Western United ended Western Sydney Wanderers' faint A-League Finals hopes by clinching a 5-3 victory after surrendering a three-goal lead at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium.

The Wanderers needed a win to keep their aspirations of finishing in the top six alive but got off to a poor start, Josh Risdon heading home Max Burgess' cross before teeing up Besart Berisha in the 19th minute.

A sublime chip from Alessandro Diamanti early in the second half looked to have put the result beyond doubt, but the Jean-Paul De Marigny's men remarkably clawed it back with three goals in 13 minutes.

Mitchell Duke's double, consisting of a header and a well-executed volley, book-ended a Wanderers' goal glut, with Tass Mourdoukoutas also on target.

However, their momentum was extinguished two minutes later when Mourdoukoutas was caught in possession by Burgess and the attacker sprinted clear before tucking a cool finish beyond Tristan Prendergast.

Another wonderful lob from Diamanti put the seal on the win for United, who are two points adrift of sixth-placed Adelaide United with two games in hand.

Newcastle Jets kept up their bright form since the A-League restart as Roy O'Donovan's smart header earned a 1-0 win over Western United.

The Jets made it seven points from a possible nine since the league's lockdown ended as a crowd of 2,570 saw a home success at the McDonald Jones Stadium.

O'Donovan netted in the 29th minute, timing his run to meet Jason Hoffman's cross from the right and glance the ball across goal into the left corner.

It was the experienced Irish forward's 10th goal of the season, and his fourth since arriving at Newcastle from the Brisbane Roar in January.

O'Donovan later struck the outside of the post, while the visitors were denied an equaliser when Besart Berisha found the net with a close-range volley but was flagged offside.

Newcastle jumped two places to seventh with their win, nudging above Western United who fell to eighth.

Wellington Phoenix saw their Premiers' Plate hopes ended by a 1-1 draw at home to Adelaide United on Saturday.

Sydney FC cannot now be caught at the top of the regular-season standings after a late missed penalty from Ulises Davila proved costly.

Kristian Opseth powered home a header on the hour mark to put the visitors ahead at Bankwest Stadium, but Jaushua Sotirio levelled five minutes later.

Adelaide keeper Paul Izzo made three fine saves to keep Wellington at bay, although arguably the most comfortable of those was from Davila's tame penalty with three minutes to go.

The result means Wellington are 11 points behind Sydney, having played a game more, while Adelaide remain in the top six despite Western United's 2-1 win at Melbourne Victory.

A fine half-volley from Tomislav Uskok and a powerful strike from the excellent Max Burgess put United ahead, with a looping, glancing header from Storm Roux proving scant consolation.

Western United captain and former Italy international Alessandro Diamanti has signed a new contract, the A-League club announced on Friday.

Diamanti will remain with Western United in Australia on a two-year deal – a boost for the league's newest team as the 2019-20 season prepares to resume on July 16 following the COVID-19 crisis.

The 37-year-old former West Ham, Bologna and Atalanta attacker – who had been linked to rivals Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City – arrived as a marquee signing in July last year.

Diamanti has flourished in the A-League, scoring five goals and supplying seven assists in 19 appearances prior to the coronavirus-enforced break in March.

"We've started something special this year at Western United and I'm excited to re-sign and continue the journey we have started together," Diamanti said.

"Our coach Mark Rudan has supported me since I arrived and given me the freedom to enjoy my football and express myself, so I thank him for that. Both he and the club are building something special and I want to be part of it as long as I can.

"I was honoured to be the first captain of Western United, and I hope I can continue to help the club be successful and entertain our great fans."

"From the day he walked into the football club Alessandro has been a marquee in every sense of the word," Western United head coach Mark Rudan added.

"He's been fantastic on and off the park. His footballing skills has had the whole competition in awe, equally his positive attitude and personality has been adored by not just our fans but every football fan around the league.

"We're ecstatic as a football club to extend Diamanti's contract as we continue to build and grow Western United."

In May, Diamanti told Stats Perform News that the A-League had reignited his passion for football following his arrival from Serie B side Livorno.

"Virus or no virus, I would have kept playing anyway," he said. "For sure I will still be playing football as long as I feel physically and psychologically like this, being able to offer great performances and loving to train everyday.

"Then to be honest, to come here gave me back that lightness and that passion you always tend to lose in Europe. I will stay here in Australia next season."

Western United were sixth after their 20 matches when the league was halted due to COVID-19.

Diamanti and Western United are scheduled to resume their season against the Victory on July 16, though a location for the fixture is still to be determined due to a spike in coronavirus cases in the state.

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.

The 2019-20 A-League season is set to resume with a derby between Melbourne Victory and Western United on July 16.

Australia's premier football competition was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, with just 27 matches and the finals remaining.

On Monday, it was announced that the A-League campaign had been extended until the end of August following talks between Football Federation Australia (FFA), the clubs and players.

The FFA has now confirmed it has several draw options ready, though the clash between Victory and Western United at AAMI Park in Melbourne will kick-off the resumption of the season.

The only other fixture revealed is defending champions Sydney FC's match against third-placed Wellington Phoenix at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, with the remaining regular-season games to be played over a 28-day period before the finals.

"We have developed multiple draw options for the completion of the regular season," FFA's head of leagues Greg O'Rourke said on Tuesday.

"All options commence with Victory taking on Western United at AAMI Park followed by a game between the table topping Sydney FC against third-placed Wellington Phoenix at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium the following day.

"The reason for having multiple draw options – which our clubs are across – is due to the fact that over the next few weeks there may be additional relaxations in border restrictions and travel movements in Australia, which may enable our clubs from Victoria, Queensland and South Australia to remain and play in their home cities, rather than relocating to New South Wales to complete the season. 

"Regardless of which option we ultimately take, Wellington Phoenix and Perth Glory FC understand that they will complete the remainder of their regular season matches in New South Wales, with games to be played at Bankwest Stadium in Parramatta, Netstrata Jubilee Stadium in Kogarah, and McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle. 

"We are confident that we will be able to release the revised draw for the completion of the Hyundai A-League 2019/20 season soon."

Sydney top the table through 20 games, 21 points ahead of sixth-placed Western United, while Victory are second from bottom.

Western United captain and former Italy international Alessandro Diamanti wants to stay in the A-League after rediscovering his passion for football in Australia.

Diamanti joined A-League newcomers Western United on a one-year marquee deal in July and the 37-year-old was a class above prior to the season being postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The former West Ham, Bologna and Atalanta attacker – who arrived from Serie B side Livorno – scored five goals and supplied seven assists in 19 appearances in 2019-20.

Despite Diamanti's exploits for Western United, the veteran's future remains uncertain with his contract expiring.

But back in love with football thanks to Australia, Diamanti told Stats Perform: "Virus or no virus, I would have kept playing anyway. For sure I will still be playing football as long as I feel physically and psychologically like this, being able to offer great performances and loving to train everyday.

"Then to be honest, to come here gave me back that lightness and that passion you always tend to lose in Europe. I will stay here in Australia next season."

Diamanti added: "Football is the same everywhere. Then of course there are different cultural ways to let football grow and this may change from country to country.

"According to me here football is at a good level. There are interesting players and many talented youngsters who have improvement margins ahead. There are foreigners who have played abroad at high levels. Here it is physical, a lot, and very competitive. At the same time it is very cheerful, something the rest of the world [of football] should be too."

Diamanti was handed the armband at the A-League's newest club, a rare opportunity to lead a team from their inauguration.

"Maybe I accepted Australia for this idea," Diamanti said. "At the beginning of the season I met the owners of my club and they told me they wanted to start off this new club adventure with me at the heart of the project.

"They made me captain and asked me to help this club to improve. They gave me responsibilities and I have always got along well with responsibilities. I liked it a lot to be winning as a captain the first game of a newborn club. It is nice."

Western United – coached by Mark Rudan – were sixth after their 20 matches when the league was halted due to COVID-19.

The club occupied the remaining finals position on goal difference, ahead of Adelaide United.

"We started the season very well than, as it may happen, we had a slump in form due to injuries and some players who left," said Diamanti.

"We struggled a bit in the central part of the season but in the last two or three games we were back to our standard levels and we were aiming at the playoff to have our say.️"

Western United captain Alessandro Diamanti believes players need a month of training to be ready for the resumption of the A-League season.

Clubs and players are reportedly anticipating a return to play in August after the 2019-20 campaign was postponed amid the coronavirus pandemic in March.

The A-League had 27 regular-season fixtures remaining when it was suspended, with newcomers Western United sixth through 20 matches.

As Australia eases restrictions, former Italy international Diamanti told Stats Perform: "Training in the park alone is not like doing it in a group with a ball between your feet.

"Maybe you won't need like a summer training preparation but almost. Things would change because we are going to play many games in a few days to end the league as soon as possible.

"We would need a month to be able to perform for 90 minutes."

"I have always been positive this situation would be sorted and the league would restart soon. I want to finish this season with my team-mates," added Diamanti when asked if the thought about returning to Italy during the COVID-19 crisis. "As I say, everything will go, good things and bad ones too."

It has been a confronting experience for Diamanti away from the pitch in Australia following devastating bushfires and the COVID-19 outbreak since arriving from Serie B side Livorno in July.

While Australia has managed to contain the spread of coronavirus, the former Brescia, Bologna, Fiorentina and Atalanta attacker has been forced to watch his native Italy struggle.

More than 31,000 people have succumbed to COVID-19 in Italy, while Australia has registered just 98 deaths.

"Here in Melbourne we have been luckier, if I can say that, than in Europe because numbers [of casualties] are not comparable but we had to stay home," said the 37-year-old, who took the A-League by storm prior to the hiatus with give goals and seven assists.

"I lived it differently because I watch the news on Sky Italy, I have parents and friends in Italy and I had news two or three weeks before than here where everything was still normal. So I lived it in a different and more worried way. 

"Here there has never been a lockdown so I could go every day to the park to train and do all the work out a professional athlete has to do when a league to finish is looming. Then I purchased a stand bike at home where I do my gym and strength work out but every morning I go out to train in these beautiful parks."

Federico Chiesa should think twice before leaving Fiorentina amid growing speculation over his future, according to Alessandro Diamanti.

Chiesa is a player in demand following his exploits for Fiorentina. Juventus and Inter are reportedly interested, as well as Premier League giants Manchester United and Chelsea.

The 22-year-old Italy international, who emerged from Fiorentina's youth system in 2016, had managed six goals and three assists in 23 Serie A appearances prior to the coronavirus pandemic halting the season.

Fiorentina owner Rocco Commisso has already said he is open to selling Chiesa if the forward wants to leave the Viola, yet Diamanti has some advice for his countryman.

Ex-Italy international Diamanti, who played for Fiorentina across two loan spells and is now captain of A-League side Western United in Australia, told Stats Perform: "If I were Chiesa I would think twice before leaving Fiorentina.

"Commisso came with a lot of enthusiasm and plan and if I were Federico Chiesa I would think twice before leaving this Fiorentina with a new ownership."

American billionaire Commisso completed his takeover prior to the 2019-20 season, buying Fiorentina from the Della Valle family, having failed to land a controlling stake in Serie A rivals Milan.

Commisso's arrival led to the signing of high-profile free agent and former Bayern Munich star Franck Ribery but it has been a topsy-turvy campaign in Florence.

Fiorentina sacked head coach Vincenzo Montella in December and the team were 13th, five points above the relegation zone before the season was suspended.

"It is always hard [at the beginning]," Diamanti, who has also played for West Ham, Atalanta, Watford, Bologna and Chinese powerhouse Guangzhou Evergrande, said. "You risk to make a bit of confusion.

"He [Commisso] invested a lot, brought in many players. They had some problems despite the good start and were forced to sack the manager.

"So far this first season has been tough although the league isn't over yet. It has been tough, but you can see they laid the foundations for the future."

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

Sydney FC went 13 points clear at the top of the A-League after coming from behind to hammer Melbourne Victory 4-1.

The league leaders fell behind in the fifth minute, Marco Rojas breezing past Alex Wilkinson all too easily before rifling home an early opener.

Yet Milos Ninkovic levelled prior to half-time and Sydney led when Anthony Caceres curled a 64th-minute effort in off the post from the edge of the box.

Two minutes later Le Fondre, the A-League's top scorer this season, chipped over Lawrence Thomas for his 16th goal of the season, with Giancarlo Gallifuoco only diverting the ball into the corner with his desperate intervention on the line.

The hosts ended the game with 10 men when last-man Tim Hoogland was somewhat harshly dismissed for a shoulder-to-shoulder challenge on substitute Trent Buhagiar in the area three minutes from time.

With Le Fondre off the pitch, Kosta Barbarouses stepped up and converted the penalty to make it 4-1 and leave Graham Arnold's side 13 points clear of Melbourne City, who they also have a game in hand on.

Besart Berisha, the A-League's all-time top scorer, added another two to his tally in Western United's 5-1 demolition of Adelaide United.

Riley McGree had cancelled out Berisha's first, but Alessandro Diamanti, Max Burgess and Connor Pain all found the net before the visitors' prolific striker scored his second of the game and 15th of the season.

The win moved Western United above Adelaide into sixth.

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.

Western Sydney Wanderers closed to within four points of the top six with a thrilling 5-2 A-League drubbing of Adelaide United.

There were six goals in the first half at Bankwest Stadium in which the visitors went 2-1 up after trailing just five minutes in, only to surrender their advantage in a manner described by coach Gertjan Verbeek as "comedy capers".

Pirmin Schwegler's deflected free-kick five minutes in was cancelled out by a Riley McGree penalty, and Ben Halloran's composed finish made it 2-1 22 minutes in.

Two goals in two minutes turned the match on its head, though, Nicolai Muller making levelling before Mitchell Duke finished emphatically after being sent through by Simon Cox.

Duke headed in a second before the break to give the Wanderers a two-goal cushion, and Cox's clever after 73 minutes capped a fine outing for Jean-Paul De Marigny's side, who are now seventh.

In Friday's earlier game, Wellington Phoenix claimed a 2-0 win over Western United to climb into third in the table.

Mark Rudan's side kept Wellington at bay thanks to goalkeeper Filip Kurto until Liberato Cacace steered a volley beyond his reach 29 minutes in.

David Ball finally made the points safe with a fine strike in the 90th minute straight from a clearance from goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic, leaving United with plenty to consider having failed to score a goal in February and with only one win from eight matches.

Brisbane Roar strengthened their grip on sixth spot in the A-League thanks to a 1-0 win over Western United on Sunday.

Mirza Muratovic's 61st-minute goal proved to be enough for Robbie Fowler's men at Mars Stadium in Ballarat.

The result moved Brisbane four points clear of Western United in the last finals spot in the A-League table.

Brisbane had to wait until just after the hour-mark to find a breakthrough.

Brad Inman dispossessed debutant Tomoki Imai before squaring a pass for 20-year-old forward Muratovic to tuck away.

After a slow start to the season, Fowler's Brisbane have collected 17 points from their past eight games.

Ben Halloran scored twice as Adelaide United swept aside second-place Melbourne City 3-1 in the A-League on Saturday.

Halloran opened the scoring in the 12th minute, lashing home from 10 yards after Craig Noone had made a mess of an attempted clearance.

Noone made amends four minutes later, however, powering a left-foot effort from 12 yards past Paul Izzo to draw the visitors level.

Halloran restored the hosts' advantage four minutes before the interval, heading home at the back post from a corner, while George Blackwood made it three in first-half stoppage time with a thunderous header from six yards.

City's misery was compounded 14 minutes from time when Harrison Delbridge received a third red card of the campaign for an ugly challenge on Nikola Mileusnic.

The result moves Adelaide up to fifth, while City remain 13 points behind leaders Sydney FC, who have a game in hand.

Perth Glory are a point behind City after a last-gasp 2-2 draw with Melbourne Victory at HBF Park.

The visitors forged ahead in the 22nd minute when Ola Toivonen whipped into the top corner from the edge of the penalty area.

Bruno Fornaroli pulled the hosts level in first-half injury time with a low free-kick from 20 yards, but Andrew Nabbout restored Victory's lead shortly before the hour mark courtesy of a cool finish from a quick break.

Nicholas D'Agostino ensured a share of the spoils, though, hammering home a header from six yards in the 90th minute.

The result leaves Victory in in eighth place on 16 points, six ahead of rock-bottom Newcastle Jets, who drew 0-0 with Western United in the day's other game.

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