Australia A-League playoffs down to last round


SYDNEY (AP) -- Five of the six playoff positions in Australia's A-League have been determined, although first place and the last spot are still undecided, adding some spice to the final weekend of the regular season.

First-place Central Coast has a two-point edge over the Brisbane Roar, the team which held top spot until mid-December following a record 36-match unbeaten streak carried through from last season.

Perth, Wellington and the Melbourne Heart have also secured playoff spots.

Newcastle plays at Sydney on Sunday to decide sixth place. Both teams have 35 points but Sydney needs to take three points because the Jets have a better goal difference and would advance if the teams played to a draw.

Both leading teams played Asian Champions League matches this week. Central Coast drew 1-1 at home to Japan's Nagoya Grampus while the Roar and Beijing Guoan played to the same score in the Chinese capital.

For the final round, the Mariners travel to Wellington, New Zealand to play the Phoenix while Brisbane takes a short bus ride south on the Pacific Motorway to play Gold Coast.

Adelaide hosts the Heart on Friday, Perth plays the Melbourne Victory on Saturday and the other matches are part of consecutive games on Sunday over three time zones and set up for more than eight hours of continuous television coverage.

Sydney FC midfielder Nick Carle says his side has the momentum after coming back from 2-0 last weekend to draw the Heart 2-2 and pick up a valuable point to keep them in the finals race.

"If we keep playing the way we have been in the past few weeks we should be OK," Carle said this week. "We've been playing some really good football the last few weeks and we really hit our stride."

The Roar have strong recent form going for them, although their quest for first place could be over before they take to the pitch on Sunday. A win by Central Coast over the Phoenix about three hours earlier in the New Zealand capital will consign Brisbane to second place.

"Seven weeks ago, we were 11 points behind the Mariners and, in the last seven weeks, we've played every team in the top six away, bar the Heart, and we've won all of them," Brisbane coach Ange Postecoglou said.

Another point in the Roar's favor: they take on the last-place Gold Coast, which might be playing its last match in the A-League.

Football Federation Australia has terminated the team's license in a squabble with Gold Coast owner and mining magnate Clive Palmer, and its place in the league for next season remains in doubt.