Five things we learned from A-League Round 9

Potential Socceroos call-ups, Catalan comparisons and come-from-behind wins rounded off what was yet another compelling weekend of A-League football.


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Have the Socceroos found their bolter?

Australia may not have a head coach to lead them into Russia next year, but perhaps they’ve found their latest call-up. 

The Central Coast Mariners continue to impress this season and this past weekend was no different as Paul Okon’s youthful squad earned all three points with a 1-0 win over Perth Glory.

Daniel De Silva, so often synonymous with every Mariners foray forward, was phenomenal on the night and continued to build on what has been a sensational season.

“I’m really happy to play here, we have a great style of play and it really allows me to express the type of player that I am,” De Silva said after the game. 

“Paolo (Okon) does a great job with the team and having quality players around me really helps me as well.” 

At just 20 years old, the former Roda midfielder has already developed into a dangerous player, and one the Socceroos may find useful as they prepare to face France, Denmark and Peru at the World Cup. 

With upcoming international friendlies on the cards, time will tell if Australia’s eventual head coach feels the same way. 

This isn’t Barcelona

“The style is very complex, it’s very difficult to improve in just two weeks – in Barcelona it was maybe the last 25 years so it’s not easy to play.” 

Oriol Riera has first-hand experience of the Catalan philosophy Josep Gombau is trying to implement at the Western Sydney Wanderers, but that itself should not be an excuse for what was a terrible performance against the Brisbane Roar on Saturday afternoon.

While injuries to Riera and Jaushua Sotirio early in the first half forced the Wanderers into some early changes, John Aloisi’s men thoroughly deserved their 2-0 win – their first away from home since March. 

After several seasons of defence-first football, Tony Popovic slowly introduced a possession-based brand at the Wanderers that began to blossom as personnel improved, something Aloisi admits is still evident even after the 44-year-old’s Turkish departure. 

“It’s no different in the philosophy in terms of possession and trying to dominate the opposition,” Aloisi said of Gombau’s approach. 

“The difference is (that) there’s a few tweaks in their formation, they’re a little bit different when they lose the ball.” 

After a draw and two successive defeats, the Spaniard hasn’t exactly filled the home faithful with confidence, typified by what was a rather poor turnout of 8,210 at ANZ Stadium. 

In fact, it appears the team have regressed, looking less like Barcelona and more like one at risk of missing out on finals football for just the second time in their short history. 

Sydney get last laugh…again

Adelaide United marked this fixture down in their calendar, but on Friday night, Sydney FC got the last laugh yet again as a solitary Bobo goal proved enough for all three points. 

Michael Marrone’s red card and subsequent suspension for grappling with a ball boy in the latter stages of the Reds’ 2-1 FFA Cup final defeat last month should have been enough motivation for them to find some measure of revenge over the Sky Blues. 

Instead, they were left to rue missed chances, extending their scoreless run against the defending champions to four games dating back to April 2016 in the process. 

“They have no chances and we played well and in one second we’re not awake enough and they scored a goal,” Adelaide coach Marco Kurz said after the game. 

One second, as Marrone found out, is all it takes for a game to change, and for Graham Arnold, that’s what makes his side the best. 

“When those players go onto the field to play, they know they have one thing on their minds and one thing on their brain, and that is to win,” Arnold said. “They do it.” 

With a five-point lead at the top of the league to show for it, it’s clear he isn’t wrong.

A sign of things to come

Former Melbourne City assistant coach Michael Valkanis was the scapegoat in City Football Group’s visit last weekend, but perhaps it was worth it. 

In the days since his dismissal, tension at the club appears to have fizzled out after three points and the appointment of former Socceroos defender Tony Vidmar as assistant coach rounded out what was a successful weekend.

Despite finding themselves on the back foot for much of the contest, City made the most of their chances to defeat the Jets 2-1 after Ross McCormack’s penalty and Manny Muscat’s thumping volley few minutes from full-time sealed the come-from-behind win, the club’s first in four games. 

The result means City are now just one point behind the second-placed Jets and, more importantly, allows Joyce time to re-evaluate his squad after a week in which many thought would be his last. 

Vidmar’s arrival, following four years in charge of the Joeys, comes as Joyce’s latest attempt to restructure the club’s on-field operations. 

And with some players reportedly set to be in the firing line in the coming weeks, it seems chief Brian Marwood and the City Football Group are completely behind their handpicked man. 

Muscat in

After two goals from Andrija Kaluderovic had the Wellington Phoenix cruising at the break, Melbourne Victory pulled a remarkable comeback to win 3-2 on Sunday afternoon. 

Wellington’s second half implosion was a case of deja vu for the Phoenix faithful, who have now watched their side squander a lead in four of their eight fixtures this season. 

The win, Melbourne’s third from 50 attempts when trailing 2-0, moves Kevin Muscat’s men off the foot of the ladder and back into the top six as a result. 

Pressure had been mounting on the 44-year-old in recent weeks, with many suggesting a move to the vacant Socceroos job possibly on his mind as the new year approaches. 

Instead, Victory’s never-say-die attitude, so often missing this season, resurfaced when it mattered most to propel them back within one point of fourth-placed Adelaide, and six adrift of crosstown rivals Melbourne City. 

“It was an unbelievable mental challenge for us tonight and I couldn’t fault the group for their efforts,” Muscat said after the game. 

But don’t let his nonchalant demeanour fool you, there’s no doubt Muscat’s breathing a sigh of relief after this one.

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6 min read
Published 4 December 2017 at 9:29am
By Jonathan Bernard