Five things we learned from A-League Round 13

Runaway leaders, mid-season slumps and rival revivals rounded off what was a rather entertaining New Year's round of A-League football.

Mierzejewski Berisha Bridge

(Left to right) Adrian Mierzejewski, Besart Berisha and Mark Bridge Source: Getty Images / AAP

All-knowing Arnie

Sydney FC’s incredible six-goal display at home to Perth Glory may have caught fans and pundits by surprise, but to coach Graham Arnold, it was expected.

"We spoke during the week. I gave them the challenge of winning 6-0," Arnold said.

"I expected that. Especially to be more clinical, and to finish off 2017 in a fantastic way."

Another hat-trick to Bobo and goals to Brandon O’Neill, Alex Brosque and Adrian Mierzejewski completed the rout as the Sky Blues tied Brisbane Roar’s unbeaten home record at 23 games.

After confidently expecting his side’s 5-0 win over rivals Western Sydney Wanderers back in Round 10, Arnold's latest comments are further proof of the unbelievable talent he's got at his disposal.

"Everything he says, we have to believe it," Mierzejewski said of coach Arnold.

"It's our job and we just have to do what he asked for."

Eight points clear at the top of the league, the defending champions have collected 91 points from a possible 105 in 2017, along with records for most clean sheets (15) and wins (22) in a calendar year.

"It's been a fantastic year and now we move on to 2018," Arnold said.

"It's all about our attitude, what we want and what we will do. I've got a hungry group of players."

New year, new Victory

Melbourne Victory returned to the forefront of title discussions with a 2-1 win over Newcastle Jets on Friday night.

After Jason Hoffman cancelled out Kosta Barbarouses’ opener, Besart Berisha latched onto a Leroy George through ball, before firing past Glen Moss and into the roof of the net.

With three successive wins to close out the year, and five from their past seven games, Kevin Muscat's men appear to have finally rediscovered the form and consistency that saw them reach last season's grand final.

The Victory produced their best performance of the current campaign, outplaying the Jets for much of the contest, and it seems things will only get better as towering central defender Dino Djulbic and midfield ace Terry Antonis prepare to join the club.

"I've been speaking to him (Djulbic) for quite a few weeks now," Muscat said when asked if rumours of the defender’s arrival were true.

"He’s come in, he’ll start training with us and we’ll look to try and conclude a deal when the window opens to get him as an injury replacement."

The addition of Djulbic will only strengthen the Victory's chances, and will fill the void left by Thomas Deng, who may miss all of January on international duty with the Olyroos.

Nevertheless, with a bolstered backline complementing a fierce and rejuvenated attack, the Victory are once again a force to be reckoned with.

Who’s gonna score your goals, tonight?

Perhaps a rendition of The Cars' "Drive" should be on the Mariners Brass Band’s next home game setlist.

Central Coast Mariners have now gone four straight games without a goal, typified by their 0-0 draw with Wellington Phoenix on New Year's Eve.

After the 9,110 in attendance watched Ben Kennedy keep the home side in the contest, Paul Okon's young quartet, headed by Daniel De Silva, struggled to make their significant chances count after the interval.

And though this goal drought has seen the coastal club slide down the ladder, things may soon get even worse after a tribunal favoured Football Federation Australia's right to select key Olyroo-eligible talent for the upcoming Under-23 Asian Championships.

Okon will now have to make do without De Silva, Trent Buhagiar and Thomas Glover for most of January, but will hope potential new signings prove beneficial in turning their inconsistent season around.

That unfamiliar feeling

Western Sydney Wanderers began the New Year in unfamiliar fashion, with a win – a feat the side had only managed just once since the start of the season.

Despite Ross McCormack’s tap-in midway through the first half, goals to Oriol Riera and Mark Bridge - inside two minutes - proved enough to seal the 2-1 win.

Though City pressed the home side for much of the second half, Vedran Janjetovic's penalty save in the shadows of half-time, to deny McCormack a brace, represented the Wanderers' newfound resolve.

Josep Gombau's men needed nothing less than all three points against the struggling City after an eventful week saw plenty of active supporters engage with the players at the end of an open training session.

With the Wanderers up to seventh after the result, two points behind Perth with a game in hand, this could be the turning point the team needs to make a run up the table and justify their pre-season tag as genuine title contenders.

Nothing else matters

"A lot of these boys are winners, they will find a way to win."

John Aloisi praised his players’ efforts after Brisbane Roar managed to escape Adelaide with a 2-1 win, despite playing with 10 men for much of the contest.

It was daylight robbery for the Roar; a harsh reminder of football's common injustice – where the score bares no reflection of the match.

Despite Adelaide's dominance, the Roar took a 2-0 lead after Fahid Ben Khalfallah and Massimo Maccarone capitalised on two mistakes just before half-time.

While Matt McKay's dismissal courtesy of the VAR prompted the Reds into action, with George Blackwood halving the deficit midway through the second half, they found an equaliser elusive as the three-time A-League champions held on for all three points.

"It means so much to us, we've had a lot of difficulty this season," Aloisi said.

"There's one thing that Brisbane Roar won't do - that's give up, they'll keep going."

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6 min read
Published 2 January 2018 at 9:51am
By Jonathan Bernard