Western United's dream debut A-League season continued as Alessandro Diamanti's stunning free-kick secured a 1-0 win over Brisbane Roar and a semi-final berth.

In the second upset of the post-season, following Perth Glory's elimination match victory over Wellington Phoenix, Diamanti struck on Sunday to set up a last-four meeting with Melbourne City.

United, who finished fifth in the regular season, led after 21 minutes when the former Italy international swept in a sensational 25-yard effort, with Jamie Young only able to help the ball into the top-left corner.

Brisbane could have equalised before half-time but Matthew Ridenton sent his left-footed volley just wide.

Young kept his side in the gane with a brave double-save from Josh Risdon and 37-year-old Diamanti, before the Roar came again.

Jay O'Shea shot wastefully straight at Filip Kurto and then Brad Inman drove forward and blasted against the post, but United held on for a historic win.

Luke Ivanovic's first goal of the A-League season was not enough to prevent Sydney FC's winless run stretching to a fourth match, as they were held 1-1 by Brisbane Roar. 

Sydney have struggled for momentum since being crowned premiers for a record fourth time on July 25 and were behind early on in Monday's clash at McDonald Jones Stadium. 

Dylan Wenzel-Halls latched on to Jay O'Shea's throughball - possibly intended for Scott McDonald - and coolly lifted over Andrew Redmayne with 11 minutes on the clock. 

However, three minutes after hitting the post, young winger Ivanovic got off the mark for the season with an impressive curled finish into the top-right corner. 

The visitors came closest to winning the game in a goalless second half, Jamie Young producing a number of good saves, including a triple stop 17 minutes from the end. 

Sydney could not find a way through and are now on their longest streak without a win since April 2016, while the Roar are unbeaten in three heading into the Elimination Final.

Scott McDonald continued his hot streak in front of goal, but another former Celtic man ensured Wellington Phoenix emerged from their A-League encounter against Brisbane Roar with a 1-1 draw.

McDonald turned into space on the edge of the Wellington box in the 61st minute to fire home to score his sixth goal in as many matches.

Gary Hooper missed a glorious chance to equalise from close range with the goal at his mercy but made amends inside the final 10 minutes when Liberato Cacace's header came back off the post.

The Phoenix remain a place and two points ahead of Brisbane in third with one game of the regular season remaining.

Brisbane Roar did just enough to see out a 2-1 A-League win over strugglers Melbourne Victory to boost their Finals and AFC Champions League qualification hopes.

Roar broke the deadlock early in the second half – Scott McDonald heading in Bradden Inman's cross, though Matt Acton in the Victory net will have been frustrated after getting a hand to it.

Matthew Ridenton made it 2-0 12 minutes from time, nodding home following a flowing team move, with Andrew Nabbout's subsequent penalty soon after coming too late to inspire a turnaround.

The result gives Warren Moon his first win in charge and consolidates Roar's position in fourth, giving them an eight-point cushion in the Finals qualification places. Victory remain second-from-bottom.

Kristian Opseth got Adelaide United's A-League Finals hopes back on track by securing a 1-0 victory over Brisbane Roar on their return to action.

Adelaide were on a four-game losing streak in which they conceded 15 goals when the season was suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic, but club legend Carl Veart got them back to winning ways in his first game at the helm after Gertjan Verbeek's departure.

Opseth headed Ryan Strain's right-wing cross past Jamie Young to put the Reds in front inside six minutes at Cbus Super Stadium.

After Adelaide goalkeeper Paul Izzo tipped Jay O'Shea's free-kick onto the crossbar with a stunning save, Nikola Mileusnic struck the post at the other end on the stroke of half-time.

Substitute George Blackwood hit the bar with a header from Riley McGree's corner 12 minutes from time and Izzo finished the game with eight saves as Brisbane were consigned to defeat in their first game since Robbie Fowler's exit.

Football Federation Australia (FFA) released the schedule for the remaining matches of the coronavirus-hit A-League season, with a bonanza of 27 games in 28 matches before a quick-fire finals series.

The 2019-20 A-League campaign has been suspended since March due to the COVID-19 crisis, but Australia's premier football competition is set to restart on July 16 followed by a five-game finals series – the Grand Final to take place on August 23.

A derby between Melbourne Victory and Western United – originally scheduled for AAMI Park in Melbourne – will be played at a stadium still to be determined due to a spike in coronavirus cases in the state.

Six venues will be used in New South Wales and Queensland with the potential for more to be added subject to government regulations – ANZ Stadium (NSW), Bankwest Stadium (NSW), Central Coast Stadium (NSW), McDonald Jones Stadium (NSW), Jubilee Stadium (NSW) and Cbus Stadium (QLD).

"Over the past three months all stakeholders have been working hard together with one goal in mind – To finish what we started," FFA's Head of Leagues Greg O'Rourke said on Wednesday.

"We know the COVID-19 environment has been very difficult for many people in our community and we hope that delivering an extravaganza of matches will allow our fans to basically see a game everyday will be a unique experience for those who have stood by us.

"As we are a truly national game, the current border controls means that some of the match day venues may need to change, however we have secured venues in both a NSW Hub model and a hybrid hub model which has most games in NSW but allows for a few games in other states.

"Whilst we don't see the draw changing, the planning we have undertaken provides us with agility to shift between certain states if required. This version of the draw displays our current venue plan.

"We will continue to work with the Federal and State governments to ensure the health and safety of our players, coaches and other stakeholders and have detailed and practical protocols in place for all parties involved in training and match days.

"I am excited to see us kick off the restart and ultimately finish off what we started last October, with our priority always being to be in a position to crown our Hyundai A-League premiers and champions for this season."

Defending champions Sydney FC top the table by eight points through 20 matches, though second-placed Melbourne City have played three games less.

Robbie Fowler's time as Brisbane Roar head coach is over after just 24 games at the helm of the A-League club.

Fowler and his assistant Tony Grant will not return to the club when the season resumes, it was confirmed on Monday.

The former Liverpool forward oversaw 11 wins in 24 games at the helm of Brisbane.

"On behalf of myself and Tony, I would like to thank the club for the opportunity, and the Brisbane Roar FC fans for the warm welcome and support for me and the team," Fowler said.

"We are very proud of what we achieved."

Brisbane were fourth in the table when the season was suspended in March due to COVID-19, with the campaign set to restart next month.

"Robbie has not only provided stability but a refreshing injection of knowledge and insight into the Roar," Roar deputy chairman Chris Fong said.

"We are disappointed that the global pandemic has impacted our plans together but completely understand that family comes first during these difficult times."

Queensland will allow small crowds to return to sporting events from Saturday in good news for the NRL and potentially the A-League.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced on Wednesday that up to 2,000 fans can return to stadiums beginning on the weekend.

The Gold Coast Titans are hosting the St George Illawarra Dragons at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday.

Brisbane Roar could also welcome fans to the ground when the A-League season resumes in mid-July, while it is also good news for the AFL.

"Up to 2,000 fans can return to Queensland's stadiums from this weekend," a tweet from Palaszczuk read.

"Queenslanders have done an incredible job smashing the curve, and codes have done their part to develop COVID Safe plans to keep fans safe.

"It's another positive step on our road back to normal and I know Queenslanders are eager to get back to games to cheer on our teams."

Australia has more than 7,300 cases of coronavirus, including 102 deaths.

Titans chief executive Steve Mitchell welcomed the move, while praising Queensland's handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

"This is obviously great news for the Titans and the NRL, but for fans of sports across Queensland," he said.

"The past few months have been tough on everyone, and the hard work done by the NRL in getting our competition restarted gave us a feeling that life was finally returning to normal.

"Thanks to the premier and her government in containing the virus in Queensland, we are now at the stage where we are able to take the next step on the journey back to normal life, with 2,000 spectators able to come to Suncorp Stadium on Saturday to enjoy a day at the footy.

"This is a great reward for Titans fans who have been unable to get along to support their team at games, and obviously a big boost for our playing group as well to be able to run onto the field and see and hear the support they have from the Titans Legion.

"This is a wonderful leap forward, but we are not yet at the ultimate goal of a return to full crowds at sporting events. We will continue to be guided by the government and the NRL as we all work towards that goal. There will still be a number of public health restrictions and protocols in place at the venue to ensure the health and safety of our fans.

"But this is certainly a positive milestone for us, the NRL and sports fans in Queensland, and the Titans are delighted to be the first Queensland team to be back playing in front of our supporters this weekend."

West Ham and Crystal Palace's pre-season fixtures in Australia have been postponed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Premier League clubs and A-League outfit Brisbane Roar were due to play in Queensland in July ahead of the 2020-21 season.

However, those fixtures were unsurprisingly postponed on Wednesday due to COVID-19, which has killed more than 177,000 people worldwide.

"It is a real shame that we will no longer be able to make it over to Queensland this summer, however, it is the right decision to postpone given the circumstances," West Ham manager David Moyes said in a statement.

"The players and I were really looking forward to seeing our fans and the people of Australia, especially as there was great excitement and support for the tournament.

"This is a situation that has affected the entire world, though, and the only thing that matters at this time is that people stay safe and well.

"We hope the tournament can be rearranged at a later date once things are back to normal, and we look forward to visiting Australia in the future."

Australia has seen more than 6,600 coronavirus cases, including 74 deaths.

Sydney FC were never going to be stopped in the race for the A-League Premiers' Plate, but one club joined them in red-hot form late in the regular season.

The campaign was suspended last month due to the coronavirus pandemic with the Sky Blues on track to win a record fourth premiership.

Steve Corica's men were eight points clear and had three games in hand when the season was stopped.

Using Opta data, we predict the rest of the A-League regular season and while Sydney FC were unstoppable, one other club hit fine form.

 

SYDNEY MATCH POINTS RECORD

The Sky Blues' dominance continued late in the regular season.

Sydney went on to win each of their final six games and 21 of 26 to end up 17 points clear atop the table.

Only one team matched such a run late in the season – and they went on to finish second, a position that was held by Melbourne City when the campaign was suspended.

Sydney also matched their record points haul from 2016-17 with 66 points, despite playing one fewer game.

GLORIOUS PERTH PURR

Perth Glory, third when the season was stopped, also grabbed six wins from six to charge into second place.

With four of their last six at home and their two trips being to Western Sydney Wanderers and Adelaide United, Perth found form to secure a home Semi-Final.

Sydney and Perth also finished as the top two last season before going on to meet in the Grand Final.

 

FOWLER'S ROAR, WESTERN UNITED IN FINALS AS VICTORY LEAVE RUN LATE

Under Robbie Fowler, Brisbane Roar managed just three points from their final four games, but even that was enough to finish fifth.

Meanwhile, in their maiden A-League season, Western United clinched the last finals spot, finishing four points clear in sixth.

Struggling in 10th when the campaign was stopped, Melbourne Victory charged but fell short.

They grabbed 12 points from their last five games but it was only enough to finish seventh, missing the finals for the first time since 2011-12.

 

A-League table at end of regular season
1. Sydney FC – 66
2. Perth Glory – 49
3. Melbourne City – 43
4. Wellington Phoenix – 42
5. Brisbane Roar – 38
6. Western United – 36

7. Melbourne Victory – 32
8. Western Sydney Wanderers – 32
9. Newcastle Jets – 30
10. Adelaide United – 27
11. Central Coast Mariners – 13

Jamie Maclaren was the hat-trick hero as Melbourne City piled further misery on the Central Coast Mariners in the A-League with a 4-2 triumph.

The Mariners went down to a 10th consecutive defeat despite Jordan Murray catching the City backline napping to give them a second-minute lead.

The hosts' joy was short-lived as Maclaren arrowed a swift response across Central Coast goalkeeper Mark Birighitti and Markel Susaeta headed City in front inside 10 minutes.

Maclaren crowned a wonderful team move three minutes into the second half before claiming the matchball when Nathaniel Atkinson's blocked shot spun in his direction – a goal that restored City's two-goal advantage after a towering header earned Murray his second of the match.

City, who were playing without Erick Mombaerts - their 64-year-old head coach who stayed home as a precaution against contracting coronavirus, are seven points behind Sydney FC in second but have played three games more than the leaders.

Brisbane Roar are five points further back in fourth after Scott McDonald's splendid 16th-minute finish proved enough to see off Newcastle Jets 1-0.

It meant a first defeat as Jets boss for Carl Robinson – a fate that was almost averted in stoppage time when Roy O'Donovan volleyed Dimitrios Petratos' searching cross from the left against the post.

Scott McDonald's close-range effort during first-half stoppage time proved the difference as Brisbane Roar claimed a 1-0 A-League win over Central Coast Mariners at Suncorp Stadium.

Bottom club Central Coast belied a run of consecutive losses that now stands at nine with an enterprising start to the contest, with Jordan Murray putting their best chance over the bar when under close attention from Aiden O'Neill.

The Roar grew into the contest and McDonald edged them ahead thanks to a VAR review, which showed Brad Inman had been incorrectly flagged offside when supplying the assist.

Robbie Fowler's Final Series aspirants move up to fourth in the table, two points above Perth Glory having played two games more.

Scott McDonald scored his first A-League goals since November as Brisbane Roar beat Western Sydney Wanderers 3-1 at home on Friday, ending the visitors' recent resurgence.

Wanderers went into Friday unbeaten in four and with three victories in that time, boosting their hopes of a top-six spot, but the Roar continued their unbeaten 2020 home form, making it three wins from five in front of their own fans.

McDonald, who joined the Roar in January from Western United, opened his account for the club after just three minutes, turning in from the centre of the box after Macaulay Gillesphey's free-kick delivery.

The striker made it 2-0 just before half-time, reaching Bradden Inman's deflected cross to tap in – VAR overturning an initial offside call.

Mitchell Duke pulled one back in the 54th minute, scoring for a fifth successive A-League game with a crisp finish into the bottom-left corner on the break, but Jay O'Shea wrapped up a comfortable Roar win from the spot after Matthew Jurman's clumsy foul on Inman.

Defeat means the Wanderers trail sixth-placed Adelaide United by three points, but they came increase the gap on Saturday when they face Western.

Western United thrashed Central Coast Mariners 6-2 on Sunday to give their A-League top-six ambitions a boost.

Max Burgess scored a 19-minute hat-trick during a spectacular first half at GMHBA Stadium in which six goals were scored.

Besart Berisha's header broke the deadlock after nine minutes, but Chris Harold's penalty levelled matters after Tomislav Uskok had handled in the box.

Burgess struck his first goal to restore United's lead and got his second five minutes later after being set up by Connor Pain.

After Berisha saw an effort blocked, Burgess - who had never scored in 44 previous A-League appearances - completed his hat-trick, but Gianni Stensness made it 4-2 shortly before the break.

Andrew Durante turned in Alessandro Diamanti's cross for 5-2, before Berisha converted from close range in the 89th minute for his 20th goal against Central Coast - an A-League record for a player against a single club.

In the later game at AAMI Park, Melbourne City moved back into second place with a battling 1-0 win over Brisbane Roar.

The visitors were undone when Joshua Brillante's fine strike hit the post and went in off goalkeeper Jamie Young 10 minutes into the second half.

Melbourne are three points above third-place Perth Glory, having played a game more, while Brisbane sit sixth, just two points ahead of United.

New Newcastle Jets head coach Carl Robinson was denied a first home win despite a dominant first half against Melbourne Victory on Saturday.

Former Vancouver Whitecaps boss Robinson was appointed prior to a home success against Central Coast Mariners earlier this month but watched that match from the stands.

The Jets subsequently drew 1-1 at Western Sydney Wanderers and were then held by the same scoreline by the Victory.

Newcastle twice had early Abdiel Arroyo goals ruled out, the first after referee Alireza Faghani inadvertently deflected a cross into the striker's path.

But Melbourne's luck ran out when Roy O'Donovan blasted Dimitrios Petratos' cutback against the crossbar and, after a short delay, the VAR ruled the ball had bounced over the line.

However, half-time killed the Jets' momentum, and visiting captain Ola Toivonen headed an equaliser four minutes after the restart to claim a share of the spoils.

It was also 1-1 between Brisbane Roar and Perth Glory in Saturday's earlier game.

Perth climbed to second with a point but were denied all three by former Newcastle United defender Macaulay Gillesphey, who cancelled out Bruno Fornaroli's first-half opener five minutes from time.

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