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A-League to continue behind closed doors, condensed season

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Football Federation Australia chairman James Johnson confirmed that the A-League season and W-League final will be played behind closed doors amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Two of 11 A-League clubs are currently in a 14-day isolation, as six rounds of the 2019-20 regular season have yet to be played.

“This is an unprecedented time and extremely complex for the sport and society at large,” Johnson said in a press conference on Monday (Australia time).

Following a game in New Zealand, Wellington Phoenix and Melbourne Victory, now back in Australian soil, are in self-isolation for the next 14 days. Neither team will be able to train during the mandatory quarantine period. The FFA confirmed that games involving both sides in Round 24 and 25 will be rescheduled for a later time.

“The decision to play the remainder of the Hyundai A-League 2019/20 season, and the Westfield W-League 2020 Grand Final behind closed doors was made in consultation with the clubs and in accordance with the latest Federal Government advice,” Johnson added.

“The health and safety of all members of the football community, including players, coaches, referees, volunteers, administrators and fans continues to be of paramount importance. We will continue to work with the Government and seek advice as the situation changes.”

Despite only having six rounds left (30 games) in the season, the FFA decided against suspending the league all together. Instead, the six remaining regular season rounds will be packed into a three or four week period.

“We have got 30 matches left, six competition rounds to go, it is our intent to compress the rest of that season,” FFA’s head of leagues Greg O’Rourke said. “We have spoken to the clubs. And we’re now speaking to the venues to see whether or not it’s possible for us to complete those six rounds in three to four weeks.

“We will also have all our games behind closed doors,” he added.

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Premier League teams Down Under: Newcastle win, West Ham stumble

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Both West Ham United and Newcastle traveled south for their preseason friendlies, taking on teams in Australia and New Zealand as they prepare for the start of the 2014-2015 Premier League season. The two English sides are experiencing rather dissimilar fortunes, however, with Newcastle having won both their games thus far, and West Ham losing both of theirs.

West Ham fell 3-1 to Sydney FC on Saturday, just days after Newcastle beat the A-League side 4-0. The loss only further compounds the Irons’ misery, having lost 2-1 to Wellington Phoenix earlier in the week. According to Sam Allardyce, his side’s “more expansive style” — one fans clamored for after watching rather dull West Ham games last season — has yet to take. But it’s also taking a toll on the defense, which managed 14 clean sheets last season. Will fans soon start demanding a return to the days of bore?

Playing style is not all that’s troubling the West Ham manager, however. Andy Carroll injured his ankle shortly after arriving in New Zealand and will now require surgery, leaving him out of contention for four months. Guy Demel, James Tomkins and Cheikhou Kouyate also picked up injuries, so it’s really not been a great trip for the Irons.

For Newcastle, the trip has been marred by the news that two supporters were killed on their way to the preseason games, en route on MH 17. Prior to today’s win over Phoenix, local Māori performed a folk song in memory of the fans, John Alder and Liam Sweeney, and the team wore black armbands during the match.

It was Yoan Gouffran that made the difference against Wellington Phoenix, scoring the game’s only goal. On Tuesday against Sydney, new signings Siem de Jong and Emmanuel Rivière had their chance to impress with a goal apiece, while Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Adam Armstrong made their arguments for inclusion in the squad by scoring as well.