Derbies, injury time equalisers and a coach sent to the stands – lots happening over another busy weekend, so let’s not delay.
Here are your A-League Round 8 talking points.
Lopane denies Mariners in Grand Final rematch
In a high-scoring replay of last season’s Grand Final demolition, Central Coast were looking good for the three points thanks to Angel Torres’ hat-trick until 19-year-old Alessandro Lopane finished off a well-worked Melbourne City move to earn a draw.
Both sides are missing plenty of quality from last season’s runs to the decider, and while it was a very rocky start to Mark Jackson’s tenure in Gosford, a run of four games without defeat in the A-League, while also progressing to the knockout stages of the AFC Cup, has brought some stability to the Mariners’ season.
If Torres can continue his goal-scoring form and Jackson also gets contributions from the likes of Alou Kuol and Marco Tulio, as well as Brian Kaltak rediscovering his excellent championship-winning form things will be looking a lot rosier on the coast.
Thrust into a club reeling from the firing of Rado Vidosic after the embarrassing 6-0 defeat at the hands of Adelaide United, it was always going to be a tough gig for Aurelio Vidmar to get City back into contention this season. Vidmar’s done a commendable job domestically, currently sitting in sixth place despite the unenviable circumstances.
Bowing out of the Asian Champions League at the first hurdle was quite disappointing, however. Being drawn into one of the least challenging groups A-League sides have faced in continental competition, City should have been able to make it through to the round of 16.
Victory dispatch listless Sydney in Big Blue
Sydney FC fans would’ve been hoping the changing of the guard between foundation players Steve Corcia and Ufuk Talay was the start of a return to title contention for the A-League’s winningest club. However, since Talay’s first game in charge – a 5-1 romp at Coopers Stadium – the Sky Blues have taken just three points from a possible 12, including losses to their two biggest rivals.
On Saturday evening the absence of goal-line technology may have prevented Sydney from hitting the lead in the Big Blue, but truth be told Talay’s side were off the pace and could not contain Victory’s attacking threats. In the end the 3-0 scoreline did not flatter Victory at all, as Sydney’s record worsened to 2-0-6 after eight rounds.
But it’s the opposite story for Melbourne Victory, who improved to 4-4-0. Credit to Popovic – many, including myself, thought he was a dead man walking last season but he’s completely turned things around at AAMI Park as his side remain unbeaten.
New signings Ryan Teague, Zinedine Machach and Daniel Arzani are all in great form, and whatever the former Socceroo has been doing with Bruno Fornaroli is obviously paying huge dividends.
Western snap losing streak with Aloisi Derby victory
Desperate for a win after six straight losses, John Aloisi got one over his brother Ross as Western United defeated Brisbane 2-1 in an entertaining affair at AAMI Park. Captain Josh Rishdon’s injury-time winner beckoned a cathartic response from the Western faithful after John was sent off for his reaction to a disallowed goal, violently kicking an innocent advertising hoarding (Ross eluded punishment for a similar act earlier on).
It was just United’s second win of the season, but even if they had lost Aloisi wouldn’t have been dismissed, according to chairman Jason Sourasis, who spoke with reporter Joey Lynch. “John Aloisi is a great human being and stands for everything our organisation stands for,” Sourasis added.
The cynic in me thinks that last line sounds quite similar to the “full backing of the board” kiss of death under-pressure managers usually receive, but if we’re to take Sourasis at his word Aloisi should be given the balance of 2023-24 to try and right the ship. United are scheduled to move into their training base before the end of the season, which should provide some stability for the expansion club as they aim to return to relevance.
-Trent Buhagiar started the trend of late equalisers with a 97th-minute effort to rescue a draw for Newcastle on Saturday. Perth would’ve moved off the bottom with a win; alas they are stuck in the cellar for another week. Considering how close the competition is, however, Alen Stajcic’s men are only two wins outside the finals places.
-Kosta Barbarouses and Bozhidar Kraev were fantastic in Wellington’s win over Macarthur. It was a good crowd at Campbelltown Stadium – at least by the Bulls’ recent standards.
-Western Sydney are ticking along nicely this season, their latest three points coming from a professional 1-0 home win over Adelaide United. Jorrit Hendrix was forced into the heart of defence after Tom Beadling went off injured, but the Dutch import looked more than comfortable there, and it was his dangerous ball that led to the Wanderers’ goal. The acquisition of the 28-year-old is another very tidy bit of business from Marko Rudan.
-Carl Veart’s side are on a three-game losing streak, failing to trouble the scorers in the latter two defeats. They should be able to rebound at home to the Newcastle Jets on Friday evening.
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-Best wishes to Daniel Penha and his wife Larissa, who is currently undergoing cancer treatment in Brazil.