Young talents, old heads and Socceroos: The A-League players who were the difference in Round 17

Round 17 was full of interesting contests and plenty of controversy.

The highlight of the weekend was a five-goal thriller between the Perth Glory and the Brisbane Roar. Despite four teams keeping a clean sheet, there were 14 goals scored in six matches and a scoreless draw in the Melbourne derby.

Incredibly, the five teams that claimed three points all had less possession than their opponent.

Let’s talk about football and take a look at who made a difference.

Western United

Thomas Heward-Belle had an incredible game.

The Western United shot-stopper made six saves and somehow stopped Jets attacker Trent Buhagiar from being on the scoresheet.

The 26-year-old showed why he is an inspiration, as he has been forced to bide his time as a backup goalkeeper until joining Western United this season.

Western United kept a first clean sheet in 18 games tonight and Tom Heward-Belle was a HUGE reason why ???????? Some of these saves ????‍????

A standout display in a much needed win for @wufcofficial ????

Western get first win in eight:

— Isuzu UTE A-League (@aleaguemen) February 16, 2024

After the game, his comments were interesting and showed his humility: “Just relieved. It was a massive effort. Risdon saved me big time. We just got to build on this win.”

Newcastle Jets coach Robbie Stanton was full of praise for Heward-Belle: “Tommy had a top game, their keeper.”

Newcastle Jets

Trent Buhagiar did everything in his power to get a goal, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Robbie Stanton was spot on in his post-match press conference: “I think Trent made a lot of difference at times during the game, I feel for him, because I would’ve liked for him to get a reward, because you know he could’ve had a hat-trick tonight.”

Sydney FC

Joe Lolley put in a decent shift for the Sky Blues; his endeavour never wavered, as he was in the thick of the action, with some good combination play.

The 31-year-old created three chances and won what proved to be a decisive penalty, which Fabio Gomes scored in the 84th minute, which gave Sydney FC what ended up being an unassailable two-goal lead.

Ice cold from the spot ????????

Fabio Gomes doubles @SydneyFC‘s lead late on to all but seal the three points at Allianz Stadium.

???? #SYDvADL #ALM

— Isuzu UTE A-League (@aleaguemen) February 17, 2024

Adelaide United

Austin Ayoubi breathed life into a Reds team that was flat.

The 22-year-old was brought off the bench in the 78th minute and had an influence on the game. In what was an otherwise lifeless display from Adelaide United, Ayoubi gave them some hope.

The young prospect provided the assist for the only goal scored by his team in the 94th minute by Javi Lopez.

Melbourne City

Curtis Good helped his team claim a point and keep a clean sheet.

The 30-year-old cleared a shot from Zinedine Machach off the line in the 29th minute. That was the difference between Melbourne City claiming a point or leaving empty-handed.


Machach almost forced the ball over had it not been for the @MelbourneCity defender ????#MelbDerby is live now on Paramount+ ????

— Paramount+ Australia (@ParamountPlusAU) February 17, 2024

The Socceroo also provided an important headed clearance in the 70th minute and showed his worth to the City team when tested.

Melbourne Victory

Paul Izzo performed well for Melbourne Victory.

The Victory goalkeeper made three saves, most notably in the first half stoppage time he saved a shot from Marco Tilio, with the ball hitting the bar and going out for a corner.

The 29-year-old made another pivotal save when he was one one-on-one with Terry Antonis in the 81st minute, which meant that Victory kept a clean sheet and claimed a point.

Perth Glory

Adam Taggart was the player who stood up for the Glory and led from the front; he opened the scoring in the 24th minute and made the score 2-2 in the 73rd minute with a sublime finish, after 19-year-old substitute Joel Anasmo weaved his way through the Roar defence.

“All my focus has been here at @PerthGloryFC

All eyes locally for Adam Taggart. As one of the form strikers of the @aleaguemen, should he be in the next Socceroos squad? Let us know in the poll below ????#PERvBRI

— Paramount+ Australia (@ParamountPlusAU) February 17, 2024

The Glory captain made some insightful comments post-match: “Everyone wants to win. You can see tonight there was a real buzz. I’ve got a lot of belief in this group.”

Brisbane Roar

Nikola Mileusnic got the Roar back into the match in the 29th minute, as he made the score 1-1 and gave the Roar some momentum, as youngster Thomas Waddingham gave the Roar the lead seven minutes later.

Central Coast Mariners

Brian Kaltak proved why he is one of the best stories to originate from the A-League. He helped limit the impact of Brandon Borrello and Nicolas Milanovic; the Mariners goalkeeper Danny Vukovic only had one save to make, albeit a top-draw one.

The Vanuatu international showed he’s even a threat from set pieces as he headed a corner from Max Balard into the post in the 44th minute.

The 30-year-old was like a brick wall as he repelled attacks and showed that he has a high football intelligence.

Western Sydney Wanderers

Dylan Scicluna put in a good shift for the Wanderers. With injury comes opportunity and the youngster didn’t disappoint.

The 19-year-old was in the thick of the action and proved that he’s a good prospect for the future, should he be given the opportunity he deserves.

Macarthur FC

Bernardo Oliveira helped the Bulls get back into the game with a clinical finish in the 78th minute, which was set up due to great build-up play from Charles M’Mombwa.


That first touch ????
That second touch ????‍????

Bernardo snags his first goal for @mfcbulls and it is game on!

Find out how #MACvWEL ends on Paramount+

— Paramount+ Australia (@ParamountPlusAU) February 18, 2024

The 19-year-old displayed maturity beyond his years in what ended up being his last involvement in the game and showed the Reds what they’re missing.

The young prospect was chuffed post-match: “Obviously happy to score my first, but obviously wanted the three points.”

Wellington Phoenix

Kosta Barbarouses scored a brace and led his side to a win that showed plenty of grit given they were without a number of first-choice players, which included the Phoenix captain Alex Rufer.

The experienced attacker broke the deadlock with a composed penalty in the 31st minute. His second goal showed just how tenacious he is as he found the back of the net even though he was lying on the turf.

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His post-match comments were perceptive: “Gritty performance. The boys did a hell of a job. We’ve got a very young team as well.”

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