Sage: Glory vision achieved early

Owner Tony Sage admits the speed of Perth Glory's Premiers' Plate success under coach Tony Popovic has come as a surprise.

The West Australian club have clinched the minor premiership with two rounds to go in the regular season, following their 1-0 win at home to Newcastle Jets on Sunday.

It is the first time they have topped the A-League, though they were a big force in its predecessor the National Soccer League.

Sage said plans were hatched midway through last season – when the Glory failed to make the Finals Series under Kenny Lowe – for a different strategy and a new coach.

They turned to Popovic, who had led Western Sydney Wanderers to the premiership in the club's inaugural season, largely due to the urging of football manager Jacob Burns.

"There were several coaching candidates available and Jacob pushed and pushed for Popa (Tony Popovic)," said Sage.

"The vision has been fulfilled a year earlier than we expected – we had to make a decision on which direction we were going to go."

The 15-year silverware drought ended with the victory against the Jets when captain Diego Castro lifted the Premiers' Plate.

Now Sage, who has poured nearly $30 million into the Glory in more than a decade, says the club want to go on and win the championship and then start planning for next year's Asian Champions League campaign.

"We're up for the challenge – it's only going to be a feather in everyone's cap if we can do it," he added. "Asia has been a dream of mine from day one; it's going to be huge."

Perth Glory are 5/4 to win the Grand Final.

The Glory are 2/1 to win their next game against Sydney FC, who are 11/8 with the draw 9/4.

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Rudan staying through playoffs

Wellington Phoenix coach Mark Rudan remains focused on guiding the club through the Finals Series before departing, his boss has insisted.

Phoenix general manager David Dome said the club had given no consideration to replacing the Australian at this point, despite him announcing officially last Friday that he would step down at the end of the season.

His departure has been expected for some time, with the coach having spoken of how difficult it has been for him personally while his family remained in Sydney.

He is expected to be unveiled as the inaugural coach of Western United when they enter the A-League next season.

The Phoenix squad only found out in the hours leading up to Friday's defeat to Brisbane Roar that Rudan would be utilising the eight-week notice out-clause in his two-year contract.

Despite their loss at Suncorp Stadium, the club have made sure of finishing in the top six.

Rudan has become the first coach in Phoenix history to guide the club to the playoffs in his first season.

"Over the last couple of weeks it has got more and more obvious that it was unlikely that his family was going to move across the ditch to Wellington, so the middle of last week we reached the conclusion where it was probably in everybody's best interests to end the speculation and move on so we can start planning for the rest of the season and next season," said Dome.

Though Wellington have lost their last two games, Dome said the speculation over Rudan's future had not been a factor.

"We respect Mark, we respect what he has done here and we believe he is the coach to take us through to the final," he added. "In my conversations with Mark and in my conversations with the players and the football ops team they are adamant that it [his departure] has not contributed at all.

"I can assure you they're still very focussed on that and Mark is very focussed on that and everyone at the club is focussed on that."

Melbourne City coach Warren Joyce is understood to be among the candidates to take over from Rudan.

Wellington Phoenix are 25/1 to win the Grand Final.

The Phoenix are 7/5 to win their next game against Melbourne City, who are 9/5 with the draw 12/5.

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Reds up to fourth after stalemate

Adelaide United earned a point from a goalless draw away to Melbourne City that lifted them into the A-League top four.

The Reds moved a point clear of Wellington Phoenix with just two rounds left of the regular season, after an action-packed encounter at AAMI Park.

Both keepers were in superb form and the woodwork helped preserve the deadlock.

City keeper Eugene Galekovic was called into action first, when he made a save with his feet to deny Craig Goodwin, who had been slipped in by Ben Halloran.

Adelaide were relieved soon after as City midfielder Kearyn Baccus curled in a shot from the edge of the box that ricocheted off the post.

The home side also struck the woodwork before the interval, substitute Nikola Mileusnic cutting inside and seeing his shot deflect off Ritchie De Laet and onto the post.

Galekovic made a double save at the other end to deny United, first stopping a George Blackwood effort and then thwarting Halloran's follow-up effort.

City again came close when Harrison Delbridge's header from inside the six-yard box from a Shayon Harrison set-piece was tipped onto the bar by Reds keeper Paul Izzo.

The frame of the goal was again rattled 15 minutes from time as Jamie Maclaren just failed to squeeze his shot past Izzo from a narrow angle. The keeper got a touch to the attempt to beat him at his near post and diverted it against the upright.

Adelaide will secure a top-four spot and a home final if they win both their remaining matches, though their next game is against defending champions Melbourne Victory on Good Friday.

Meanwhile, Sydney FC are 66/1 to win the Asian Champions League final with Al-Hilal 7/1 and Kashima Antlers priced at 8/1.

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Crunch time for Sky Blues

Reza Ghoochannejhad is hoping to get a starting role when Sydney FC bid for a first win in the Asian Champions League against Shanghai SIPG.

The Iranian star has only scored one goal in nine appearances since arriving on a loan deal from Cypriot side APOEL. He's been overlooked for a start by coach Steve Corica in three of the Sky Blues' last four matches.

Sydney FC face a must-win clash with the Chinese side at Jubilee Stadium on Wednesday, having picked up just one point from their two games so far.

Ghoochannejhad is confident he can make a goalscoring impact for the team, who have three huge matches in a row.

After taking on Shanghai SIPG, the Sky Blues face Western Sydney in the derby on Saturday knowing anything less than a victory would mean the Glory can wrap up the minor premiership by beating Newcastle the next day.

If the Premier's Plate is still up for grabs after this round, Corica's team will be able to cut the gap on 18th April when they host Perth.

Ghoochannejhad said: "At the end of the day, I just want to play and score goals because that's what I'm here for.

"I'm ready, whenever the coach needs me – whether it's in the Champions League or the A-League, I just want to play and be important for the team. We'll see on Wednesday but I'm very excited, delighted and eager to play."

Reigning Chinese champions Shanghai SIPG boast a star-studded team including captain Hulk, former Chelsea midfielder Oscar and prolific striker Elkeson.

Ghoochannejhad added: "They have big names, of course. But big names don't decide the game – it's a team effort that gets you the win."

Sydney FC are 12/5 to win the A-League Grand Final this season 7/10 to win their next game against Western Sydney, who are 7/2 with the draw 3/1.

Ikonomidis hopes to face Jets

Striker Chris Ikonomidis is confident he will be available for Perth Glory's trip to Newcastle Jets on Sunday when the league leaders could clinch the Premier's Plate.

The Australia international missed the second half of the 3-0 win over Central Coast at the weekend after dislocating his right shoulder.

He dislocated the same shoulder two years ago and says his experience of that injury lends him to believe he can win his fitness battle to play against Newcastle at HBF Park.

"It's feeling all right. My gut feeling is it's not too serious, not as bad as last time. I'm pretty optimistic," he said.

"I knew straight away what was going on but it went back pretty quickly, which is positive. I don't want to miss games, especially this close to the end of the season when we could win the title."

If Sydney FC fail to win their derby clash with Western Sydney on Saturday, Perth will go into the Jets clash knowing victory will secure their first A-League minor premiership.

It would mark a big turnaround for the club under Tony Popovic, who took over as coach in the off-season after Kenny Lowe had failed to get them into the Finals Series last season.

Popovic says Socceroos central defender Matthew Spiranovic has been a big factor in their success. The 30-year-old returned against the Mariners for his first game in five weeks and was a commanding figure in the victory against the bottom club.

In the 11 games Spiranovic has played this season the Glory have conceded just six goals and have kept six clean sheets. In their 13 matches without him they have let in 16 goals.

Popovic said of him: "He is a classy player, that's exactly what he is. We've tried to nurse him along in this little period and not force him back and he showed his quality amongst the team."

Perth Glory are 7/5 to win the Grand Final and 4/9 to win their next game against Newcastle Jets, who are 6/1 with the draw 10/3.

Perth close in on premiership

Perth Glory will have the chance to win their first A-League Premier's Plate next week after they beat Central Coast Mariners 3-0 in Gosford.

The leaders handed the league's bottom club a fifth consecutive home defeat to maintain their six-point advantage over Sydney FC.

If they beat Newcastle Jets at Optus Stadium next weekend and the Sky Blues fail to win their derby clash with Western Sydney the minor premiership will belong to the Glory.

Tony Popovic's side continued their unbeaten league record away from home – they have now won eight and drawn four outside Perth.

The Mariners, watched by a crowd of 3774 that is just 14 more than their lowest ever attendance, shipped two goals in the first half-hour.

Joel Chianese put the Glory in front with a crisp low finish past keeper Ben Kennedy into the far corner. Neil Kilkenny's corner picked out the head of Dino Djulbic for the second goal – his first for the club in four years.

The Glory lost Socceroos striker Chris Ikonomidis just before the break to a dislocated shoulder but made the game safe 11 minutes after the restart.

Substitute Diego Costa won a penalty when he was brought down by Jacob Melling in the area and Kilkenny fired home from the spot.

Perth almost grabbed a fourth goal when Juande's shot was kept out by a combination of Kennedy and the post after he was found by Kilkenny's deep corner.

The Mariners were denied a consolation goal when they hit the crossbar from a deflected Andrew Hoole free-kick.

Perth Glory are 7/5 to win the Grand Final and 4/9 to win their next game against Newcastle Jets, who are 6/1 with the draw 10/3.

Rudan: It’s not panic stations

Coach Mark Rudan believes Wellington Phoenix's chances of finishing in the top four are still in their own hands after the 3-1 loss to Adelaide United.

The New Zealand side conceded three times in the first half at Coopers Stadium and couldn't rescue the situation despite having an extra man for the whole of the second half.

Reds striker Apostolos Stamatelopoulos, having scored twice, was sent off in injury time at the end of the first half for a studs-up challenge on Mandi.

United changed their formation after the break to try to protect their lead, going on to earn a win that brought them level with the fourth-placed Phoenix.

Wellington, though, have a six-goal advantage in goal difference. It is effectively a seven-goal gap as they have scored 11 more than Marco Kurz's side. There are only three rounds remaining and both teams only have one home game left.

It is a three-way battle for fourth spot – which would secure a home final – as Melbourne City are only one point behind.

Rudan said: "We still have a better goal difference and the goals we scored in the last three games, it's why we are in this position. It's in our hands, it's not panic stations."

Wellington's goal difference was boosted when they won all three of their games last month, scoring a combined 15 goals and conceding just four.

Rudan was disappointed that, after scoring in the opening minute of their 4-1 win over Newcastle last week, they produced a poor first half in Adelaide.

"We got beaten inside the first 45 minutes, it's as simple as that. We went to sleep … probably the worst 45 minutes that we've played this season," added the coach.

"Three crosses, three goals. Three shots on target, three goals – you've got to give them credit for it."

Wellington Phoenix are 20/1 to win the Grand Final and 10/11 to win their next game against Brisbane Roar, who are 13/5 with the draw 14/5.

Thurgate’s first goal in Jets win

Teenager Angus Thurgate claimed his first A-League goal to give Newcastle Jets a 3-2 win over Western Sydney.

The home side ended a two-game losing streak and backed up coach Ernie Merrick's decision to turn to youth for the final four rounds.

With their chances of a Finals Series spot all but gone, Merrick had indicated he would build for the future.

He handed Thurgate his first appearance since round 19 and saw the 19-year-old decide the game when he buried a shot into the top corner with eight minutes left.

He swooped on a loose ball after the Wanderers defence had failed to clear the danger.

It came eight minutes after the visitors had equalised thanks to Keanu Baccus' fierce strike that went in off the underside of the crossbar.

Oriol Riera thought he had put the visitors in front in the seventh minute when he slotted home a rebound but was flagged for offside.

Rashid Mahazi put Wanderers ahead just before the interval at McDonald Jones Stadium, heading home past a static defence.

Irish striker Roy O'Donovan, having missed a golden chance in the first half, brought the Jets level on 63 minutes with a powerful shot.

The Jets took the lead soon after with a freakish goal from a corner. Dimitri Petratos curled the ball in and keeper Vedran Janjetovic, caught out at his near post, could only push the ball into the net.

The win completed a first clean sweep for the Jets against Wanderers following a 2-0 triumph in round five and 5-1 rout in round 17.

But Merrick had some consoling words for his opposite number Markus Babbel.

"He is a good coach and when he puts his mark on the team by signing the type of players he wants, and when they move into the new training premises and he gets money for a big marquee player, I think they will do really well," he said. "Hopefully we are up there with them next year."

"We will start building now for next year and we have some good talent out there."

Western Sydney are 7/2 to win their next game against Sydney FC, who are 7/10 with the draw 3/1.

Wanderers are 16/1 to win 1-0.

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Ninkovic goal settles Big Blue

A deflected goal from Milos Ninkovic in injury time gave Sydney FC a 2-1 win over Melbourne Victory at the SCG.

The Sky Blues claimed a fourth win in five outings to keep alive their chances of winning the minor premiership.

It gave Steve Corica's side a four-point cushion in their battle with Victory for a top-two finish that would give them a shot at Asian Champions League football next year.

Having lost both their previous Big Blues clashes of the season, Sydney FC looked set to have to share the spoils this time.

It was only when Ninkovic's effort deflected off the legs of a defender and past keeper Matt Acton that they secured what was their fourth win in five games.

The loss for Victory, which effectively ended their chances of finishing in top spot, was compounded by a suspected serious knee injury for Terry Antonis.

The midfielder will have scans on Monday that will determine whether he can play again this season.

Sydney FC, having already been denied a goal when Adam le Fondre's chipped shot bounced off the top of the crossbar, took the lead in the sixth minute.

Brandon O'Neill started the move with a sliding tackle on Kosta Barbarouses and he finished it with a rocket left-foot shot past keeper Lawrence Thomas.

They only led for nine minutes, though, as Keisuke Honda threaded a ball through for Barbarouses to dink over the advancing Andrew Redmayne for the equaliser.

O'Neill brought a fingertip save out of Acton 17 minutes from time with another shot from distance.

The winner came when Ninkovic latched onto a Siem de Jong cross, the Serbian's effort deflecting to trickle into the net.

The Sky Blues are 7/10 to win their next game against Western Sydney, who are 7/2 with the draw 3/1.

Sydney are 17/2 to win the game 1-0.

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Quality goals in City victory

Melbourne City answered coach Warren Joyce's plea for an attacking display to beat Brisbane Roar 4-1 at AAMI Park.

With Joyce's future at the club uncertain and his side reeling from a 3-0 defeat away to Western Sydney, City delivered an impressive performance that included some memorable goals.

Joyce saw the players respond quickly to giving up a 55th-minute equaliser, as on-loan Shayon Harrison put them back in front within five minutes.

The final two goals in the last 20 minutes were special. First Ritchie de Laet let fly with a rocket shot from well outside the area that flew past Roar keeper Jamie Young into the top corner.

Four minutes into injury time, Riley McGree finished things off with a cute chip over Young.

It was a victory that all but guarantees City will make the Finals Series and extended their unbeaten sequence at home to 10 matches.

They took the lead on 27 minutes when Florin Berenguer's cross was glanced home by the head of Rostyn Griffiths.

The Roar levelled in fortunate fashion when Harrison Delbridge headed into his own net in trying to guide the ball back to his keeper Eugene Galekovic.

But Harrison, on loan from Tottenham, claimed his second City goal when he volleyed home from a tight angle to restore the home side's lead.

Brisbane only forced Galekovic into one save all night and, with three rounds left, they remain in danger of finishing with the wooden spoon.

City have two more home games from their three remaining fixtures as they battle for a top-four finish.

Melbourne City are 16/1 to win the A-League Grand Final this season.