Five things we learned from A-League Round 4

VAR trouble, countless penalties and an unexpected good luck kiss dominated discussions this past weekend as Round 4 of A-League action came to a close.

A-League round 4

Keegan Smith (L), Shaun Evans (C) and Ross McCormack (R) Source: Getty Images, AAP

Minimum interference for ZERO benefit

“We’re making a mockery of a lovely game…people have been hung for less.”

Perth Glory coach Kenny Lowe was left bemused at the VAR’s inability to officiate during his side’s 2-0 defeat to Sydney FC on Friday night.

After Bobo missed his earlier spot-kick following David Carney’s “experienced” tumble, referee Shaun Evans again pointed to the spot for a handball inside the box with a few minutes remaining in the first half.

What happened next left players and coaches alike incensed as the VAR, and Evans, halted play a full four minutes longer than what is normally expected for video review, an issue A-League boss Greg O’Rourke has since deemed “unacceptable”.

While the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was first introduced to have “maximum benefit” in game-changing situations, the technology has since become plagued by inconsistency.

Should the FFA look into implementing one designated VAR to officiate all five matches from one set location, perhaps some of these reviewable decisions might eliminate the various questionable interpretations we’ve seen this season.

Speaking at half-time, former Sydney FC coach John Kosmina admitted he preferred football without the VAR, citing a preference for “human error” in the game.

Well John, with the VAR in its current model, it seems there’s more human error than ever before.

City fans reJoyce!

Melbourne City maintained their stunning start to the season with a 2-0 victory over Adelaide United, re-establishing their two-point lead at the top of the table in the process.

The result means Warren Joyce is now the first coach in A-League history to have won their first four games in charge, a feat not many anticipated after their 2-0 humbling at the hands of Sydney FC in September’s FFA Cup quarter-final fixture.

Though two first-half goals from Ross “The Boss” McCormack sent the visitors on their way, City were made to earn all three points after the referee awarded Osama Malik a dubious second yellow just past the hour mark.

Despite the injustice, and Adelaide’s relentless pressure, City left Coopers Stadium with their third clean sheet of the season, something last season’s side didn’t achieve until Round 23.

Boasting a squad deep with talent, a compact defence and potent attack, Joyce has transformed City into genuine title contenders.

The Citizens join Melbourne Victory (2006-07), Brisbane Roar (2011-12) and last season’s Sydney FC side as the only teams to have maintained a perfect start to a new season through four games.

And given that all three of the aforementioned went on to win the Championship, it seems Joyce has City in good stead.

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang…Bang

All that experience in Brisbane’s squad actually accounted for something after they came back from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 with Wellington Phoenix on Saturday.

Phoenix blew the away side, well, away, with three goals in the opening 20 minutes, two of which came courtesy of a player John Aloisi once released from the Roar back in 2015, Andrija Kaluderovic.

But despite the deficit, Brisbane finally found a breakthrough with a cheesy Maccarone tap-in just before half-time.

Wellington’s 18-year-old goalkeeper, Keegan Smith, also did his bit to help the Roar.

After a fingertip save tipped Fahid Ben Khalfallah’s free-kick onto the post and into the path of an unmarked Avraam Papadopoulos, who guided the ball home just past the hour mark, Smith’s next involvement had many scratching their heads.

With Massimo Maccarone awaiting the referee’s whistle to take his 82nd-minute penalty, Smith used the spare time to try and rattle the man 20 years his senior.

The young shot-stopper crashed his crossbar twice and stuttered twice before licking his lips and blowing the 38-year-old a kiss.

The kiss drew a smile out of the Italian, but he didn’t blush, returning serve with a cool penalty to bring scores level.

As a result, Aloisi’s first point of the new season comes as Brisbane become just the sixth team to get a result after being 3-0 down.

Nothing’s changed in Wanderland

The Wanderers blew a lead for the second consecutive week after the Newcastle Jets battled back for a 1-1 draw in their first match without star marquee Ronald Vargas.

Western Sydney dominated the first half but only had one goal to show for it as the first half came to a close in sweltering Newcastle conditions.

Ernie Merrick’s men played to their potential following the restart and, after Dimitri Petratos brought the Jets level, almost came away with all three points were it not for some desperate defending.

Much like the Sydney derby and against Adelaide United during Tuesday's FFA Cup semi-final, Hayden Foxe was again exposed as a head coach not worthy of such a position.

While the decision to substitute midfielder Chris Herd for Jonathan Aspropotamitis midway through the second half may have been wise given Western Sydney’s 1-0 advantage, Foxe refused to change shape (again) and left the defender occupying a midfield role he had no business being in.

It ultimately cost the away side in the end, and now leaves them fourth after their third consecutive draw.

This isn’t what Victory looks like

Don’t let Sunday night’s 1-1 draw fool you, Melbourne Victory are in crisis.

The Central Coast Mariners deserved all three points, but had to settle for one as Leroy George curled in an exquisite free-kick five minutes past the hour mark.

Muscat’s men are in unfamiliar territory after the first four games of the season, languishing in eighth place, just one point above last-placed Brisbane, and 10 behind crosstown rivals City.

In fact, the last time Victory were winless one month into the new campaign dates back to 2005 – the A-League’s inaugural season.

With a whole host of key players set to miss out on forthcoming fixtures due to international duty, things could still get worse for the three-time champions.

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Published 30 October 2017 at 10:21am
By Jonathan Bernard