A-League Men fans have no interest in talking about the football

If domestic club form is worth anything, then Bruno Fornaroli should be one of the first names on Socceroos coach Graham Arnold’s list for the upcoming Asian Cup in Qatar.

Fornaroli bagged four goals in a game for the second time this season as Melbourne Victory downed Western Sydney Wanderers 4-3 in a thriller in oppressively hot conditions at CommBank Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

More than just proving impossible for the Wanderers defence to contain, it was the fact the 36-year-old still has the ability to get himself into a variety of scoring positions that should have the twice-capped Socceroo on the plane to the Gulf.

Fornaroli hooked home a volley on the rebound, sold a superb dummy before smashing home a scorcher, dispatched a penalty with trademark venom, then headed home his fourth midway through the second half of what was another virtuoso display from the veteran.

And yet, for all Victory’s obvious dominance as they raced out to a 4-1 lead, they still somehow came away from what was a rollercoaster affair in Parramatta somewhat fortunate to have secured all three points.

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Had Wanderers substitute Marcus Younis not strayed fractionally offside in a thrilling second half, they wouldn’t have even finished with that – after Western Sydney’s impressive Swedish import Marcus Antonsson tapped home only for Younis to have been ruled offside in the build-up.

Antonsson proved as much of a handful as Fornaroli and finished with a brace of his own, and the Swede’s second goal two minutes from time set up a grandstand finish.

Recent A-League returnee Valentino Yuel duly responded with an acrobatic diving header – but the Wanderers left their run too late and will be bitterly disappointed to have got off to another slow start for the second week in a row.

It was an entertaining affair despite the oppressive heat, and one that should see Fornaroli head to the front of the queue as a ready-made Asian Cup replacement for the injured Brandon Borrello.

Brandon Borrello of the Socceroos celebrates scoring a goal during the International Friendly match between the Australia Socceroos and Ecuador at Marvel Stadium on March 28, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Victory’s narrow win was the second of two away wins for visiting sides on Sunday, after Ross Aloisi returned to his hometown to mastermind a 2-0 victory over Adelaide United at a waterlogged Coopers Stadium.

It wasn’t pretty, but after a deflected Jez Lofthouse strike shortly after the restart put the visitors in front, the outstanding Jay O’Shea then won a penalty soon after – which the Irishman duly dispatched.

And the hosts had no answer once coach Carl Veart hooked the disappointing Nestory Irankunda just before the hour mark, leaving the Reds to crash to their third defeat in their last four league games.

You’d think that with the likes of Joe Gauci, Zach Clough and Irankunda in their starting 11, the Reds should have one of the stronger sides in the league.

Yet they were strangely listless against a Brisbane Roar side that remains a couple of key positions short themselves, and a dreadful opening 15 minutes after the half-time break put paid to any hopes of a home win.

The two games had at least one thing in common, despite being played in vastly different weather, and that was the thousands of empty seats at both venues.

But no one wants to talk about that.

In fact, not a week has gone by this season without someone telling me to “focus on the football”.

But here’s the thing.

I haven’t written a single column this season that hasn’t focussed predominantly what has happened in the Sunday fixtures.

Yet what happens, every single week without fail, is that readers scan the headline and perhaps as much as the first paragraph – and comment almost exclusively on that.

Why? Because there seems to be next to no interest in talking about the actual football.

It’s not just a problem on The Roar. I can’t remember having ever seen so little online interest in the A-Leagues.

I’d love to sit here and write something like Sid Lowe’s column for The Guardian on La Liga every week.

But no one would read it.

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