Perth Glory bookended a thrilling week of A-League action Down Under, breaking records in the opener with Brisbane before suffering a disappointing defeat at the hands of the league leaders.
The prolific Perth side made A-League history after scoring 18 in 6 and this set the standard for the rest of the round, with 22 goals across just seven games…
Perth Glory v Brisbane Roar
Friday’s clash was my pick of the round this week, and it did not disappoint.
After an extended break between games, this in-form Perth side certainly showed signs of ring rust, spending much of the first half trying to find their rhythm. The Roar, who headed in to the game second on the ladder despite being stuck in the midst of a goal drought, looked the better of the two teams, creating plenty of chances for Mebrahtu and Wenzel-Halls to test Tamdo Velaphi.
Considering they are two of the most prolific teams in the A-League, supporters at HBF Park had to wait 40 minutes for the deadlock to be broken, with Glory captain Diego Castro putting the hosts ahead. D’Agostino made a mazy run through the midfield to feed the veteran Spaniard, who cut back inside on to his favoured right foot to unleash a beautiful, curling effort in to the far corner.
This awoke Brisbane, who immediately piled on the pressure in search of an equaliser and looked certain to score when Dylan Wenzel-Halls pounced on a deflected cross at close range, only for his shot to ricochet off the post. Undeterred, the Roar finally found the net deep in to stoppage time, with Jack Hingert capping an excellent team move with a looping header to end the visitors’ three game goal drought.
The late equaliser seemed to give Brisbane a confidence boost and they once again looked the stronger of the two sides early in the second half. This prompted Glory head coach Richard Garcia to make an historic quadruple substitution on the after 60 minutes in a bid to get the Glory back in to the game, and boy did it pay off!
Within 15 minutes of making his A-League debut off the bench, Japanese left back Ota had provided two assists to seal a big 3 -1 victory for Perth.
Just eight minutes after entering the fray, the Japanese international latched on to a fantastic floated-through ball from Neil Kilkenny in the box before feeding Fornaroli, who lashed home a beautiful first time volley across goal and in to the top right corner.
Five minutes later, Diego Castro received a pass from 16-year-old Josh Rawlins, back heeled it to Fornaroli who slipped the ball through to Ota who surged down the left flank and launched a cross in to the box. The Brisbane ‘keeper came out to the punch the cross, but only managed to palm it in to the path of Castro, the 38-year-old capping off the move he started with a rare left footed finish!
Western Sydney Warriors v Adelaide United
There was a real sense of déjà vu in Saturday’s early kick off, with Adelaide United sealing another consecutive 3 – 2 win over strong opposition. The Reds got off to a dream start, Craig Goodwin marking his first start since returning on loan by opening the scoring with just a minute on the clock.
Ziggy Gordon conceded a foul just outside the box, giving away a free kick in a dangerous position. Goodwin stepped up, delivering a ball to Kusini Yengi at the far post that called Wanderers ‘keeper Margush in to action. The stopper’s punched clearance was nodded in to the path of the returning Goodwin by Keanu Baccus, and the former Adelaide favourite hit a sweet first time finish.
Wanderers spent much of the second half searching desperately for an equaliser, and Dylan McGowan, Ziggy Gordon and Mark Natta all had numerous opportunities to draw the hosts level from corners and crosses.
Adelaide would make the home side pay for their missed chances before the break. Centurion Stefan Mauk, who caused Central Coast so many problems last week, marked his 100th A-League appearance by grabbing the Reds’ second in added time.
Wanderers turned to the bench early in the second half, making a triple substitution in a bid to kick start a comeback, and Carl Robinson’s decision paid dividends, with Bruce Kamau drifting in at the back post to pull one back for the hosts, less than five minutes after joining the game.
Returning Mitch Duke aimed to follow up Kamau’s opener with an equaliser of his own, but was denied two seemingly certain goals by the defensive efforts of young goalkeeper James Delianov and a goal-line clearance by Javi Lopez.
The Reds had conceded the most second half goals in the league heading in to this game, but the introduction of highly regarded youngster Toure helped give them some breathing room, as the speedster slotted home on the counter to put them two goals clear.
The Duke of Western Sydney did manage a goal on his return to Wanderland, however, the 90th minute tap in proved nothing more than a late consolation, with Adelaide taking away another important three points.
Melbourne Victory v Western United
Grant Brebner would have been looking to build on last week’s win against the ‘Nix when they welcomed their Victorian rivals to Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium.
The Victory got off to a great start, Callum McManaman volleying home a cross from the returning Storm Roux to give Brebner’s men the lead. United mounted a comeback immediately, with Guarrotxena and Berisha both failing to capitalise on strong efforts on goal. The pressure from the Green and Black finally paid off in the final moments of the first half, with Besart Berisha stealing the ball off Jake Brimmer, drawing three Victory defenders out of position before sliding a ball to Sanchez who drew the visitors level.
Western United came out for the second half intent of putting the game to bed, and unleashed an onslaught on Max Crocombe’s goal. Despite the best efforts of the Kiwi international, veteran duo Besart Berish and Allesandro Diamanti combined twice in the space of five minutes to put the Green and Black two goals ahead.
It’s not been an easy season so far for Brebner’s men, but the Victory side showed great heart and desire to pull themselves back in to the game. Jacob Butterfield responded moments after Berisha’s second to pull one back against the run of play with a beautiful shot from distance.
Western United went down to 10 men just after the hour mark, with Tomi Uskok receiving his marching orders after picking up a second yellow, and the Victory were to take advantage of their numerical superiority with ten minutes to go. Rudy Gestede had been a lively presence in the box all day, and had a number of attempts on goal denied, but the big man finally headed home the equaliser in the 81st minute.
It looked certain that the sides would share the spoils in a thrilling ‘Battle of the Bridge’, but ten-man United were not content with a draw. In the sixth minute of injury time, Max Crocombe coming out to prevent Nicolas Milanovic heading home a Lachlan Wales cross, only for them to collide, allowing Sanchez to fire home the winner with the last kick off the game.
This seven-goal thriller ended with the whole United team, including the substitutes bench and head coach Mark Rudan, celebrating in a jubilant pile on the Marvel Stadium pitch.
After such a strong comeback, the Victory will be disappointed to come away with nothing from this game. Their late collapse, combined with other games not going their way, sees the Big V return to the bottom of the ladder.
Sydney FC v Macarthur
Like the majority of derbies, this weekend’s Sydney Derby was a scrappy affair.
The reigning Premiers were dominant for the first half an hour, with Kosta Barbarouses, Patrick Wood, Alexander Baumjohann and Retre all testing Adam Federici. The former Reading shot stopper has been shaky this season, but managed to keep the visitors in the game, assisted by both the crossbar and the Sydney attackers placing their shots right at the Aussie international.
The home side could easily have been three or four goals up when a superb bit of individual skill on the ball by Markel Susaeta enabled the Spaniard to escape the attentions of a number of Sydney defenders before squaring to Matt Derbyshire to fire in to the back of the net for the only goal of the game.
The game was effectively over two minutes later, Paulo Retre receiving a straight red card for dangerous play after his studs found the thigh of Jake McGing in a sloppy high tackle. Sydney were already feeling the effects of an accumulation of games and the searing heat, but with down to ten, Steve Corica’s men were left with too big a hill to climb and faded out of the game.
The Bulls were content to see out the win and take the three points, using their possession play and numerical advantage to strangle all life out of the game in the second half.
This was far from a thriller, but Macarthur will be glad to have managed the game effectively and to secure a clean sheet after conceding four in their last game. Victory moved the A-League debutants up to secondon the ladder, within a point of the Mariners.
Newcastle Jets v Wellington Phoenix
Wellington headed to the McDonald Jones Stadium at the bottom of the league, looking for their first win since their 2 – 1 win over the Mariners in January.
Mid-table Newcastle Jets were undefeated in their last five, including a 2 – 1 victory over the visitors at the end of January. Despite their position on the ladder, the ‘Nix have been far from the worst team in the league. They’ve created plenty of chances, but an injury-decimated front line had left them unable to capitalise.
This clash saw the return of forwards David Ball, available after serving a two-match ban, and Israeli international Tomer Hemed to boost Ufuk Taulay’s attacking options. The Kiwi outfit stuck to their game plan of soaking up pressure and trying to hit the opposition on the counter, and they rode out some serious pressure in the first quarter of an hour. However, it was the returning Ball that opened the scoring, an attempt from outside the box taking a big deflection off a Newcastle defender on its way in to the back of the net.
The Jets attempted a comeback with both Steve Ugarkovic and Valentino Yuel forcing excellent saves from Oli Sail, but it the tie was to put to bed by Wellington youngster Ben Waine in the 53rd minute with a stunning long ranged effort that caught everyone by surprise, himself included.
It’s important to remain impartial while covering sports games, but the sheer look of shock and delight on the face of the young Kiwi’s face as he celebrated would win over the staunchest of neutrals. Sign me up for a first class ticket, because you can definitely consider me a passenger on the Waine Train. CHOO CHOO!
Western Sydney Wanderers v Melbourne City
Melbourne City kicked off the midweek action with a convincing victory over the Western Sydney Wanderers. The visitors had a disrupted preparation for this game, with head coach Patrick Kisnorbo absent from the bench due to illness and Florin Berenguer picking up an injury in the warm up.
The late changes showed little signs of impact, with Jamie Maclaren converting a Craig Noone cross to open the scoring for City after just six minutes. Noone and Nabbout were in their element today, causing chaos out wide and taking advantage of the space created by Wanderers advancing young wingbacks Wilmering and Aquilina.
Noone played a key role in City’s second, his cross striking James Troisi’s arm in the box. Referee Shaun Evans turned to VAR to confirm the handball, and awarded the visitors a penalty, which Maclaren duly converted to seal the victory for the Melbourne side.
It was a disappointing week for Western Sydney Wanderers, dropping six points to sides around them in the ladder. Robinson has a large squad at his disposal, but seems unsure who his best 11 is, especially up front.
City on the other hand, seem to be finding their groove, and Andrew Nabbout has been superb since returning from his hamstring injury. A-League defences will certainly be concerned coming up against the front three of Noone, Maclaren and Nabbout going forward.
Perth Glory v Central Coast Mariners
An in-form Perth Glory against the league leading Central Coast Mariners was always going to be a fantastic fixture. Following their shock defeat to Adelaide, Mariners head coach Alen Stajic told the media to expect to see a strong response from his side, and you could certainly see the promised “fire in the belly” in the Mariners here.
It took just six minutes for Matty Simon to give the Yellow and Navy the lead, controlling a Dan Bouman header on his chest before firing home the opener.
Perth rotated their starting line up after Friday’s win over Brisbane, but kicked off with the creative threat of Neil Kilkenny and goal-scoring duo Bruno Fornaroli and Nick D’Agostino on the field. Despite fielding an array of attacking options, Glory failed to push for an equaliser, allowing the league leaders to grab another just before the break, Costa Rican Marco Urena ghosting in pretty much unmarked to head home from a free kick.
Richard Garcia brought off D’Agostino at half time, replacing him with Diego Castro, who bagged two fantastic goals for the Glory on Friday night, in the hope that the veteran Spaniard could help spark a comeback.
The home side were certainly livelier in the second half, but it was another large substitution that changed things up for the Glory, with Ota, Wilson and Keogh all entering the fray after 57 minutes. Bruno Fornaroli pulled one back on the 61minute mark, converting an assist from Ota for his sixth goal in seven. Glory launched a series of devastating counter-attacking moves, with Ota especially lively down the left, but despite swarming the Mariners defence they were unable to capitalise.
Despite chasing teams making up ground this week, a win for the Mariners sees them go four points clear at the top of the ladder at the end of MW10.
Player of the Week
With so many standout performances across the A-League this week, it was a tough task to pick my Player of the Week. Diego Castro rolled back the years on Friday for Perth, Andrew Nabbout has been on fire since his return from injury, and Ben Waine just made me feel all fuzzy inside.
But it’s Japanese international Kosuke Ota that gets the nod. The 33-year-old made his debut for Perth on Friday, and had racked up two match winning assists within minutes!
He was at it again against the Mariners, delivering a superb cross for Fornaroli’s goal just minutes after leaving the bench and lighting up the left flank in an unsuccessful comeback attempt. He was an absolute joy to watch.