Five things we learned from A-League Round 24

Harsh consequences, paper talk and a moment of magic highlighted what was a rather entertaining Harmony Round of A-League football.


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When will you learn?

The players, Josep Gombau, the Red and Black Bloc; never has a question been more appropriate and able to hit all three of its targets – for different reasons – at once.

Melbourne City, a team battling a season-long case of inconsistency, welcomed Western Sydney Wanderers to AAMI Park on Saturday night and spent 90 minutes playing them off the park.

The 3-0 result wasn’t harsh enough, with City spurning several chances and the away side struggling to muster a single shot on target.

Keanu Baccus (albeit out of position), Mark Bridge, Michael Thwaite and Alvaro Cejudo, to name a few, struggled to impact (or even try) proceedings against a City side without a home win since January.

Gombau’s inability to adjust in-game has cost his men on multiple occasions this season; with the stubborn Spaniard instead happy to rest on his age-old spiel of “needing time” as an excuse for poor selections, substitutions and tactics.

If poor performances on the pitch weren’t enough to condemn their mediocre season, the behaviour of some active supporters have caused major sponsor NRMA Insurance to walk away at the end of the season, taking their deal worth over $1 million per year with them.

"NRMA insurance will not be renewing its sponsorship of the Western (Sydney) Wanderers following the conclusion of the 2017/2018 season," an NRMA Insurance spokeswoman said, as quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald, with Fairfax Media revealing the RBB’s antics as a significant reason why.

Don’t let the A-League’s system fool you; the Wanderers may have finals football “in their hands”, but the solidarity, pride and passion that built the club six years ago are slowly slipping through their fingers.

You’re a wizard, Matty

No, it wasn’t a dream. In fact, it was his.

So often tasked with closing games out and antagonising the opposition with the game hanging at its crucial climax, Matt Simon barely has time to score a goal.

But with Sydney FC chasing history, and a valiant Central Coast Mariners side pushing for all three points, something had to give and, thankfully, the “Wizard of Woy Woy” took it upon himself to deliver.

With the ledger level at 1-1 and full-time fast approaching, Paulo Retre’s delightful delivery – his second of the game – to the back post was met by a magical Simon header that sent Sydney supporters into raptures.

It was Simon’s first A-League goal in almost two years – an incredible run only Simon himself could conjure.

The goal was the 31-year-old’s second in less than two weeks, after his mystical header allowed for a 1-1 Asian Champions League draw with Kashima Antlers, and came against a club he had long called home.

And while the longevity of Simon’s goal-scoring powers remains a mystery, his ability as a perennial thorn in his opponents’ side is just as good a piece of wizardry as any.

Pay attention!

“Maybe it’s because they’re getting a little bit nervous if we do make finals that they’re trying to make us unstable.”

After flat-out denying reports linking him to the vacant Sydney FC post next season, John Aloisi’s Brisbane Roar failed to make the most of Western Sydney’s slip-up in Melbourne.

The Roar came into the contest against last-placed Wellington Phoenix needing all three points to enter the top six, but found missed opportunities aplenty as Thomas Kristensen saved his side’s blushes with an equaliser midway through the second half.

With Brisbane coming off an impressive victory against Sydney last weekend, the disappointing display suggests Aloisi and co. are somewhat struggling with distractions after the former was said to have offered his services to the defending champions.

“I’m focused on Brisbane Roar,” Aloisi said. “There’s no truth to that at all.”

While the rumour mill will continue to circulate in the coming weeks, Aloisi will hope this 2-2 draw is the last time his men feel the effects of it ahead of three season-defining fixtures against the Mariners, Wanderers and Glory respectively.

Give him a call

Daniel Arzani dazzled in what was his most complete performance of the season on Saturday night after goals to Bruno Fornaroli, Michael Jakobsen and Stefan Mauk compounded the Western Sydney Wanderers to a 3-0 defeat.

The 19-year-old was lively throughout, beating defenders at will and wreaking havoc in the final third – two areas the Socceroos largely lacked in during their 4-1 loss to Norway on Saturday morning (AEDT).

Bert van Marwijk’s first game in charge didn’t just illustrate how much work still needs to be done before the FIFA World Cup kicks off in June, but also sent a message that nobody’s spot in the squad is safe.

And while Arzani may well struggle on the international stage, his production, confidence on the ball and fearlessness as a genuine bolter could prove useful should van Marwijk feel the need to call upon his services.

After all, nobody’s clamouring for him to start, but rather for his inclusion – particularly when others in his position did little to convince during Ange Postecoglou’s tenure and still made van Marwijk's initial cut.

On your marks

“They want to make something happen.”

Kenny Lowe warned us, and now his Perth Glory side are on their way to making finals football a reality.

Andy Keogh’s header moments before the break was enough to stop Melbourne Victory’s strong finish to the season dead in its tracks and propel the Glory to within just one point of sixth-placed Western Sydney Wanderers.

It sets up the regular season’s remaining three rounds as an intriguing race alongside the Wanderers and Brisbane Roar, and one Lowe will surely fancy his side to win.

But despite piling up 10 points from their past four matches, the Glory’s finals chances will hinge on positive results against Sydney FC, Newcastle Jets and the Roar on D-Day.

And with the Glory victorious in each of their last four home matches, a fifth against the defending champions on Thursday would give them the perfect start.

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6 min read
Published 26 March 2018 at 9:48am
By Jonathan Bernard