De Laet ‘desperate’ to reclaim City spot

Ritchie De Laet is in contention to return for Melbourne City when they travel to Adelaide United on Sunday.

The former Belgium international was a late scratching from the City side that went down 1-0 to leaders Perth Glory last weekend.

His knee locked after training last week and he's had limited training, but coach Warren Joyce is hopeful he can step straight back into the side at Coopers Stadium.

Speaking of the 30-year-old's injury, the coach said: "There's nothing untoward, his knee just locked up. Obviously, we had three injuries on the same day so that was just an internal problem.

"He's done well so far this season; he's desperate to play. Not had much training this week so we'll just see and assess after training today."

Defensive midfielder Osama Malik could make his first appearance of the season, having been unavailable so far due to a calf injury.

Joyce said the 28-year-old had played during an in-house game, and been able to train.

"He's obviously been out a long time; he's a great kid and he's desperate to train," he added. "I took him on Monday when the rest of the lads were off – and you can see a little bit of sharpness is needed but he's desperate to be a part of it and, again, we'll just assess him today."

Though they've only scored in two of their past five games, and didn't have a shot on target in the defeat to Perth, City have again chosen to leave out striker Bruno Fornaroli.

Joyce said Frenchman Florin Berenguer was unlikely to be seen until the new year with a calf injury.

City are 11/5 to win their next game against Adelaide, who are 13/10 with the draw 23/10.

City are 17/2 to win the match 1-0. De Laet is 15/2 to score at any time in the game.

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Brown ‘outstanding’ on Brisbane return

Corey Brown's display on his return to Suncorp Stadium drew praise from Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat, after the defending champions beat Brisbane Roar 4-2.

Brown was making something of an emotional homecoming to Brisbane, where he had played the whole of his career until moving to Melbourne in the off-season.

His return could well have ended in a serious injury, when he was clattered by Eric Bautheac's challenge 20 minutes into the match.

But he managed to avoid the full force of the tackle, which earned a yellow card for the Frenchman and moments later a second booking for shoving, and played an excellent game, according to Muscat.

"He was fairly lucky in that tackle that he didn't get injured, but I thought his performance and his discipline and control was outstanding," said the coach.

"I had a couple of chats with Corey. He's been steadily building and tonight, to get caught up in an emotion, going back to your old club, sometimes distracts you from what's important to yourself and the team."

It was the first game Brown had played in an opposition team in Brisbane, a city where he grew up and played 88 times for the Roar and where his father Rod was an NSL Grand Finalist with Brisbane Strikers.

The left wing-back helped Victory secure a sixth consecutive win, which put them at least temporarily back at the top of the A-League table.

Kosta Barbarouses scored twice for the visitors, Keisuke Honda netted from the penalty spot and Ola Toivonen scored for Victory and then headed an own goal minutes later.

Muscat was again without defender Georg Niedermeier, who will hope to overcome his bruised ankle in time for next weekend's derby against Melbourne City.

Victory are 5/4 to win their next game against Melbourne City, who are 21/10 with the draw 12/5.

Victory are 7/1 to win the game 1-0.

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Six of the best as Victory go top

Melbourne Victory took over at the top of the A-League table with a sixth consecutive win, as they beat Brisbane Roar 4-2.

A remarkable game at Suncorp Stadium saw six goals, two penalties and a red card in the first half.

Victory's Ola Toivonen scored at both ends, heading an own goal just 10 minutes after putting his team ahead 2-1.

Brisbane were reduced to 10 men only 20 minutes into the match, when French marquee Eric Bautheac was shown two yellow cards, but still they managed to score twice before half-time.

The goals were all confined to a 34-minute period in the first-half, but the game started with a dramatic escape for Victory, who cleared the ball off their goalline three times within seconds.

Avraam Papadopoulos, Adam Taggart and Stefan Mauk were all denied, to the home crowd's disbelief, and the Roar conceded the first goal on 13 minutes.

Kosta Barbarouses got the first of his two on the night when he swept home a James Troisi pass, after Keisuke Honda had won the ball in midfield.

Brisbane's hopes took another big dent seven minutes later when Bautheac launched into a wild challenge on Victory defender Corey Brown.

He earned a yellow card for the challenge, but then became involved in a scuffle off the ball and referee Adam Fielding dismissed him.

The 10 men levelled from the penalty spot when Honda tripped Adam Taggart inside the area and the Roar striker picked himself up to convert.

Toivonen put the visitors back in front, sweeping home his third goal in as many games, and it became 3-1 with five minutes to go to half-time.

Daniel Bowles was pinged for a handball in the box and Honda stepped up to net his fifth goal of the campaign.

Toivonen misdirected a header when Alex Lopez sent in a free-kick to get the Roar back into the game at 3-2, but there was still time for a sixth goal of the half.

Two minutes into added time, Honda and Troisi set up Barbarouses for the All Whites international to net against his former club.

The Roar are 15/8 to win their next game against Wellington, who are 11/8 with the draw 12/5.

Brisbane are 10/1 to win the game 1-0.

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Phoenix seeking rare double

Hard work is the recipe Wellington Phoenix believe can help them build on their impressive away win against Sydney FC.

The Phoenix beat the Sky Blues, who have won the last two Premier's Plates, 3-1 at Jubilee Oval at the weekend and ended a five-game winless run.

They are now level on points with sixth-placed Newcastle Jets, and on paper look to have a great chance of climbing the ladder over the next fortnight.

Their next two games are at home to the bottom two teams, Central Coast and then Brisbane Roar.

If they can beat the Mariners it will be the first time they've achieved back-to-back wins in the same season since April 2017.

But defender Steven Taylor, who scored the third of their goals against the Sky Blues, says coach Mark Rudan's message has been that they can't allow their concentration to slip after that win against Steve Corica's side.

"The manager has made it very clear in the meeting this morning, we have to look to get some back-to-back wins under our belt and obviously build on it," said Taylor.

Rudan has been putting the players through double training sessions this week to ensure they are in the best condition for the Mariners game.

Taylor said: "The manager has been strict and has worked us hard. He knows we've got to maintain the levels we're showing at the moment and the boys are doing it.

"We believe in ourselves and work hard together. You can see the team spirit on and off the pitch, the lads are doing the extras, they're doing the grafting and that's showing."

Keeper Filip Kurton should be available again, after missing the Sydney FC game due to concussion.

Wellington are 11/4 to finish in the top six.

The Phoenix are 3/4 to win their next game against Central Coast, who are 7/2 with the draw 11/4.

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McCormack goes back to England

Central Coast striker Ross McCormack has returned to England after picking up a knee injury late last month.

The Scotland international, who is on loan with the Mariners for the whole season, has gone back to parent club Aston Villa for assessment on his injury.

The marquee was injured in the 3-2 defeat away to league leaders Perth Glory, and has missed the past two games.

His absence is a blow for the Gosford club, who have lost five games on the trot and are bottom of the table with just two points from seven matches.

Coach Mike Mulvey said McCormack had flown back to the UK to check in with a specialist, adding: "We expect him back just before Christmas and the best situation we can see at this stage would be having Ross eligible for selection for our New Year's Eve game against Perth Glory."

Saturday's trip to Wellington Phoenix could see the return of young striker Jordan Murray, who has made four substitute appearances so far since signing in the off-season.

Murray scored prolifically in the NPL for APIA Leichhardt, netting 43 goals in 64 games over a two-year stint.

Mulvey said Murray was an exciting prospect who was chomping at the bit and deserved his opportunity.

The Mariners are hoping to have both Tommy Oar and Corey Gameiro back on the field around the turn of the year.

Oar has started running again, following a knee problem, and could play at home to Newcastle on 23rd December, while Gameiro is closing in on his club debut.

Speaking of Gameiro, Mulvey said: "He is working hard to return from a calf injury and we're confident that we will have him back to full team training around that Christmas period."

Central Coast are 6/1 to finish in the top six.

The Mariners are 7/2 to win their next game against Wellington Phoenix, who are 3/4 with the draw 11/4.

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Roar retain confidence in Aloisi

Coach John Aloisi has been given a vote of confidence but Brisbane Roar know they need to get their season going soon.

The Roar have only won one of their first seven games, and find themselves second from bottom in the A-League.

It makes their home game against defending champions Melbourne Victory on Friday vital, as they are already 11 points off leaders Perth Glory.

Brisbane's last home match produced a 2-0 win over Melbourne City, but they have since lost on the road against Adelaide United and Newcastle.

It's a tough sequence of games for Aloisi's side, who will be back on the road for three consecutive games after they host Victory.

It's not the kind of start the club had been expecting, after they had recruited a number of talented players like Adam Taggart, Australian under-23 international Stefan Mauk and Spanish midfielder Alex Lopez.

Roar vice-chairman Christopher Fong said: "There's a lot of pressure on the playing group and the football department to perform better than they have; not just from the board, but I think from themselves.

"It's still early days; we certainly have a good roster on paper, there's just something missing and we're confident that John's going to pull it around."

Brisbane will be facing a Victory side who have won five games in a row to move up to second in the table.

Captain Matt McKay says the Roar have played well the past two weeks without getting anything from their games.

"It's not panic stations … we're all in it together, the whole club … this club is going to fight and get to where we belong," he added.

Taggart should be available to start after coming off the bench against the Jets due to a groin niggle, while Mauk will be in the frame as he continues to recover from concussion.

Brisbane are 33/1 to win the Grand Final.

The Roar are 13/5 to win their next game against Melbourne Victory, who are 1/1 with the draw 5/2.

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Babbel reinforces need to fight

Fight and quality were on display for Western Sydney as they got back to winning ways against Central Coast, according to coach Markus Babbel.

Wanderers went into the clash with the bottom side having lost their last two games without scoring, but a superb strike just before the break from Keanu Baccus gave them a massive boost.

Jaushua Sotirio's strike in the second half wrapped up the points at Spotless Stadium, leaving Babbel well pleased with the performance and the result.

Midfielder Baccus notched his first goal for the club with a low drive past keeper Ben Kennedy from outside the penalty area.

Babbel said he'd made his players aware before the game that he was looking for a reaction after the previous week's 4-0 defeat to Melbourne Victory.

"I said this to the players during the week, 'you can fall down, this can happen but stand up – stand up and fight for your dreams, for the success,' said the coach.

"This for me today was outstanding…everyone gave everything and that's it, the good luck came on your side because you deserve it and to be fair it was a good performance."

Speaking of Baccus, who has been with the club for four years and was previously captain of the youth team, Babbel said he was improving a lot.

"(He's) one of the best players on the pitch," he added. "If he's doing the right things and listens to us he shows a top performance but it's not just today, he's shown good performances before."

Wanderers will go into next week's derby against Sydney FC boosted not just by their win over the Mariners but also following the Sky Blues' shock 3-1 home defeat to Wellington.

Western Sydney are 12/1 to win the Grand Final.

Wanderers are 11/4 to win their next game against Sydney FC, who are 19/20 with the draw 13/5.

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Phoenix cause big upset

Former Sydney FC player Mark Rudan got one over his old team as Wellington Phoenix caused a big upset by winning 3-1 at Jubilee Stadium.

The Phoenix, without a win under new coach Rudan since the opening round, were three goals up by half-time.

The home side missed a golden chance to go in front after 14 minutes, when Adam le Fondre blasted over the bar from close range from Paulo Retre's cross.

And seven minutes later they conceded the opener, with Dutch centre-half Jop van der Linden being partly responsible for all three goals.

Van der Linden and left-back Michael Zullo were caught out by Sarpreet Singh's through ball that put Roy Krishna clear on goal.

Krishna, who last week against leaders Perth had become Wellington's all-time record goalscorer, kept his cool to make it 1-0.

The Fiji international was on the mark again nine minutes later, Mandi picking him out with a pass as he ran between van der Linden and Zullo to slide the ball home.

The Sky Blues were finding it difficult to contain the visitors' simple, no-frills football and they fell further behind seven minutes before the interval.

Liberato Cacace sent in an early cross into the box and defender Steven Taylor jumped above van der Linden to give Rudan's side a commanding advantage.

The Phoenix had 10 shots in the first half to Sydney FC's four, and Sky Blues coach Steve Corica made a switch at the break as he brought on Siem de Jong to try to increase the team's attacking threat.

Wellington lost Krishna just before the hour mark to a hamstring injury, and the home side managed a consolation goal a minute from time.

Zullo's deflected effort found the back of the net after Wellington defender Louis Fenton appeared to be fouled in the lead up to Le Fondre missing almost an open goal.

Wellington are 66/1 to win the Grand Final.

The Phoenix are 3/4 to win their next game against Central Coast, who are 7/2 with the draw 11/4.

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Raised tempo the key says Muscat

Kevin Muscat was happy with the way his Melbourne Victory side injected pace into the game after half-time as they beat Adelaide United 2-0.

The defending champions secured a fifth win on the trot thanks to goals from Kosta Barbarouses and Ola Toivonen in the second half.

It was the way his team responded to his instructions during the break to speed things up that gave the coach most satisfaction, after a win that kept them two points behind leaders Perth Glory.

"At half-time, the focus was to move the ball a little bit quicker and raise the tempo. I thought the game was slowed down at every opportunity in the first half," said Muscat.

"When we can control things, we want it to be played at a high speed, at a high tempo and that started from Leigh (Broxham), Lawrence (Thomas) and Thomas (Deng) because they had a lot of possession and in the end, I thought we were good value, very good value, for the three points."

Victory have now won three in a row at Marvel Stadium, and they pleased their coach by showing they could overcome an early reshuffle.

Georg Niedermeier needed to be substituted early in the game when he picked up an injury on his return to the side.

"After minutes, we've had to reshuffle and it was a credit to Terry (Antonis) and Leigh, who had to restructure and play different positions and they picked that up very, very quickly," said Muscat. "James Troisi comes on after having a virus for a little while and not really training too much and he had to dig deep for the team so all in all it was a pleasing result."

Melbourne Victory are 4/1 to win the Grand Final.

Victory are 11/10 to win their next game against Brisbane Roar, who are 23/10 with the draw 5/2.

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Victory extend winning run

Melbourne Victory stayed two points behind A-League leaders Perth as they made it five straight wins by seeing off Adelaide United 2-0 at Marvel Stadium.

Both goals came in the second half, from Kosta Barbarouses and Ola Toivonen, after Marco Kurz's side had matched the hosts before the break.

The two teams struggled to create clear-cut chances, with Adelaide having the better of the opportunities before they fell behind.

Victory suffered an early setback when the returning Georg Niedermeier had to come off due to an ankle injury.

The visitors came close to taking the lead on 15 minutes when full-back Michael Marrone's header from a corner rebounded off the crossbar.

Victory saw Toivonen's 20-yard effort palmed away by keeper Paul Izzo soon after, and Kevin Muscat's side had penalty shouts for handball turned down.

Keeper Lawrence Thomas did well either side of the break to keep out United.

First he made a good save down low to deny Marrone in first-half added time, then he closed down Apostolos Stamatelopoulos early in the second half, with the forward poking his shot wide.

A Stamatelopoulos header flashed just wide on the hour mark, but it was Victory who went ahead.

Toivonen forced a good save from Izzo with a header from Terry Antonis' cross, and Barbarouses was able to tuck away the rebound for his second goal in as many games.

The Reds threatened to level 17 minutes from time when Ben Halloran had a one-on-one with Thomas, with the keeper able to push away his shot.

Thomas was twice called into action just before Victory's second goal, tipping over a Marrone cross-cum-shot and then stopping Craig Goodwin's effort.

Toivonen played a one-two with Antonis to create the chance for him to finish into the bottom corner and secure the three points.

Adelaide United are 10/1 to win the Grand Final.

The Reds are 5/4 to win their next game against Melbourne City, who are 2/1 with the draw 5/2.

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