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Prior to Round 7 commencing, we were hit with the unfortunate news that New Zealand had once again been subjected to another disastrous earthquake.
As a result, the match between Wellington Phoenix and Melbourne Victory was postponed – our condolences and well wishes to all in New Zealand.
With that said, we were still left with four mouthwatering clashes. Tim Cahill was set to play his first game in his hometown in 20 years, while Brisbane Roar had been doing everything in their power to give rise to the rivalry between them and Sydney FC.
Adelaide United would venture west in search of their first win against Perth Glory and an agreement between Newcastle Jets and Central Coast Mariners was set to take place in which the visiting team’s members could attend for free.
We look back at the weekend’s action and the top five A-League talking points for Round 7.
1. Brisbane and Sydney play out early contender for match of the season
Heading into the match, Brisbane Roar were on a run of ten undefeated matches at home, while Sydney FC was looking to equal Melbourne Victory’s best start to a season by making it a perfect seven from seven.
What played out was a highly entertaining and absorbing contest that finished 1-1 and left people wanting more.
Throughout the first half, Sydney FC dominated the contest, albeit thanks to some lacklustre defending from the Roar’s two centre backs in Luke Devere and Jade North.
The result could have been in the favour of Sydney FC by the end of the first, but thanks to an outstanding display in goals by Roar keeper Michael Theo, Sydney would be kept at bay for the rest of the match.
Theo wound back the clock, playing one of his best matches for some time and saving Brisbane on multiple occasions.
The game featured two cracking goals in the form of Joshua Brillante’s bullet strike that hit the top right corner of the Roar’s net, while Thomas Kristensen scored with an inch perfect shot across the face of goal that had Danny Vukovic completely outstretched – a strike that many keepers would have struggled to keep out.
Around the 78th minute, confusion took over, as it appeared to many that Sydney FC defender Rhyan Grant was issued his second yellow card of the evening. However, he remained on the pitch.
The confusion stemmed from an earlier challenge in the match where Grant up-ended Thomas Broich in a strong tackle. Many believed Grant had been yellow carded for the incident.
However, despite the referee pulling out a yellow card, he never actually showed it to Grant, thus, the card was never officially issued. Rightly so as well, because upon replay it was a strong and fair tackle that did not deserve any punishment.
With 119,000 tuning in on Fox Sports and 17,322 in attendance, it would appear as though Brisbane Roar’s beat-up of a State of Origin style contest proved successful.
Those who had the pleasure of watching were treated to a match to remember – mind you, who could forget Brisbane Roar’s all maroon kit.
Although Brisbane Roar received some criticism about their use of the maroon playing kit, it showed the club has been making a conscious effort this season to hype fixtures – which hasn’t always been the case.
As a Roar supporter, I don’t mind any efforts made to engage with the sporting public, and if it results in more attending and watching at home, then if the worst that is to occur is the use of an all maroon kit every now and then, it can’t be a bad thing.
Would it also be fair to remind others that the club used to have maroon in their kit and were formerly known as Queensland Roar?
2. The F3 derby still burns with passion
In recent times, the F3 Derby had lost some of its appeal. The passion seemed to have simmered and the fixtures taking place were lacking the spite and resolve that both clubs had shown in previous contests.
Throughout the week, former players were explaining what it meant to them to play in this fixture in the early days, and with the introduction of free entry for members of the away team, both clubs were hoping it would help restore the contest it to its former glory.
Although it took a half of football, the passion once again appeared and commitment from both teams seemed to step up a notch.
With 11,238 in attendance – the highest attended F3 Derby since early 2013-14 – both sets of fans were in full voice and the contest proved highly entertaining despite both teams’ current positions on the ladder.
One could criticise the lack of commitment from away fans for each of these teams, which has led to a free attendance for this fixture.
Yet, the positive is that the free entry might be a genius move that reinvigorates support for both teams and leads to better attendance.
Let’s just hope that when the two meet again in late February that we can see a further improvement in attendance.
3. From bad to worse for Adelaide United
The champions, Adelaide United, are officially off to their worst start of any A-League campaign. After seven rounds they currently sit last with two points. Last year was only slightly better for United, having managed three points at this point of the season.
To rub salt into Adelaide’s wounds, last season they at least managed to keep three clean sheets in the first seven rounds.
This season they have not yet kept a single clean sheet.
It’s fair to say time has all but run out for Gui Amor’s team this season.
Last year was an anomaly, and this year, no such comeback will occur. If it does, they will have to outdo their previous efforts and with Asian Champions League commitments on the horizon, the task will only be made harder.
With injury also playing a role in the club’s inability to win, their depth is being tested and only time will tell how they can manage the commitments of both competitions.
4. Have Western Sydney’s members gone wandering?
With Tim Cahill returning to Western Sydney to play in his first domestic football match in 20 years, one would have thought plenty of Western Sydney football supporters would turn out to watch the Socceroos legend.
Sadly, given the club’s record 18,855 members, only 14,232 people arrived.
One has to ask, where are all of the Wanderers’ members?
Is it Spotless Stadium that is the issue? Is there harder to get to? Is it just not the same as Parramatta Stadium and fans are holding out for the new stadium to be built?
Why could the Wanderers only muster an extra 985 fans more than their clash against Newcastle Jets?
Maybe I am asking all the wrong questions and perhaps Cahill just isn’t the draw card many of us thought he would be. It is clear he is no Alessandro Del Piero, but surely being arguably the greatest Socceroo ever, he would bring with him a little more attention in the form of increased attendances?
One is left scratching their head, as despite Melbourne City having comfortably spent more than all the clubs just in the form of marquees, why they too aren’t having larger attendances?
5. Referees make mistakes, but we need them
Each week in a round of football, we will find referees making some contentious calls that potentially have a larger influence on how the match plays out. Unfortunately though, our coaches and players may be going a step too far in their responding.
It has started to get somewhat out of hand, with Tony Popovic sanctioned, much like Kevin Muscat was some weeks ago.
Amor has also landed himself in hot water after touching a fourth official. However, John Kosmina believes this is down to the fact that Amor suffers in his ability to express himself well in English and has resorted to using his body language to express his discontent with decisions made.
Earlier in the season, Perth Glory coach Kenny Lowe was sent to the stands after going on-field at half time and arguing with referees, which resulted in Lowe having to watch from the stands for the next two fixtures.
So what does all this mean? With constant attention being directed the way of the match officials, head of the A-League Greg O’Rourke has had to set up meetings with frustrated coaches as it is evident the relationships with referees is at a boiling point.
O’Rourke has said that despite the constant criticisms, statistics have shown referees are making fewer game-changing errors than in past seasons. Surprisingly, these statistics weren’t shared.
There have been plenty of decisions made this season that have significantly affected the way a match has played out.
Even in this round, Kerem Bulut scored for the Wanderers against Melbourne City and it was incorrectly ruled as being offside.
Commentators in the match between Perth Glory and Adelaide United alluded to the fact that the contest between Eugene Galekovic and Perth attackers should have resulted in a free kick to Adelaide, but play was allowed to continue and as a result, Glory scored.
All these incidents have led to Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick reiterating calls for a video referee to be implemented now and not later. I personally, do not like the use of video referees.
But with the state of refereeing in the competition, perhaps further considerations need to be made with regard to its use – as long as it does not affect the flow of a match.
Referees make mistakes and there is a fair and just way of approaching this with regard to criticism, but the way our coaches and players are currently handling the situation is not a good look for the game.
Bad decisions are made all the time and there is a belief that these sorts of calls even out over a season.
And if any team needs these calls to level out, it is Adelaide United, and it needs to happen sooner rather than later, as further contentious calls could cripple their season.