After almost five long months, the A-League has finally returned , and the opening round of Season 11 was jam-packed with goals, controversy, and excitement. Here, we review the action from Round One, starting with the Wanderer’s home clash with Brisbane Roar.
RAMPANT ROAR LEAVES WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERING
Western Sydney Wanderers 1 (Nichols ’13) Brisbane Roar 3 (Maclaren 9, 34, Bowles 23) Crowd: 14,122 at Pirtek Stadium, Western Sydney.
A shambolic defensive display from Western Sydney Wanderers was punished by Brisbane Roar, with the travellers sealing a comprehensive 3-1 victory on Thursday night.
New Brisbane signing Jamie Maclaren proved why he was so highly sought after by a host of clubs in the off-season, as his two goals combined with a powerful header from Daniel Bowles to ignite a first half goal-fest.
The former Perth hitman made the most of a sloppy backpass from the Wanderers’ Brendan Hammill to score with a well-taken lob after just nine minutes.
He was then the beneficiary of further lacklustre defending in the 34th minute when he pounced on a loose ball from a corner that the home side failed to clear.
The Wanderers were briefly back into the contest through a Mitch Nichols equaliser in the 13th minute, however, a series of missed opportunities cost Tony Popovic’s men dearly.
The Roar victory means a debut success for new manager John Aloisi, who was chuffed with the performance of Maclaren in the first half.
“He’s intelligent, he plays on the shoulder of the centre-backs,” he said.
“When you’ve got players like (Thomas) Broich, Corona, and (Dimi) Petratos, he can hurt teams.”
The Wanderers have now lost all of their opening matches in the A-League since their first season in 2012.
Man of the Match: Jamie Maclaren
VICTORY HELD BY PLUCKY REDS
Adelaide United 0 Melbourne Victory 0
Crowd: 19,079 at Adelaide Oval, Adelaide
Ten man Melbourne Victory’s title defence began with a goalless stalemate against old rivals Adelaide United, yet the match was not without excitement or controversy.
Victory, last season’s premiership and championship winners, controlled the fixture from the outset, yet were unable to find a way past Adelaide shot-stopper John Hall, a stand-in for Socceroo Eugene Galekovic.
Enigmatic forward Besart Berisha did not look at his best for the Victory, wasting two golden one-on-one chances either side of the half-time break as the Reds weathered the storm.
New Zealand international Kosta Barbarouses came closest to breaking the deadlock in the second half, with his powerful strike coming back of the base of the post, leaving Hall scrambling.
However, the dynamics of the clash drastically changed in the 72nd minute when Victory captain Leigh Broxham received a second yellow card for a stray elbow, leaving the home side with the numerical advantage.
The home side managed to carve out a guilt-edged opportunity with almost the last kick of the game, but Sergio Cirio’s stinging drive was parried to safety by Danny Vukovic.
Victory coach Kevin Muscat, never afraid to express his discontent at officials, stated his disappointment at Referee Peter Green’s decision to hand Broxham a second yellow.
“In the second half it was one way traffic until Peter Green made his decision,” said Muscat.
“The reality is, our football was very, very good tonight and it’s disappointing that even with ten men we created all the chances and we didn’t come away from here with two more points.”
Man of the match: Osama Malik
SKY BLUES HELD BY CITIZENS
Sydney FC 1 (Holosko ’45+3) Melbourne City 1 (Dekker ’16)
Crowd: 17,051 at Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Sydney FC were forced to settle for an opening round deadlock on Saturday night, playing out an intense 1-1 draw with Melbourne City.
City controlled the majority of the first half, and were rewarded when débutante Wade Dekker scored his first A-League goal on 15 minutes.
Dekker pounced on a rare defensive error from experienced defender Jacques Faty, and expertly dispatched the ball past Vedran Janjetovic into the bottom corner.
City almost carried the lead into half-time, however, Sydney’s Filip Holosko, also making his A-League debut, equalized for the Sky Blues moments before referee Ben Williams called an end to the first stanza.
Some impressive build-up play from Brandon O’Neill saw Alex Brosque get behind City defender Connor Chapman, and the Sky Blues skipper found Holosko for a simple finish.
The scoreline did not change for the rest of the night, though City shot-stopper Thomas Sorensen pulled off a series of late saves to rescue his side a point.
Man of the match: Thomas Sorensen
MARINERS EDGE GLORY IN FIVE GOAL THRILLER
Central Coast Mariners 3 (O’Donovan ‘9, Ferreira ’58, ’67) d Perth Glory 2 (Garcia ’23, Sandor ’90)
Crowd: 8,033 at Central Coast Stadium, Gosford
A young Mariners started started off the new season with an impressive victory, defeating Perth Glory 3-2 in an epic encounter in Gosford.
The Mariners, playing in front of a modest crowd on Saturday afternoon, got off to a dream start thanks to a fortuitious debut goal from irish forward Roy O’Donovan.
A strike from Fabio Ferreira was well saved by Ante Covic, however, the rebound bounced off the former Sunderland striker and rolled into an empty net.
New Glory skipper Richard Garcia equilized 14 minutes later with an immaculately placed header, however, his efforts were undone by poor defending from the Glory.
The travellers gave up two consecutive penalties in the second half, both of which were tucked into the top left corner with aplomb by Fabio Ferreira.
Hungarian recruit Gyorgy Sandor found the net in the dying moments of the game, however, there was not enough time for the Glory to grab an unlikely draw.
The Mariners, who missed out on finals last season, will again be tested next week with a trip to Brisbane to face the in-form Roar.
Man of the Match: Liam Reddy
JETS UPSET WELLINGTON
Wellington Phoenix 1 (Bonevacia ’45+2) Newcastle Jets 2 (Carney ’30, Trifunovic ’71)
The Newcastle Jets had a dream start to their season, edging Wellington Phoenix 2-1 at WestPac Stadium on Sunday.
Reduced to 10 men after the dismissal of new captain Nigel Boogard, the Jets managed to hold on for a narrow victory in Scott Miller’s first game as manager.
The scoring was opened on 30 minutes when South Korean fullback Lee Ki-Je was allowed to much room on the left flank, his pin-cross clinically converted by David Carney.
The ‘Nix managed to grab an equilizer with the last kick of the half when Michael McGlinchey’s expert cross found Roly Bonevacia inside the box, the Dutch midfielder squeezing his effort through the legs of Lee and past Mark Birighitti.
Wellington then had the chance to take the lead straight after half-time when Jets defender Daniel Mullen fouled Roy Krishna in the area, however, the Fijian forward saw his tame effort svaed by Birighitti.
That miss would come back to haunt the Phoneix in the 70th minute, when Serbian midfielder Milos Trifunovic converted Carney’s cross from the right to put the Jets in the lead.
Boogard’s second yellow card in the 79th minute made matters difficult for Newcastle, however, a gritty defensive display and some quality last-ditch saves from Birighitti saw the Jets home for an unexpected but much deserved victory.
Man of the Match: David Carney
ROUND 1: HOT AND COLD
Dazzling Debutantes: It appears that the managers around the league should be thanking their scouts after the recruits ran riot across all games. Of the 14 goals scored in round one, eight came from players making their club or league debut: Jamie MacLaren, Mitch Nichols, Filip Holosko, Wade Dekker, Roy O’Donovan, Gygory Sandor and Milos Trifunovic. Oliver Bozanic, Thomas Sorensen, Brandon O’Neill and Corona were also impressive in their new colours.
Drought-Breaker David: While the majority of Newcastle Jets supporters will just be happy with the team’s shock opening round victory, another feel-good story has come from the success. David Carney’s opening goal for the Jets was his first goal in the A-League since he scored against the now-defunct New Zealand Knights back in November 2006, some 3257 days ago, setting a record for the biggest gap between A-league goals. Needless to say the Jets faithful will be hoping his next comes a lot sooner than that.
Keepers steal the show: While we always watch on in anticipation of the ball hitting the back of the net, credit must be given to the men whose job it is to keep it out. Across all games, the shot-stoppers of the league pulled out all sorts of saves to keep the hitmen at bay. Michael Theo, Sorensen, Liam Reddy, Mark Birighitti and John Hall were all in fabulous form, pulling off a plethora of stops and helping their respective sides to a point or three.
Crowd Collapse: The return of the A-League doesn’t looked to ave enthralled as many fans as the FFA would have hoped. The round’s average attendance of 12,916 is the second lowest in the league’s 11 year history, with only season 2010/11 polling lower numbers. Lowy and Co. will be praying that these numbers take a considerable hike as the league rolls on.
Diabolical Decisions: Granted, the officials of the game rarely ever get praise for doing their rather difficult job. However, there were some questionable decisions made ina few of this week’s games. Peter Green’s sending off of Melbourne Victory captain Leigh Broxham for an apparent elbow had many punters across the league scratching their heads, while Ben Williams missed a clear-cut penalty when Melbourne City’s Robert Koren was brough down by Sydney goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic. Given that referees are now full-time, one would hope some consistency appears in the decision making league-wide.
Disastrous defending: Many of this week’s goalscorers have their opposing defence to thank, with a host of defensive errors across all games. The Wanderer’s Brendan Hammill gifted Jamie Maclaren a debut Roar goal with a horror backpass, while Brisbane’s other two goals came as a result of sub-standard set piece marking. Sydney’s Jacques Faty was left red-faced when his error gave City’s wade Dekker his first A-League goal, while Perth Glory gave the Mariners two penalties in their loss at Gosford. No doubt there will be an emphasis on tightening up at the back for many clubs at training this week.
NEXT WEEK’S GAMES:
Adelaide v Western Sydney Wanderers
Newcastle Jets v Sydney FC
Melbourne Victory v Melbourne City
Brisbane Roar v Central Coast Mariners
Perth Glory v Wellington Phoenix