The last month of the A-League home and away season promises to be a thrilling one.
Melbourne Victory and Central Coast defied the rigours of a fixturing backlog to emerge as the big winners in round 23 of A-League action, with the race for finals spots set to go right down to the wire.
On face value, the last thing the Victory needed between two Asian Champions League (ACL) fixtures was to make the trans-continental trek to Perth to take on the Glory.
But with Archie Thompson claiming a 90th-minute winner, the Victory banked a priceless 2-1 win to move above the faltering Western Sydney Wanderers into second spot.
“This time of year now, teams are starting to get desperate. Pressure will mount for different reasons. Different positions on the table are being played for,” said Victory coach Kevin Muscat, who must turn his thoughts quickly to Tuesday’s home ACL clash against Japanese giants Yokohama F Marinos.
“It’s good to be involved in. It’s cut-throat football.
“Every game from here on is going to be a difficult one.”
Central Coast are also having to juggle ACL and A-League commitments, but gained valuable breathing space by moving up to fourth with a 3-1 derby win over Newcastle.
They now travel to China to play Beijing Gouan on Wednesday in a match coach Phil Moss predicts could attract a crowd of 50,000.
But their South Korean striker Kim Seung-yong is in doubt for the trip after enduring a torrid time against the Jets.
The battle for sixth spot is even tighter, especially after eight-placed Wellington (28 points) and ninth-ranked Melbourne Heart (25) shared the points in a 2-2 thriller at AAMI Park on Sunday.
Next weekend’s clash between the seventh-ranked Jets (29) and Wellington shapes as one of many potential six-pointers in the next month.
The Western Sydney Wanderers and sixth-placed Adelaide United (31) slogged their way to a scoreless draw at a rain-soaked Pirtek Stadium on Saturday.
Western Sydney are now winless in three games and – like the Victory and the Mariners – face the tricky task of dealing with domestic and ACL commitments in the coming weeks.
The Brisbane Roar remain nine points clear atop the table after drawing 1-1 away to fifth-placed Sydney FC and can secure the Premiers Plate as soon as next weekend.