All your Hyundai A-League Finals Series last-minute news and analysis ahead of the Elimination Finals, including an ID check for Wellington’s Bonevacia, no excuses for the Reds and Arnie’s Victory jibe. It’s all happening!
Dry argument for Siggy
There may have been a few eyebrows raised when Phoenix defender Ben Sigmund missed Wellington’s training session on Thursday feeling a little under the weather.
With the club’s awards night held on Tuesday, there’s some that may have thought the hard-tackling centre-back went a little too hard on the vino.
Before Phoenix fans start thinking their players have let their hair down too much before the finals, there is a perfect explanation.
Sigmund’s wife Deanna was a no-show on the night, struck down by a last-minute tummy bug, which the Kiwi international woke up with the next morning.
None of the Phoenix players touched a drop of alcohol on the night and will be ripe for the clash with Melbourne City on Sunday.
Socceroo striker scoops awards in Wellington
Some ID please, Roly
Still on Phoenix’s awards and Dutchman Roly Bonevacia was a popular winner of the club’s Young Player of the Year [under-23] gong.
But it raised a few eyebrows among his team-mates, who insist Bonevacia looks closer to 30.
We went straight to the source who told us he actually has four passports, all with different birthdates on them.
We thought he was serious for a moment until Roly’s trademark smile and boisterous laugh gave it away!
Roly, ya rascal!
Phoenix star: ditch sexy football and ‘win ugly’
There’s been much said about playing Friday’s Elimination Final at Adelaide Oval – and not the Reds’ spiritual home of Coopers Stadium.
But the home side’s players are over it and are relishing the chance to get out in front of a huge crowd – expected to be around 25,000 – and keep their title charge alive by disposing of bogey side Brisbane.
“The grass won’t be a factor whether we win or lose,” Reds defender Dylan McGowan declared this week.
“It’s the middle of Adelaide, so it’s definitely going to feel like a home ground and hopefully we can get as many home fans here as we can.
“On average we have had the better season [than Roar] and hopefully we can carry it through. Brisbane is the champion and we will show them the utmost respect but we are the higher seeded team, we finished third and they finished sixth.”
Elimination Final preview: Adelaide United v Brisbane Roar
Arnie: Sky Blues could have won Premiers’ Plate “by 10 points”
They might have the week off and can’t meet them until the Grand Final but it didn’t stop Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold taking a sly dig at Melbourne Victory this week.
At the Sky Blue ball on Tuesday, Arnold told the crowd his side would have “won the league by 10 points” if not for a horror injury toll mid-season.
Sydney lost Nicky Carle, Sasa Ognenovski, Ali Abbas and Corey Gameiro.to season-ending injuries in the space of a month, seeing a seven-game winless run before the Asian Cup break.
While the jibe may have been a little tongue in cheek, it would have duly been noted down south and will add even further spice if the two meet in the decider.
Dimitrijevic Sweeps Sky Blue Ball
They’ve played 16 games in nine weeks, including long trips to China, Korea, Japan and Perth.
It’s been a gruelling schedule for the jaded Brisbane Roar squad but they have had the (rare) luxury of a full week to prepare for Friday’s Elimination Final against Adelaide United.
With injury’s robbing them of four key defensive players [Jade North, Shane Stefanutto, Luke DeVere and goal-keeper Michael Theo], Frans Thijssen will need his young guns to step up.
Brandon Borrello, Devante Clut, Corey Brown, Daniel Bowles and James Donachie are all set to start and will have to continue their impressive recent form if Roar are to get through.
Roar embrace mission impossible
City marquee man Robi Koren told local media this week he would have produced more consistent form if he was played in his natural central midfield position.
The Slovenian international has played most of the campaign among the front three in City’s 4-3-3 formation, with Erik Paartalu, Aaron Mooy and Jacob Melling or Massimo Murdocca playing in midfield.
But injuries and suspension might see the 34-year-old drop back into his more preferred position on Sunday, which could spell trouble for Phoenix.
Koren is a top-quality midfielder who has the ability to control a match from the middle of the park and his combination with Aaron Mooy is one that can excite.
Elimination Final preview: Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne City FC
Cool customers needed for Phoenix
Wellington have the unenviable record of missing five penalties this season, with the other clubs combined missing a total of four.
It’s not exactly the type of record you want going into a finals series, where matches could be decided via a nerve-jangling penalty shootout.
With the likes of leading-scorer Nathan Burns and Roly Bonevacia missing their attempts, Michael McGlinchey or Albert Riera are next in line to take them.
Coach Ernie Merrick described the pair as “cool, calm and collected” this week and apparently Riera has never missed a penalty at training.
Riera has never scored a goal in during his Phoenix career, a run of 43 games, the most of any Phoenix player in history [excluding goal-keepers].
How the ‘Ernie Effect’ revived Wellington Phoenix
Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante – who turns 33 on Sunday – and City’s captain Patrick Kisnorbo are two of only three outfield players to have played every minute of every match this season. Perth skipper Michael Thwaite, also a central defender, is the other player.
Finals Series feature star: Andrew Durante