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A-League finals race tightens

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Reigning champions Central Coast are in danger of missing the A-League finals after a disastrous second-half fadeout against Wellington.

On a weekend when away sides were in the ascendancy, the Phoenix made a mockery of the table to thrash the Mariners 4-1 with four second-half goals.

Coach Phil Moss – who has not yet been able to replicate former boss Graham Arnold’s winning record – said he knew what it would take to get the Mariners back on track after falling to just one point above seventh place.

“Certainly I know I’ve got the quality of players, I know I’ve got the culture here and I know we’ve got a very tight dressing room … they are in there hurting at the moment,” Moss said.

Melbourne Victory’s extraordinary 4-3 win over Adelaide United has given them precious breathing space in the finals race.

In a remarkable match, the Victory’s Gui Finkler twice reduced a deficit created by Sergio Cirio, who finished with a hat-trick, before Archie Thompson and Kosta Barbarouses earned the win for the Melbourne team.

The Victory took the lead when veteran Reds keeper Eugene Galekovic miskicked an easy clearance, but United coach Josep Gombau said he had no complaints with the performance from Galekovic or his team despite the loss.

“Today, he had this mistake … but he’s a great goalkeeper. I have unlimited confidence in him,” Gombau said.

The precious three points have the Victory in third position to keep them out of the potential finals logjam – for now.

Western Sydney Wanderers maintained second place with an accomplished 2-0 win in Perth.

Tony Popovic used the occasion to rotate his squad ahead of a mid-week Asian Champions League match with Korean heavyweights Ulsan Hyundai.

“We’ve got to manage the squad well, we’ve got to use every player and we’re comfortable doing that,” he said.

Goals from Mateo Poljak and Tomi Juric, from an appalling William Gallas error, condemned the Glory to their sixth straight game without a win.

Sydney FC’s 2-0 win keeps the Phoenix out of the top six, with Frank Farina hailing a “huge” win earned through Sasa Ognenovski and Alessandro Del Piero.

“The last month’s been a grind for everyone at the club,” the under-pressure manager said.

“We’re not thinking of the finals at this stage. There’s still seven games to go and there will be a lot more twists and turns.”

On Sunday night, Melbourne Heart capped off the round by defeating Brisbane Roar 1-0 at AAMI Park.

The Heart’s marquee man Orlando Engelaar gave them a fourth successive win to keep the potential of finals football remarkably alive.

WELLINGTON PHOENIX 4 (Kenny Cunningham 47m, Carlos Hernandez 64m, Stein Huysegems 65m, Jeremy Brockie 82m) bt CENTRAL COAST MARINERS 1 (Bernie Ibini 20m) at Bluetongue Stadium. Crowd: 6,147. Referee: Alan Milliner.

SYDNEY FC 2 (Sasa Ognenovski 60m, Alessandro Del Piero 73m pen) bt NEWCASTLE JETS 0 at Hunter Stadium. Crowd: 12,449. Referee: Strebre Delovski.

MELBOURNE VICTORY 4 (Guilherme Finkler 15m, 57m, Archie Thompson 66m, Kosta Barbarouses 75m) bt ADELAIDE UNITED 3 (Sergio Cirio 3m, 45m, 83m) at AAMI Park. Crowd: 18,341. Referee: Kris Griffiths-Jones.

WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS 2 (Mateo Poljak 12m, Tomi Juric 71m) bt PERTH GLORY 0 at nib Stadium. Crowd: 8,543. Referee: Shaun Evans.

MELBOURNE HEART 1 (Orlando Engelaar 61m) bt BRISBANE ROAR 0 at AAMI Park. Crowd: 7,816. Referee: Adam Kersey.

LADDER AFTER Rd 20

P W  D L  Pts

Brisbane Roar                          20 12 2 6  38

Western Sydney Wanderers 20 9  7 4  34

Melbourne Victory                 20 8  6 6  30

Sydney FC                               20 9  1 10 28

Adelaide United                     20 7  6 7  27

Central Coast Mariners        20 7  6 7  27

Wellington Phoenix              20 7  5 8  26

Newcastle Jets                      20 6  5 9  23

Perth Glory                            20 5  6 9  21

Melbourne Heart                 20 5  6 9  21

LEADING GOALSCORERS

10: Stein Huysegems (Wellington) 9: Adam Taggart (Newcastle), James Troisi (Victory), David Williams (Melbourne Heart) 8: Besart Berisha (Brisbane), Alessandro Del Piero (Sydney) 7: Guilherme Finkler (Victory) 6: Tomi Juric (Western Sydney), Jeronimo Neumann (Adelaide), Fabio Ferreira (Adelaide), Sergio Cirio (Adelaide), Ranko Despotovic (Sydney), Carlos Hernandez (Wellington), Archie Thompson (Victory) AAP

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