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Victory closing in on A-League top spot

By Chris Pike
3 February 2013 12:42AM EST

MELBOURNE Victory continues to press for top spot while Perth Glory has slipped to the bottom after an eventful day in the A-League on Saturday.

The triple-header on Saturday began at Wellington's Westpac Stadium in front of 11,566 people with the Phoenix beating the Perth Glory 1-0 to climb off the bottom of the table, and send the Glory there.

Then at Newcastle's Hunter Stadium, the Jets could only manage a 2-2 draw with an undermanned Sydney FC in front of a crowd of 12,428.

A massive crowd of 41,203 then turned up at Etihad Stadium for the Melbourne derby with the Victory winning a thrilling contest 2-1 over the Heart.

The results leave the Mariners still on top with 39 points, but now just three points ahead of the Victory with the Western Sydney Wanderers just behind on 32 along with Adelaide United, with both to face one another in Adelaide on Sunday.

There is then a sizeable gap to Newcastle in fifth spot on 23 points with Brisbane joining them in the top six on 21. The Heart are just behind on 21 followed by Wellington (20) and Perth (19).

In Wellington, the Phoenix scored in the 41st minute through Jeremy Brockie and from there were virtually never headed against a Glory side that never looked threatening with the absence of star striker Shane Smeltz.

Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert is confident that the result can start a resurgence for his side towards the finals.

"It was just like the old days with us grafting through and defending well, and then getting the result so I'm pleased," Herbert said.

"It's three points and it gives us a small amount of relief."

Despite falling to the bottom of the table, Glory coach Ian Ferguson isn’t ready to give up on making the finals yet.

"If you win four or five of these games you will reach the finals and everybody has got to play each other and get points off each other, so there's still the belief we can do it," Ferguson said.

"We've definitely got the quality and the squad, it's just about trying to get them all playing at the same time."

There was then plenty of drama in Newcastle as the Jets and Sydney FC drew 2-2 with the final result not helping the Jets cement a spot in the six or to get the Sky Blues in there.

Both Newcastle's goals game from penalties with Ryan Griffiths converting in the 16th minute and the 89th with the first against Rhyan Grant incredibly soft but the second against Terry McFlynn for a handball deserved.

It was Sydney that got the opening goal of the game, though, through Allesandro Del Piero in the 12th minute and then the Sky Blues went ahead in the 57th through Blake Powell, but couldn’t manage to stay there.

It was a brave effort from Sydney with Joel Griffiths, Tiago Calvano, Fabio, Yairo Yau, Brett Emerton and Jason Culina all missing.

Sydney coach Frank Farina was left fuming at the penalty against Grant on the back of the suspension to Griffiths that came just on the eve of the game.

"I thought the first penalty was a bit soft. There was contact, but it's a contact sport and I think it was more the arm or whatever. I thought it was a little bit soft but the second one you can't argue with. There was a hand ball but the first one got them back in the game," Farina said.

"The ban was most probably a bit over the top and harsh, but I won't say any more on that now. I would like to see the club at least look into appealing it though."

Jets coach Gary van Egmond admitted Newcastle didn’t have its best day.

"I do feel lucky to have gotten away with that to be honest," van Egmond said.

"I was disappointed with the performance but we did show tremendous character to get something out of it still."

It was then a cracking Melbourne derby at Etihad Stadium with the Victory getting the jump on the Heart thanks to a terrific goal from Archie Thompson in the 29th minute.

He was set up from a wonderful pass from Marco Rojas to leave him one-on-one with Heart goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne and he had no trouble beating him to get the ball into the net.

The Victory then looked to have sewn up the win when Mark Milligan converted a penalty in the 56th minute, but the Heart wouldn’t go away and got a goal back through David Williams 73 minutes in, but couldn’t quite find another.

Victory coach Ange Postecoglou was obviously delighted with the win, but was even more blown away from the support of the Melbourne public.

"It's just a real privilege for an occasion like this. Both teams were fantastic tonight and to have 41,000 people here is all about living the dream and I feel really privileged," Postecoglou said.

"The boys were good tonight. It was a tough game and they were up for it. They put us under a lot of pressure and we had our opportunities, but I'm just really pleased for the 40-odd thousand that turned up tonight.

"To be honest the AFL clubs would be jealous of the support that we've got and I don’t take that for granted. It's a real privilege to coach this football club."

Heart coach John Aloisi was proud of his team's performance despite not getting anything from the game.

"I thought it was a good performance by us especially when you add up the games that we had in the back four, A-League games, and I don’t think they even added up to 20. I thought our players did extremely well and I was proud of them," Aloisi said.

"I thought it was a great performance and we were unlucky to lose. It's now a big game for us next week and every game is big for us from here on in. Especially because it's a home game against us and Perth has been struggling of late, so it's sort of a must-win match for us."

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