Thursday’s A-League 2017 Round 19 match is between Sydney FC and Wellington Phoenix. The opening kick off is set to commence at 19:57 AEST time with the game to be played at Allianz Stadium. View our preview and teams for the game between Sydney FC and Wellington Phoenix.
Sydney FC’s incredible unbeaten streak continues with keeper Danny Vukovic leading the way with another clean sheet.
Vukovic is key to Sydney’s premiership hopes and you only need to go back in history to see that nearly every championship winning side had a good defence and an excellent goal-keeper.
Add to that the form and stability of Alex Wilkinson, the workmate and defensive cover of Brilliante, Grant and O’Neill and it’s not hard to see why Sydney are so hard to score against.
FC’s unbeaten run is now at 18 games but they were given a scare by the Roar last weekend.
Vukovic had to be at his best to keep out Brisbane and Wellington can pose a similar threat to the Sky Blues’ goal.
FC have won three and drawn two of their last six games against Wellington Phoenix, including a 1-0 victory when these teams last met in October 2016.
Phoenix’s up and down season continued, pumped 3-1 by Wanderers. The concerning aspect for Wellington was that were second best in many departments.
Western Sydney had more shots on goal and won the majority of the one-on-one contests.
Now without a win in their last three games, the Nix have a real battle to make the top six with the likes of Newcastle and the Wanderers now in front of them.
Up against the league leaders, Phoenix will need to get the balance right to hurt Sydney.
Defensively, they allowed too many chances against the Wanderers and didn’t make the most of the opportunities they created.
KEY BATTLE: Alex Brosque v Shane Smeltz
Brosque is having an outstanding season and has shown great leadership as the captain. He has nine goals and is key to Sydney’s attack.
Smeltz has two goals in his last four appearances in this fixture, though both were for Sydney FC, and overall has also scored three goals in his last four games against the Sky Blues.
Sydney are too strong and even when they have been tested, like last week against the Roar, they still have enough class and experience to kill games off and control the tempo.
Phoenix are not in good form and will struggle to hold the Sky Blues out.
Sydney at $1.43
Draw at $4.75
Wellington at $7.50
Tip: Sydney FC at $1.45
Value Bet: First Goal Scorer: C Lokolingoy at $7.00
Correct Score: Sydney FC 2-1 at $7.50
Sydney FC squad: 1.Andrew REDMAYNE (gk), 4.Alex WILKINSON, 5.Jordy BUIJS, 6.Joshua BRILLANTE, 7.Michael ZULLO, 8.Milos DIMITRIJEVIC, 9.BOBÔ, 10.Milos NINKOVIC, 11.Bernie IBINI, 12.Aaron CALVER, 14.Alex BROSQUE (c), 17.David CARNEY, 18.Matt SIMON, 19.George BLACKWOOD, 20.Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 21.Filip HOLOSKO, 23.Rhyan GRANT.
Wellington Phoenix squad: 1.Glen MOSS (gk), 2.Jacob TRATT, 4.Roly BONEVACIA, 5.Ryan LOWRY, 6.Dylan FOX, 7.Gui FINKLER, 8.Alex RODRIGUEZ, 9.Kosta BARBAROUSES, 10.Michael McGLNCHEY, 11.Hamish WATSON, 12.Adam PARKHOUSE, 13.Marco ROSSI, 17.Vince LIA, 19.Tom DOYLE, 20.Lewis ITALIANO (gk), 21.Roy KRISHNA, 22.Andrew DURANTE (c), 23.Matthew RIDENTON.
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McLachlan says AFL offered Hird support
The AFL has defended its public silence over James Hird’s health crisis, with Gillon McLachlan saying the league had offered support through an intermediary.
The league’s chief executive also revealed he has Jobe Watson’s 2012 Brownlow Medal and the AFL will soon make public a review of its investigation into the Essendon supplements debacle.
Hird, the former Bombers coach, had a drug overdose last month and was hospitalised.
At the time, the AFL made no comment, prompting criticism from some quarters.
But McLachlan noted Hird’s family pleaded for privacy in the immediate aftermath of the health crisis.
“We have reached out to the people we think and hope are having a dialogue with the family to make it clear our concern and to offer to do anything we can,” McLachlan said.
“Why we didn’t do that publicly is because this is a very distressing situation.
“It was clear from the family that it wanted to be quiet and our view was that anything we could make (sic) would have the risk of creating a whole series of other distractions and pressures.
“The appropriate reaction was to talk confidentially … and not speak publicly. If we could help, we’re there.”
The AFL banned Hird in August, 2013 for 12 months over the supplements saga.
He returned after the suspension, but left the club in August, 2015.
Since Hird’s hospitalisation, confidants have commented publicly about the toll the whole saga and its aftermath have taken on his health.
Asked if the AFL had contributed to last month’s crisis, McLachlan blunted replied: “I just think that’s entirely unfair”.
He dismissed as “100 per cent rubbish” speculation that the AFL had intervened to prevent Hird taking an AFL radio commentary role.
McLachlan added the AFL would welcome back Hird.
“Our industry has a history of being open and forgiving … he’s welcome back into football,” McLachlan said.
Also last month, former Essendon captain Jobe Watson officially lost his 2012 Brownlow over the saga.
Watson was one of 34 current and former Bombers players who served doping bans last year.
McLachlan revealed Watson had handed back the medal to the AFL, but gave no further details.
“All I’m saying is, the medal is with me,” he said.
And McLachlan also confirmed that the league’s review into its own Essendon investigation would be made public before the start of this season.
“The exact execution, I don’t know,” he said.
“You review every part – I’ve said publicly, I don’t think we’d change too much, but there are always learnings … you can always learn.”
He said that one example was if a similar situation was to happen again, he – as chief executive – would step down from the commission.