A-League: Top two held as battle heats up

By Sports Desk April 24, 2021

Melbourne City and Central Coast Mariners both dropped points on Saturday as the battle at the A-League summit intensified.

City, fresh from a resounding 7-0 win over rivals Melbourne Victory, missed the chance to extend their lead after being held to a 1-1 draw by Macarthur.

That came following a 2-2 draw for second-placed Central Coast Mariners against Sydney.

It means City's advantage at the top is one point, while Macarthur are only three further back in fifth spot.

The Mariners failed to put maximum pressure on the leaders as they surrendered a two-goal lead on home soil.

Alen Stajcic's men appeared to be coasting after first-half strikes from Marco Urena and Matty Simon, but Milos Ninkovic cut the deficit before the break.

And the comeback was completed seven minutes from time when Trent Buhagiar capitalised on a mistake at the back to seal a point for Sydney.

Presented with a chance to move three points clear at the top, City faltered.

Connor Metcalfe's volley put Patrick Kisnorbo's men ahead with a fine volley, but Macarthur earned a share of the spoils courtesy of Michael Ruhs following some questionable defending.

Related items

  • Jude Bellingham sent off after final whistle as Real Madrid draw with Valencia Jude Bellingham sent off after final whistle as Real Madrid draw with Valencia

    Jude Bellingham was sent off after the final whistle after being denied a late winner in Real Madrid’s 2-2 draw at Valencia.

    The England midfielder, making his return from injury, thought he had headed home a cross deep into stoppage time at the Mestalla but the referee had already blown for full time.

    Real players surrounded the official in a chaotic aftermath and Bellingham was shown the red card before the players left the field.

    It made for a dramatic ending to a compelling LaLiga clash in which the leaders had fought back from 2-0 down with two Vinicius Junior goals.

    Valencia had stunned Carlo Ancelotti’s side by pouncing on two mistakes to score twice in quick succession through Hugo Duro and Roman Yaremchuk.

    The result meant Real missed the chance to move nine points clear at the top and second-placed Girona will have the chance to cut the gap when they play Mallorca on Sunday.

    It was an emotional night for Valencia, who were returning to action for the first time since a deadly fire in their city, with tributes paid to victims and other people affected before kick-off.

    The game got off to a slow start as the visitors struggled to create any meaningful opportunities despite dominating possession.

    It was not until the 23rd minute that Real caused any alarm in the Valencia box as Vinicius, returning to a ground where he was racially abused last season, went down under a challenge from Dimitri Foulquier. No penalty was given.

    Valencia took the lead against the run of play in the 27th minute after Real lost possession.

    There was an element of fortune about it as Foulquier crossed to the far post and Fran Perez miskicked his attempt to clip back across goal. Duro, who had not been expecting the ball, reacted quickly to head home.

    Dani Carvajal then compounded the setback moments later with an underhit backpass that Yaremchuk seized upon to round Andriy Lunin and slot in.

    Real recovered and Bellingham, back in the side after three weeks out, created a chance for Federico Valverde but Giorgi Mamardashvili was equal to his effort.

    The pressure paid off in first-half stoppage time as a Carvajal cross took deflections off a defender and Mamardashvili and found its way to Vinicius for a simple tap-in.

    Real upped the tempo after the break and Vinicius lashed a shot wide before Bellingham, who has enjoyed a stunning first season at the Spanish giants, wrong-footed the defence and forced Mamardashvili to save with his legs.

    Diego Lopez brought a good save from Lunin at the other end but further Real pressure paid off when Vinicius rose to head in a Brahim Diaz cross.

    There was a long delay late on after Valencia’s Mouctar Diakhaby suffered a serious-looking injury and was carried off on a stretcher.

    Real had a scare in stoppage time when Valencia were awarded a penalty for a foul on Duro by Nacho but the decision was overturned by VAR.

    It was not the end of the drama but Bellingham’s effort came too late to count.

  • Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s admiration of City ‘a complete honour’ says Pep Guardiola Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s admiration of City ‘a complete honour’ says Pep Guardiola

    Pep Guardiola has thanked Sir Jim Ratcliffe for ‘helping him do his job’ by stating his admiration for Manchester City.

    New Manchester United co-owner Ratcliffe recently spoke of his ambition to knock neighbours City, and another of their rivals in Liverpool, “off their perch”.

    Yet in doing so he conceded United had fallen well behind both of those clubs and admitted much could be learned from their success.

    He even went as far as to say City’s 4-0 demolition of Real Madrid in last season’s Champions League semi-finals was “the best quality of football I’ve ever seen”.

    Guardiola says such compliments are a source of pride and feed his continuing desire for success.

    The City manager, whose side host United on Sunday, said: “I just say thank you so much.

    “Sometimes they are more than the titles, the compliments of the personalities that make this country, like Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s comments. It is a complete honour for us.

    “One can produce emotions and feelings for the players and our rivals. That helps to do our job. Thank you so much on behalf of all of us.

    “But I am sure tomorrow they will try, one way or another, to inoculate the Man Utd players with the best performance to try to beat us.”

    This weekend’s derby could be a key encounter for champions City in their bid to win a fourth successive Premier League title.

    Considering their recent superiority over their neighbours, and United’s inconsistency this season, City are expected to come out on top but Guardiola is wary of the pitfalls of the fixture.

    He said: “Do you remember when United went to Anfield this season? Last season it was 7-0.

    “Remember the comments? How many goal are Liverpool going to score? It would be easy for Liverpool.

    “What was the result? Liverpool didn’t win.

    “It is United. The past is the past. Tomorrow it is 11 players with pride, with a manager – we cannot deny how good he has done in the past in Amsterdam – trying to do his best.

    “In different situations, with City in the position of United, I know my players would behave at Old Trafford with pride and the best character. It is going to happen to United on Sunday.

    “It will be a tough game, another final for us. I know how difficult it will be.

    “It has been more difficult here than at Old Trafford in our period together. We lost more (derby) games here than Old Trafford. We have to perform really well to do it.”

  • Nick Cushing backs Emma Hayes to make the right impression in new role Nick Cushing backs Emma Hayes to make the right impression in new role

    Emma Hayes has been backed to do an “incredible” job as United States women’s team boss by old rival Nick Cushing, who is making his own mark across the pond with New York City FC.

    It is four months since it was announced that the 47-year-old would be calling time on her medal-laden time as Chelsea at the end of the season to become a national team manager.

    Hayes will be returning to the country where she began her coaching career at the start of the millennium and will likely bump into one of the few managers to have dented her domestic dominance.

    Cushing currently coaches Major League Soccer side NYCFC having previous led Manchester City for six years, including beating Chelsea to the 2016 Women’s Super League crown.


    View this post on Instagram

    A post shared by U.S. Soccer WNT (@uswnt)

    “She’s incredible about what she does,” he said. “I loved fighting with her – we fought every weekend and every season for those trophies.


    “I think she’ll do an incredible job. I think if I was going to hire, I would’ve hired her because she’s the best in the women’s game by far.

    “Her record speaks for itself but also her ability to manage, her knowledge of the game.

    “I do believe you’ll see her in the men’s game at some point. That’s my opinion. I think she’s capable and I think in time people will see her capability.

    “I think she’ll be successful in the US women’s national team and then she will have almost conquered the women’s game.”

    Cushing is full of admiration and praise for Hayes, whose outstanding work at Chelsea restricted him to a still impressive haul of six trophies in as many years with City.

    They were tussling for the WSL title again before the 39-year-old left during the 2019-20 season to become assistant manager of fellow City Football Group side NYCFC.

    They won the MLS Cup the following year and Cushing was promoted to head coach in 2022 following an initial spell as Ronny Deila’s interim replacement.

    “If you give me my time again and give me a crystal ball, I would be a football player every time,” the NYCFC boss said. “10 times out of 10.

    “But when you don’t get the ability to be a football player and then you invest your time at 19 to becoming a coach, you get to the point where you’re at 39 where you probably should be in the first two years of your coaching.

    “But you’ve got nearly 20 years of working at academy level through all ages, then the women’s game.

    “I didn’t pick my journey but if I could change anything I probably wouldn’t change much of what I’ve done.”

    Cushing wants to kick on in his second full season in charge at NYCFC, who continue the new MLS season at St Louis City having narrowly lost their opener at Charlotte FC.

    The 39-year-old says he is driven by a desire to keep up with successful CFG stablemates and clearly wants to take his career as far as he can, having risen through the ranks since joining City as a schools coach in 2007.

    “My ambition is to work at the highest level of the game,” Cushing said when asked about the potential of one day managing boyhood club Everton.

    “Every time I have gone up, I’ve never felt out of my depth and felt like it was a challenge greater than what I have capable in my character.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.