It’s a game of percentages
“We’re functioning on probably 43 percent at the moment and there’s a lot of improvement (left) in each individual and a lot of improvement in the team.”
Graham Arnold’s comments in the lead-up to Friday night’s clash against Central Coast seemed to set the precedent for his side’s performance as goals from Andrew Hoole and Jake McGing sealed a surprise 2-0 win for the Mariners.
It was Arnold’s first loss on the coast since his resignation as coach of the club back in 2013, and Sydney’s first defeat in 18 games across all competitions.
After a dramatic derby ended Sydney’s attempt at A-League invincibility last season, Paul Okon’s side ended any hopes of a second try with a near flawless display of pace and pressure that ultimately proved too much for the somewhat stuttering Sky Blues.
The result is the Mariners’ first win of the season and sees them sit sixth in league standings after recent solid performances at home to the Victory and away to Brisbane last weekend.
Meanwhile, by Arnold’s midweek summations, the champions are a shadow of their best and, with the FFA Cup final looming against Adelaide United next Tuesday night, perhaps 100 is the only percentage Sydney’s head coach will accept from here on in.
Coaching debut to forget
Josep Gombau’s debut in charge of the Western Sydney Wanderers received mixed reviews after a rather sloppy showing against Melbourne City on Sunday night.
The Wanderers produced comfortably their worst performance of the season, squandering yet another lead to draw 1-1 against a high-pressing City side hoping to return to the top of the table.
Vedran Janjetovic was a class above his compatriots, reeling off one impressive save after another as Melbourne fashioned numerous chances throughout the contest.
If hopeful Wanderers fans were disappointed with their side’s on-field display, not to mention the VAR’s inability to officiate, Oriol Riera’s 78th-minute substitution took the cake.
The Spaniard appeared filthy with Gombau’s decision to remove him for Brendon Santalab and confirmed any lingering suspicions with an abrupt swat at his head coach’s outstretched offer for a handshake.
While the Wanderers remain unbeaten with their fifth league draw in succession, this turbulent showing will be one to forget as the former Adelaide head coach attempts to win players over and implement his new style in the coming weeks.
Ernie’s deja vu
The Newcastle Jets’ title credentials seem to get stronger with every passing week, and it appears their experienced head coach can now no longer deny it.
“I do see the right ingredients,” Ernie Merrick said after his side’s come-from-behind 2-1 win over Adelaide United returned them to the top of the league.
“When I won my first championship, I think we went the first seven games, not only undefeated, I think we won all seven. I think you’ve got to have a good start.”
After Nikola Mileusnic put the hosts in front midway through the first half, the Jets found their feet and took the lead with goals from Ben Kantarovski and Andrew Nabbout coming either side of half-time.
The performance marked the fourth time in which the Hunter side have come back to claim at least a point despite trailing their opponents this season – a key ingredient for a potential champion.
While Merrick’s aforementioned Melbourne Victory side tasted defeat following their seven-game unbeaten start to the season, his current crop will need nothing less than their best if they are to beat champions Sydney FC next week in what already promises to be a fascinating fixture of football.
Bes is back, but the Victory still aren’t
After serving his two-week suspension for pushing an official away to Adelaide United last month, Besart Berisha’s return against Brisbane on Saturday night was supposed to reignite his side’s struggling season.
But while the Kosovo international upheld his end of the bargain with a well-taken goal against his former club, the Roar found fault just five minutes later as Brett Holman ghosted Victory’s defence to level the scores.
The 1-1 result is the club’s fourth consecutive draw of this campaign and keeps Kevin Muscat’s men second-last without a win through six games.
Melbourne’s newfound fragility references their inaugural 2005-06 season, where they eventually finished seventh ahead of the New Zealand Knights with their worst points tally in club history (26).
Indeed, while the international breaks have hindered last season’s Grand Finalists, this extended drought of mediocrity was almost inconceivable after a fruitful off-season had both fans and pundits alike tipping Victory for the top.
Such is football’s unpredictability; they instead find themselves in the midst of the worst start in club history, with no end in sight.
New Zealand propel the Nix
Just 24 hours after New Zealand drew 0-0 with 10th-ranked Peru in the first leg of their crucial World Cup playoff, the Wellington Phoenix got their first win of the season, humbling Perth Glory 5-2 at the Cake Tin.
Dressed in a white strip almost identical to that of the All Whites, the Phoenix found their rhythm in front of goal, erasing an early 1-0 deficit to earn all three points thanks to standout performances from striker Andrija Kaluderovic and stand-in skipper, Roy Krishna.
In what was the fifth five-goal display in team history, head coach Darije Kalezic seemed relieved with the outcome.
“The first win is always important. It doesn’t matter the way they come,” he said.
After squandering leads against Adelaide and Brisbane respectively this season, Kalezic’s men will take plenty of confidence from the result as they look to move on from their difficult start to the campaign.
But with a tough trip to Western Sydney awaiting the Phoenix next weekend, perhaps some second leg national team heroics may inspire the A-League’s lone New Zealand club to the win once again.