2014/2015 Round Nine Preview: December 5th-7th

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Central Coast Mariners vs Melbourne Victory (Friday, 5th November 2014, North Sydney Oval)

This match has been overshadowed by the issues facing the Mariners future as well as the controversy of taking another game away from Gosford to North Sydney Oval. Whilst there are intriguing and arguably positive reasons for Mike Charlesworth to take the Mariners into broader markets that are not that far away from their central coast base, there has already been a negative reaction from many of the more rusted on fans. Then there is the hostility shown to the venue from Melbourne Victory’s coach Kevin Muscat, who has already voiced his concern over the potential for injuries to his players on the hard surface.

All this controversy and media huffing and puffing means that assessing the actual possible result is almost a secondary concern. Melbourne will be undoubted favourites even if they do not play their full and best team. The absence of Finkler may cause some problems for Berisha, but in Ben Khalfallah Muscat has a great alternate. Again there may be defensive concerns with the continuing absence of Delpierre however this iteration of the Mariners do not look good enough to take advantage of that issue. Whilst they may be able to maintain a high possession rate against the visitors, going forward and convincingly attacking their opponents with the resulting goals doesn’t seem to be happening for Moss’s team.

Final Verdict: Victory may be discomforted by the venue and the Mariners will want to maintain the same stolid work that has seen them only lose one of their last four games this season. However the visitors should be able to win well. My Prediction: 0-2 Melbourne Victory win

Newcastle Jets vs Wellington Phoenix (Saturday 6th December 2014, Hunter Stadium)

Two of the least fashionable clubs of the A-League meet in this match and it will be most interesting to see what kind of crowd come along to see the home team who are struggling this season, or the visitors who are playing well but are poor purveyors of traveling fans. The Jets have been finding it hard this season, and whilst they have found some degree of stability in the last two rounds with draws against the Wanderers and Mariners there is still no definitive expectation that they can run rampant against any opposition. Flores and Carney are playing well and the switch of Birighitti with Ben Kennedy in goal seems to have corrected some of the defensive woes Phil Stubbins’ team has had.

As for the visitors, even with the departure of goal scoring ace Jeremy Brockie to South Africa there is lots to like up front. McGlinchey, Burns, Bonevacia and Krishna have helped give the Phoenix their best ever start to an A-League season. It would be a foolish person to consider them less than an even chance for reaching the top six in April next year, and Ernie Merrick is getting the best out of a team that is hardly filled with stars.

Final Verdict: Wellington Phoenix may not be the best team away from home in the past, however this season they are looking much better. This should be a win for the visitors, even though the Jets won’t die wondering. My Prediction: 0-1 Wellington Pheonix win

Adelaide United vs Western Sydney Wanderers (Saturday 6th December 2014, Coopers Stadium)

The Reds are at home and have plenty of reason to shine against the last placed Wanderers after their defeat away to their nemesis the Victory last round. Plus, like every club who will be playing the Wanderers this season the added incentive of knocking off the AFC Champions’ League winners must give Gombau’s players another motivation. Adelaide are looking very good this season thanks to the growing depth and cohesion of their team on the field. Up front Djite and Cirio have been scoring goals, Carrusca has been arguably the best playmaker in any club and at the back Elrich and Mabil have been able to switch defence into attack regularly, The Reds will be missing the multi-talented Osama Malik however that shouldn’t be fatal for their chances.

As for the Wanderers, well almost everything that can go wrong with their 2014/15 A-League campaign has indeed gone wrong. They had been improving in their performances against the Mariners, Jets and Sydney FC at home, and whilst the goals weren’t coming in great floods the combination of Rukavytsya, Bridge, Juric and Castelen looked very potent. However on Wednesday night their effort against a Broich-less Brisbane Roar was simply not good enough. There are issues all over the park, particularly in relation to the sub-par returns from two key imports (Saba and Adeleke), and if it wasn’t for the likes of Covic, Topor-Stanley and Hamill the RBB and other fans would be starting to doubt the wisdom of Tony Popovic. Throw in the impending trip to Morocco for the Club World Cup and it is almost as if their success has laid the foundations for their current faults.

Final Verdict: I would love to believe that the Wanderers can come back, confound teh critics and win this week. However I don’t believe they are going to be able to bring away all three points. They may well jag a draw though. My Prediction: 2-1 Adelaide United

Melbourne City vs Brisbane Roar (Sunday 7th December 2014, AAMI Park)

Brisbane played well enough to keep a stuttering Wanderers out of their goal on Wednesday night, however they hardly set the world on fire with their own offensive efforts. Therefore coming down to Melbourne and facing a Melbourne City that was thumped by the Phoenix last round gives them an intriguing challenge, especially as Thomas Broich will again be absent. Defensively City do have problems, and with a core of Heart players in the backs and midfield John Van t’Schip must be hoping the likes of Paartelu and Mooy replicate their efforts from the first match between these two teams this season. In fact the area where the game will be won or lost will be in the midfield; Matt McKay played very well against the Wanderers and Mooy has been possibly the best City player all season so far. If the Roar midfield can get service to Henrique then he will cause problems for the home team. Conversely Williams can punish the City opposition so it could be one of those games that swings on one magic moment from the centre of the pitch. It will be interesting to see if and how Adam Sarota plays for Brisbane; he could be a quality addition to a Brisbane squad that still has some big gaps.

Final Verdict: I don’t think either team is really of a sufficient quality to get a huge win, but of the two Roar look better in defence and have been arguably better across the board even though they have lost more matches than won. My prediction 0-1 Brisbane Roar win

(N.B. as I missed the chance to post before the Sydney FC vs Perth Glory match I will only give a review for that game)

2014/2015 Round Four Review: 31st October – 3rd November

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Melbourne City vs Adelaide United (1-2 Adelaide United win)

David Villa’s last game for Melbourne City in this stint (and probably for all time) was one of missed opportunities early on, combined with some errors and ill-discipline that let a a resurgent Adelaide United back into the match, concluding with a come from behind win for the visitors. Reds goalie Galekovic was lucky to not concede before five minutes were up. Worse was to follow less than three minutes later for Adelaide when new City talent (Damian Duff) combined with an old Heart recruit (Kisnorbo) to score off a well worked corner. David Villa almost doubled the lead however his miss accompanied with some counterattacking energy from Isais and Cirio kept Adelaide in the match. Then, at the 35th minute one of the best but least recognised current A-League players, ex-Wanderers’ defender Tarek Elrich put a cross into the City box that was buried by Adelaide’s key striker, Bruce Djite. Djite was again threatening for Adelaide in the second half, and the cynical hack on him from Kisnorbo should’ve resulted in a red card. It wasn’t, and shortly thereafter two Latino stars of the game almost scored wonder goals, first from Carrusca having a go near the half way, trying to emulate Engelaar’s goal last season, then Villa weaving some magic in the Reds box. David Williams should have buried the rebound from Villa’s attempt, and the miss was made worse in the 77th minute when Redmayne fouled Kamau, leading to a spot kick which Carrusca converted. Full time came shortly thereafter and the result was one that was frustrating for City. The Reds won more through the failures of the home team to capitalise on their best moments and through the ruthless marksmanship of Djite and Carrusca.

Perth Glory vs Newcastle United (2-1 Perth Glory win)

Perth got their season back on track with a win at home, however whilst the scoreboard and the stats were in their favour it was not a clear and easy victory. with the Jets doing all they could to defeat the Glory’s challenge. As a spectacle the match was a scrappy one, with mistakes and scrambling play dominating the first half and much of the second half. There were some scares for both teams’ goalkeepers, with Birighitti and Vukovic benefiting from errant shots, and the respective defences of the home and away teams were able to deny the more meaningful attacks, including some last second line clearances. It wasn’t until the 77th minute, when ex-Reds player Jeronimo pounced on a sweet pass from his Jets comrade Jacob Pepper and was able to stay onside that finally a goal came. Fortunately for the home team young sub Jamie Maclaren came on and within six minutes of the Glory going down a goal he had wrought two goals (the first assisted by Youssouf Hersi, the second coming through a corner that was directed from Rosytn Griffiths goalwards, which Maclaren headed into the net). The score stayed 2-1, and Phil Stubbins and the Jets left nib Stadium pondering what may have been. Kenny Lowe’s squad are looking very much a candidate for finals football as the rounds tick away in this season.

Sydney FC vs Central Coast Mariners (2-0 Sydney FC win)

Before this match there were the usual Graham Arnold mind games, played out in the media and in them he talked about knowing Phil Moss and the Mariners’ plans. However it wasn’t the pre-game jousting that defined the result, but the combination of a quality home team taking some excellent chances (most notably Antonis’ first half goal) and keeping the Mariners out. There is no doubt that there is an improvement all round in the Sky Blues playing stocks, however where they are starting to look very much the goods is at the back and in the midfield. This improvement was reflected in the second half goal for Ognenovski and the problems posed for the Mariners by Ryall and Dimitrijevic. For the visitors there was little joy even though they acquitted themselves well statistically. There is a distinct problem with the reliance on Mitchell Duke as the man to get them goals, as he is nowhere near the threat that others in similar roles at other clubs (e.g. Djite at the Reds or Gameiro for Sydney) are. Set pieces either defensively or offensively are not working for the Mariners and perhaps questions need to be raised over the structures that Phil Moss is working his players in, and of course the actual talent at his disposal. There is every reason for those who have been disappointed with the mediocre results for Sydney FC to realistically believe in their club reaching the top four by this season’s end if they continue to get these results.

Melbourne Victory vs Wellington Phoenix (2-0 Melbourne Victory win)

Injury woes to the likes of Delpierre and Berisha may have dampened some of the optimism for the home team before this Monday match against Wellington, however in yet another performance indicating the depth and talent of his squad Kevin Muscat got the win against his old boss Ernie Merrick and the visiting Wellington Phoenix. Gui Finkler, who is possibly the best performed Brazilian to have played in the A-League so far started the scoring with another goal from a free kick. It must be said that Khalfallah also looks to be a great acquisition for the Victory, and both he and another overseas player, the Kiwi Kosta Barbarouses are extremely valuable members of the Victory team. Wellington have good players too, and foremost among their leading lights are Nathan Burns, Roly Bonevacia and Michael McGlinchey. Burns had an excellent chance to level things up just before half time however his shot was too direct at a charging Nathan Coe, and from thereon the full blooded and well targeted shots from the Phoenix front third was not as threatening as it should’ve been. Connor Pain, a somewhat forgotten young gun player for the home team was subbed on the 66th minute mark, then almost instantaneously he added to the visitors’ woes, scoring the second goal with some fine one-on-one running and shooting in the box. The remainder of the game produced no more goals for either side, leaving Phoenix yet again without points on a visit to Melbourne.

Best Team of the Round: The same three teams that are dominating the top of the table so far this season (i.e. Reds, Sydney FC and Victory) were very good and deserve to be up there for this specific honour. Adelaide did let a goal in, whereas both Sydney and Victory scored two goals each with no reply. Considering the standard of the opposition I would just shade Victory over FC, plus it must be said that without Berisha and others Melbourne Victory were nominally weaker than Sydney were against the Mariners.

Worst Team of the Round: No team was calamitously bad this round, however the Mariners must be given some brickbats in not scoring against Sydney FC. City were a little disjointed and Newcastle were hard done to lose but neither they nor Wellington had as much an uninspiring result from what should have been a fiercely contested match against a club that they have owned for many a season.

Best Goal of the Road: Finkler’s dead ball goal scored for the Victory was excellent, however the honour this round must go to Terry Antonis for Sydney FC

Note: As the Western Sydney Wanderers vs Brisbane Roar game was postponed their match report will be included in the entry for the closest regular round

2014/2015 Round Four Preview: 31st October- 3rd November

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Friday 31st October: Melbourne City vs Adelaide United (AAMI Park)

Whilst the wheels have not fallen off the Sheik Mansour-owned Melbourne City just yet, they looked wobbly last week and are in danger of coming loose from the axle if John van t’Schip can’t get more value from his players. Of course much of the attention will be on David Villa up front, especially considering he has had his ten game guest player stint reduced to four. However the Spanish superstar’s final match should not be about him for City to win and put things back on track. Solid performers Duff and Mooy need to lift, but more importantly the likes of Kisnorbo, Ramsay, Partaalu, Hoffman and Germano need to deliver. aside from Partaalu the others were part of the old Heart squad and so far they are showing the same up and down form that consigned City’s previous entity to the bottom of the table in 2013/14. It may be helpful if David Williams returns and brings with him the goal scoring boots he had last season as well, but it’s the midfield and back where City need to do better.

As for the Reds their lot is a far happier one, thanks to some quality performances on the pitch since the 2014/15 season began, and the stability of the squad in terms of delivering effective football based on Gombau’s technical direction. Bruce Djite makes a welcome return from injury, however it is the Latino/Iberian quartet of Carrusca, Isais, Cirio and Sanchez that forms a vital engine for Adelaide’s progression. It’s also good to see how well Awer Mabil and Tarek Elrich, one a relative youngster, the other a season veteran, are playing. This is a quality squad playing away from home and they’re deserving of favouritism.

Final Verdict: There will be plenty of people to see Villa say farewell to the A-League, and again on paper City look decent. However the Reds are a boss machine right now and I can’t see them losing. My Prediction: 1-3 Adelaide United.

Saturday 1st November: Perth Glory vs Newcastle United (nib Stadium)

These two teams conceded six goals inn total against their opposition last round which indicates they both may have defensive issues, yet in all honesty it’s not as ugly as the raw stats predict. In fact Perth have a nil balance on their for and against record as it stands after three rounds, and Newcastle’s shocking effort last round against the Phoenix has warped what was a reasonable start to the season. Perhaps the biggest disparity is that the Glory have discovered a goal scorer in Andy Keogh, whilst for the Jets no one has really put their hand up to replace Fulham’s Adam Taggart in 2014/15.

Another issue that will be sure to bedevil the Jets is they are still on the road and not yet to come home to Hunter International Stadium, whereas the Glory are back from a jaunt cross the Nullabor to Adelaide, and are at home. There may be some tired legs in the purple and white thanks to their extra-time win midweek over Melbourne Victory in the FFA Cup, however there should be no excuses in a side brimming with youth and experience. The combination of Maclaren and perhaps de Silva from the younger ranks with Garcia, Nicholls, Hersi and Keogh should be a winning one. As for Newcastle this is the ideal opportunity for someone like David Carney or Marcos Flores to remind fans and neutrals alike why they were once icons of the A-League is seasons past.

Final Verdict: Perth should do the job on a struggling Jets, who are nowhere near as blessed when it comes to potential and talent both in front of their own goal nor the opposition’s. My Prediction: 2-0 Perth Glory

Sunday 2nd November: Sydney FC vs Central Coast Mariners (Allianz Stadium)

A tantalizing clash between two clubs that have plenty of history, plus the added piquancy of the relationship between FC coach Graham Arnold, the Mariners and their coach Phil Moss, this will be a match that could finally establish the home team as a favourite for title honours this season. With a near full squad and at home Arnold must feel very confident of snaring all three points, even though the Mariners will be no push overs. The defensive effort against the Roar has probably silenced many who saw chinks in Sydney FC’s backs, whereas the undoubted quality of the likes of Janko, Ibini, Gameiro, Brosque, Antonis and possibly Smeltz means that Sydney can go all out. as for the visitors, their squad is not exactly equal in terms of depth or on paper quality. However as shown in past seasons any game involving Central Coast is not one resolved at a desk; they will give all, and in the likes of Montgomery, Duke, Bosnar, Roux, Caceres and Simon they too have some players to be reckoned with.

Final Verdict: The week’s break for the visitors won’t be that beneficial, and the Mariners have hardly set the world on fire with their form before the enforced lay-off. Sydney FC look the goods for another win. My Prediction: 3-1 Sydney FC

Monday 3rd November: Melbourne Victory vs Wellington Phoenix (AAMI Park)

Arguably the match of the round, it is nicely set up thanks to the preceding weeks’ form from both the home team and the visitors, plus perhaps more importantly the after effects of the Victory’s loss against Perth in their midweek FFA Cup match against Perth Glory. The suspensions to Leijer and Giorgevski will undoubtedly unsettle the Victory, and Delpierre, Berisha and perhaps Thompson could all be in doubt due to injury. Up front this shouldn’t be too big a problem for Muscat as he can still call upon Finkler, Barbarouses and Tunisian international Ben Khalfallah to deliver goals, However at the back there may be some concerns, especially considering in each A-League game played this season Victory have conceded at least one goal, and arguably if there is a squad with plenty of goals in them that they are yet to meet so far in 2014/15 it’s Wellington.

The Phoenix will undoubtedly find their cross-Tasman journey a challenge however they are certainly up for it thanks especially to the front trio of Brockie, McGlinchey and Burns. Burns is probably the pick of the three and some in the media are already talking up his chances for a return to the Socceroos. Bonavecia is going to cause headaches for the Victory midfield, but the question is how well can Wellington’s backs contain a possibly undermanned Victory? Ernie Merrick is a cagey coach with a wealth of experience if not of funds for his squad, and he will give his protege and friend Kevin Muscat plenty to think about.

Final Prediction: this match will be determined by fitness issues for either Berisha and/or Delpierre. If one of those two  can play then the momentum may well be with Melbourne. If neither plays then watch out for a possible upset in favour of Wellington. My Prediction: 2-1 Melbourne Victory

2014/2015 Round Three Preview: 24th-26th October

Friday 24th October: Brisbane Roar vs Sydney FC( Suncorp Stadium)

Another quality Friday night match looms with the win-less 2013/14 champions up against a traveling Sydney FC who have had a fairly torrid week since last Saturday’s derby kicked off. Brisbane have not looked that bad in their losses against Adelaide and Perth, however there must be some questions being asked now as to how Mulvey can get results without the pairing of Broich and Berisha, plus the absence of one of the most underrated goalies in the A-League in Michael Theo. Defensively there is a degree of staleness about the home team, and it is yet to be seen if either Kurtishi or Henrique can step up and score the goals needed on a regular basis. It will also be intriguing to see how well Demi Petratos plays against his old club, especially as he put Sydney FC to the sword last season.

For the visitors tired legs will be of a concern and for all their celebration for the win over the Wanderers they still have issues at the back and did not seal the win until after Saba’s controversial red card. Additionally Graham Arnold does not have the psychological motivation for his players that they had last Saturday. The return of Ognenovski will be useful however he is value is not necessarily in his playing capacity, but more as a motivator and organiser. There is plenty of strike power up front and Alex Brosque and Corey Gameiro are in excellent form. Goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic is not the safest of hands so if Broich and his associated forwards can exploit any weaknesses at the back they could reap the benefit of his limited capabilities.

Final Verdict: It will be intriguing to see if the Roar come at Sydney FC fast and hard from the kick-off, as it could lead to a few goals from either or both sides. Sydney FC are arguably in a better place as a team however the Roar at home will be hard to beat for any club backing up. My Prediction: 1-1

Saturday 25th October: Melbourne Victory vs Melbourne City (Etihad Stadium)

Another big Melbourne derby with possibly 45,000 fans attending thus bringing it back onto a par with the Sydney derby (which has become the bigger event in the last season or so). Victory will come in with every reason to believe they can win thanks to a barely changed line-up from their first two rounds. Defensively solid at the back and of course filled with power up front the likes of Berisha, Barbarouses, Funkler and Thompson will ask plenty of questions of a City team that might be a little down at the moment. For all the talk of the money invested in Melbourne City and the quality of their acquisitions they have not been able to put away both teams they have played so far this season, even after dominating both Sydney FC and Newcastle for long periods of their respective games. Having to rely on David Villa to get them draws has worked so far, but with the mid-week news he will be leaving and may not come back after next week’s round it will be a real challenge for someone else to step into his shoes. Mooy and Duff have been very good and David Williams showed he has a similar desire to score goals as per last season. Yet when you peel away the major signings the core of the old Melbourne Heart is still there, and you have to ponder how they can knock off the Victory if Villa doesn’t dominate.

Final Verdict: The jury is still out on City, whereas Victory already look like a championship favourite. Technically a home game the action in the stands could be passionate, and expect Victory to get the bulk of the support. My Prediction: 2-0 Victory

Sunday 26th October: Wellington Phoenix vs Newcastle United (Westpac Stadium)

In a match that might be seen as a potential cellar dweller battle, there is reason to believe this could be a good game for neutrals and partisans alike, with the Phoenix already looking to escape their tag of also rans. The biggest problem for the visitors is that the Jets have not shown a capability to maximise either on their good play or on their opponents bad play by scoring goals. Montano, Steele and Neumann should be slotting the ball into the opposition’s net if the Jets are to challenge for honours in 2014/15. There is a stolid ‘park the bus’ feel about them that doesn’t engender much excitement, but it must be said in their first two matches this season they did look better than half decent. If Flores can fire Newcastle will be in there at the death in this round.

As for the home team Wellington already look a better team than last season and their win away from home against the Mariners last round must serve as a boost. McGlinchey, Burns and Brockie are forming an imposing front three and Dutch import Roly Bonavecia is living up to his unheralded potential. As always coach Ernie Merrick will be craftily directing his player’s tactics and style, and if their defence holds back a limited challenge from the visitors then the Phoenix will be more than half way there for a win.

Final Verdict: Playing at home with a settled squad and some good form already registered in this season Phoenix will be favourites. The Jets will battle hard however all three points should go to Wellington: My Prediction: 2-0 Wellington Phoenix.

Sunday 26th October: Adelaide United vs Perth Glory (Coopers Stadium)

Another intriguing match up between an Adelaide team that plays with plenty of style, high ball retention and a couple of serious goal threats up against a Perth Glory squad that has a solid mix of youth and experience, plus perhaps has finally discovered self-belief and team harmony. At home the Reds will be a tough proposition and if the Glory’s backs can’t contain Bruce Djite and/or Cirio the visitors will be assailed by many shots on goal. To their advantage however in Danny Vukovic they have one of the league’s best goalies, and when you combine the upfront quality of Hersi, Keogh, Nicholls and Maclaren well it one be one way traffic for Gombau’s team. The differences in style and tactics will be most intriguing, and the result may potentially come down to an error here or there. Adelaide may be feeling the after effects of their hard won victory on Tuesday against Sydney FC in the FFA Cup quarter finals, but I am unsure if Glory are the kind of club that has the physical or fitness supremacy to take advantage of a flagging Reds.

Final Verdict: A hell of an evenly matched game with a cigarette paper’s thickness between them. My Predcition: 1-1 Draw

(Western Sydney Wanderers vs Central Coast Mariners has been put back until Wednesday 19th November due to the first leg of the AFC Champions’ League Final)

2014/2015 Round Two Review: 17th-19th October

Adelaide United vs Melbourne Victory (1-1 Draw)

After a great start for each team in their respective round one matches, as well as the long and colourful history of rivalry between them, the first A-League match between the Reds and Victory at the redeveloped Adelaide Oval was a tad underwhelming. The surface appeared to trouble both squads with its pace, and with no goals for almost all of the game bar the last ten minutes some would argue it was a less than inspiring match. However there were several opportunities for Adelaide to score, before their first goal came, and the likes of Goodwin, Cirio and the ever-present Djite all had solid chances. The Victory’s potent attack was less present however Finkler caused problems, and in an effort that must please fans, coach and playing staff defensively the visitors did all they needed to do to keep the home team from scoring until near the death. Cirio’s goal was class, set up in its earlier stages by a lovely pass from ex-Wanderer Tarek Elrich. However his effort was nullified shortly thereafter by a goal scored by Tunisian import Ben Khalfallah who took advantage of some slack defending to bury a well placed Finkler corner. Djite had a chance to rescue a win from the draw however Victory goalie Coe saved his shot in extra time and so a 1-1 draw was played out in front of over 33,000 people, Adelaide United’s biggest ever home crowd.

Central Coast Mariners vs Wellington Phoenix (1-2 Phoenix win)

Gosford Stadium has been a fortress for the Mariners in their A-League history however in recent matches the visitors from New Zealand have been able to breach the walls not once but twice, and the victory for the Phoenix was one that came with both luck and skill. The match had added spice due to the presence of ex-Mariner Matt McGlinchey in the Phoenix line-up, and the messy split from his old cloub brought out the local fans’ ire. Unfortunately for the Phoenix their first converted goal came at the wrong end, with Tom Doyle putting the ball in his own net after only 12 minutes. It took a little while for the Phoenix front three to get working however when Brockie was brought down in the box a penalty ensued. Badly taken by the Kiwi striker, his error was redeemed by that ‘turncoat’ McGlinchey, whose header buried the rebound into the home team’s net. Far better came from the likes of Burns and Brockie not long after the second half, where their efforts led to a very well crafted goal. The Mariners responded with Sim, Trifiro and Fitzgerald all giving Phoenix goalie Moss a few worries. However none of their shots went into the opposition’s net, leaving the final score 1-2 and the points all in Wellington Phoenix’s possession.

Sydney FC vs Western Sydney Wanderers (3-2 Sydney FC win)

Now firmly established as the premiere regular season match of the A-League season plus one that captures the imagination of Australia’s largest city, the first SFC versus WSW derby of the 2014/15 season had it all. Controversy, passion, some well-crafted goals, errors, heroes and villains, it was a game that will certainly be on the highlights video when this season is done with. Sydney were undoubtedly in a better position than the visitors going into the match thanks to the absence of several key Wanderers players (Juric and Spiranovic), plus it must be said that Graham Arnold has bought well in the pre-season and integrated those signings smoothly. Having said that it was a combination of new and old Wanderers talent who first scored, with impressive Dutchman Romeo Castelen getting behind his opposite number to cross the ball into Mark Bridge, who scored with a thumping shot. Things went from bad to worse for the home team when Janjetovic badly fumbled a clearance, putting the ball into the back of his own net.

It could be said that the Sydney FC of previous derbies would’ve crumbled and that it would’ve been all over red rover for the home team. However it must be said that Gamiero’s goal in the dying moments of the first half was quality, and heading into the sheds at 1-2 down there was a potential for the Wanderers to drop at least 2 points. A controversial goal awarded by Kris Griffith Jones as an own goal should not have been awarded due to Bernie Ibini being in an offside position, blocking Wanderers’ goalie Ante Covic from being able to see the ball. Things went from bad to worse for the visitors when in the 65th minute Vitor Saba was sent off for a dangerous tackle, even though he made no contact with Terry Antonis, and collected the ball with his feet. This debatable decision effectively destroyed the Wanderers’ defensive cohesion, and with that gone and some sloppy ball watching it was inevitable that perhaps the best player for Sydney FC, Alex Brosque, scored the third and winning goal.

Obviously from a Wanderers’ perspective it was not the best result, and there is no doubt that Graham Arnold’s version of Bling FC is more capable than that seen since their larger rivals entered the A-League over 2 seasons ago. Having said that the match was a remarkable one for the passion on display, excitement on and off the pitch, and attention it secured for football, for the A-League and for the two clubs. With over 41,000 people attending the scene was set for a record breaking attendance result for the weekend.

Melbourne City vs Newcastle Jets (1-1 Draw)

The reborn Melbourne City were back at home at AAMI Stadium, playing in front of a larger crowd than the old Heart could muster for many a year, and with their bevy of stars including the inestimable David Villa were expected to win well against a limited Jets squad. However Phil Stubbins was able to get plenty out of his lesser lights and they denied their hosts time and time again during the first half. Proven goal scorers like Williams, Mooy and of course Villa were unable to find the back of the visitors’ net, leaving many observers wondering about the ability of the new City to shake off some of the goal scoring blues suffered by the old Heart. Things became even less satisfactory for MCFC when the Jets went one up thanks to some nice work from Griffiths and Montano. However the Jets couldn’t bury the home team, and whilst David Carney did very well to keep out a Mooy shot it was almost inevitable that the drawing goal would come from Villa near the death. The score was arguably out of kilter with the overall dominance of Melbourne City over Newcastle, however it doesn’t matter how much possession you have, how many shots you take, how many passes you string together if you can’t get the ball past the opposition goalkeeper. City fans may be asking what will come from this big ticket squad, whilst Jets fans are undoubtedly pondering if they will be better than what their squad and club future portends when reviewed on paper.

Perth Glory vs Brisbane Roar (3-2 Perth Glory win)

Perth, the old powerhouse from the dying days of the NSL has emerged from its past A-League torpor after two rounds, and with Andy Keogh on fire (possibly establishing himself as the best buy for any club this season) and scoring a hat trick it looks as if finally the west will deliver on its promises. Having said that the Roar were not entirely disgraced, and took the lead not once but twice in the contest. The man in ex-Roar player Besart Bersiha’s shadow, Henrique helped set up the first which took Brisbane 0-1 up before the half time break, then he responded to Keogh’s penalty goal in the second half to reassert the lead to 1-2. However with Keogh benefiting from good work from the likes of Risdon, Nicholls, Hersi and Maclaren the Roar went back to level pegging, then in the dying minutes of extra time left enough space for the Irish import to nod the ball into the visitor’s net, securing a 3-2 win. Whilst the wheels aren’t off the Roar title defence as yet, they do look a lesser unit than last season, and are firmly at the bottom of the 2014/15 table with the Wanderers. The Glory may finally be showing they aren’t in the comp to make up numbers this go round, and those (including myself) who have doubted Kenny Lowe are starting to think again.

Best Team of the Round: Perth Glory (just shading Sydney FC). Yes, they gave up two goals however the manner in which they resurrected their performance against last year’s Grand Final winners and scored their second win on the trot is an impressive achievement. Those who follow the Sky Blues should consider whether they would’ve won if it weren’t for a dubious effort from a match official who seems to be more valuable as a joke for the B-League than as an A-League referee.

Worst Team of the Round: The Wanderers and Brisbane deserve some opprobrium in letting their games slip away, however the Mariners deserve this dishonour as they were at home against nominally the worst credentialed club in the A-League and could not find the net through their own efforts. The Wanderers were bad in letting the derby slip out of their hands however there were numerous factors counting against them, whilst the Roar lost at the death in an arduous away match on the other side of the continent.

Best Goal of the Road: The back heel from Alex Brosque that set up Corey Gamiero’s goal against the Wanderers was pretty special, yet for me the goal of the round was that scored by Nathan Burns. The manner in which Tom Doyle collected the ball on the right flank of the Mariner’s half from a lovely back heel, then sent it over to Jeremy Brockie who astutely headed the ball at the feet of Nathan Burns was sublime teamwork.