot ineffectively from close-range.

"We weren't at the races tonight," said Vidmar. "We're lucky it was only 1-0."

Melbourne Victory 1 (Nick Ward 58') defeated Adelaide United 0
Match Statistics:
Crowd: 27196

Melbourne Victory FC :
Player listing:
(4-4-2) 1. Michael Theoklitos (gk), 5 Sebastian Ryall, 2 Kevin Muscat (c), 12 Rodrigo Vargas, 7 Matthew Kemp, 15 Tom Pondeljak (11 Ney Fabiano [71]), 14 Billy Celeski, 16 Carlos Hernandez (8 Grant Brebner [66]), 22 Nick Ward (17 Jose Luis Lopez [90]), 10 Archie Thompson, 9 Daniel Allsopp

Substitutes not used: 20. Mitchell Langerak (rgk)

Coach: Ernie Merrick

Yellow Cards: Danny Allsopp [78']
Red Cards: Nil

Adelaide United FC :
Player listing:
(4-5-1) 20. Eugene Galekovic (gk), 16 Daniel Mullen, 2 Robert Cornthwaite, 19 Sasa Ognenovski, 14 Scott Jamieson, 8 Kristian Sarkies (3 Alemao [36]), 24 Paul Reid, 18 Fabian Barbiero, 6 Cassio Oliveira (21 Jason Spagnuolo [76]), 13 Travis Dodd (c), 10 Cristiano (25 Robert Younis [64])

Substitutes not used: 60. Matthew Nash (rgk)

Coach: Aurelio Vidmar

Yellow Cards: Cornthwaite [55'], Ognenovski [78'], Younis [82']
Red Cards: Nil

Referee: Matthew Breeze , 7 / 10
Pitch: 7 / 10
Game: 7 / 10

Best Players:
3. Carlos Hernandez (Melbourne Victory)
2. Paul Reid (Adelaide United)
1. Matthew Kemp (Melbourne Victory)
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