Run to the Finals: Glory closing in on maiden Hyundai A-League Premiership
There’s no popping of the corks over in the west just yet but Perth Glory can start putting the champagne in the ice bucket after an incredible Round 22 of the Hyundai A-League.
Glory’s professional 2-0 win over Adelaide United on Friday night coupled with Sydney FC’s shock 2-0 loss to Melbourne City on Sunday has Tony Popovic’s men nine points clear at the top of the ladder.
While both the Sky Blues and Melbourne Victory – who are a further one point behind the 2017/18 Premiers – won’t give up the chase, it seems a case of when, and not if, Glory gets their hands on the Premiers’ Plate.
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Elsewhere, Wellington has continued their quest for a top-four berth while Newcastle Jets missed a great chance to close in on the top six.
We look at what the weekend’s round of fixtures has done for the race to the finals series.
Glory edge closer to historic piece of silverware
Perth has come through a tricky run of three games on the road with their healthy nine-point gap intact heading into the international break.
With just 15 points up for grabs between now and the end of the regular season, it would take a monumental form reversal for Glory to throw away the Premiership.
Especially when you consider they have lost just one match all season while the win over the Reds meant they set a club record (15) for wins in a single campaign.
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Their next clash won’t be easy though with champions Melbourne Victory heading to HBF Park in Round 23.
If Glory overcomes that hurdle with another three points on March 30, they would expect to do similar when they head to Central Coast the following week.
Two wins would all-but-mathematically hand Glory the Premiers’ Plate after Round 24, depending on Sydney FC’s results over the next couple of games.
Otherwise, they would officially get their hands on the silverware in Round 25 when they host Newcastle Jets on Sunday, April 14.
Will Sydney FC be overhauled for second spot?
Before Sunday’s upset loss to Melbourne City, the Sky Blues were looking up rather than back on the Hyundai A-League ladder.
With a four point gap to third placed Melbourne Victory, Steve Corica’s men were plotting ways they could keep the heat on Perth while also locking-up a crucial top-two spot.
But with Victory snapping their four-game winless run in the Hyundai A-League by scraping past Brisbane Roar 2-1, there’s now just one point separating the Big Blue rivals.
Both sides face testing away games in Round 23 in a fortnight (Sydney FC in Brisbane and Victory against Glory) before a potentially season-defining clash the following week.
The final Big Blue of the regular season takes place in Round 24 on Saturday, April 6 at the SCG, with the winner sure to take a psychological edge in the race for second spot and into the finals series.
Phoenix on track for top four as Jets stumble
The fight for second spot is tight, as is the battle for the final spot in the top four.
Wellington Phoenix continued to press their claims for a home final in the opening week of the finals after a superb first half display in the 3-1 win over Western Sydney Wanderers on Sunday.
Mark Rudan’s men currently hold the all-important fourth spot with destiny in their own hands.
In fact, in their next four matches the Kiwi club play the three sides below them on the ladder, in the Newcastle Jets (at home in Round 23), Adelaide United (away in Round 24) and Melbourne City (at home in Round 26).
While they are just a solitary point ahead of City – who bounced back to form against the Sky Blues – Wellington look to be approaching ominous form, having scored 11 goals in their last two outings against the Wanderers and the Mariners.
The Jets, meanwhile, blew their chance to close within two points of the top six with their surprise 3-2 home loss against Central Coast on Sunday.
They will stew on that result for the next fortnight ahead of a must win clash in Wellington on March 30.
With games against both the Glory and Sydney FC also in the last five rounds, Ernie Merrick’s men may come to rue the dropped points against their F3 rivals.
Don't take your eyes off what's happening around the top six because there's plenty still to unfold before the finals series!