Melbourne Victory’s Asian Champions League ambitions go on the line on Tuesday night when Keisuke Honda and Co. take on Sanfrecce Hiroshima in Japan.
Round 7 A-League action began with a reborn Wanderers at Spotless. It was followed by an impotent Sydney, an electric Victory and ended with a revitalised Newcastle.
These were the men that made the difference.
1. Lawrence Thomas (Melbourne Victory)
Despite being a match that Melbourne Victory could potentially have won by three or four goals, don’t be fooled into thinking that Adelaide United did not create a number of their own chances.
They did and Thomas produced another stellar performance between the sticks. His save just prior to half-time from Michael Marrone was game-changing and sent the sides to the dressing rooms level.
It allowed the Victory to restock, before coming out an invigorated team in the second half that eventually put the Reds to the sword.
2. Avraam Papadopoulos (Brisbane Roar)
It was a cracking game from the Greek defender against the Jets, despite the result. Roar teammates could take a leaf from the big man’s book on attitude and resilience.
Papadopoulos saved the day time after time and that says a lot about the potential score had he been absent. I have left him out of this team once or twice this season and regardless of the disappointing result for the Roar, he well and truly deserved inclusion this time around.
3. Andrew Durante (Wellington Phoenix)
The 36-year-old is enjoying something of a resurgence this season and it is no coincidence that the Phoenix’s fortress-like defence over the last two weeks occurred in matches where he played well individually.
As Durante approaches 250 games for his beloved Wellington, Saturday showed that there is still plenty in the legs. Sydney FC were awful, yet their failure to find avenues to goal was partly due to the visitors’ dogged defensive effort.
4. Thomas Deng (Melbourne Victory)
It was another polished performance from Deng and he makes his second appearance in the team of the week.
Games such as the one he produced against Adelaide on Saturday night earned the 21-year-old his first Socceroos cap this year and the poise and control he is displaying should see him become a long-term national team player.
Deng’s greatest attribute is the anonymity he enjoys on the pitch; quiet efficiency is his style and Kevin Muscat must love the calm he provides at the back.
5. Daniel Georgievski (Newcastle Jets)
Any man that wins a player of the match award in a grand final must be one hell of a player, yeah? Georgievski is exactly that, despite showing little through the opening six weeks of the competition.
Sunday night against the Roar was different, with the former Victory man commanding his space and finally returning to his form of last season.
There was a swagger and confidence about his work that had been missing and it was pleasing to see the ‘old’ Georgievski back to somewhere near his best form.
6. Ivan Franjic (Perth Glory)
Tony Popovic’s back three formation allows both Jason Davidson and Franjic to work the wings, push high and create headaches for opposition defences.
The man with 20 Socceroos caps was lured to the west in the full knowledge that not only would he add some steel and resilience but also be a potential avenue of service from the right for Andy Keogh in the centre.
It is working a treat thus far, with further improvement likely. Franjic worked the wing expertly and kept the City defence on task for the entire contest.
7. Sarpreet Singh (Wellington Phoenix)
After missing the team of the week by the narrowest of margins just seven days ago, Singh was superb through midfield and provided constant service to Roy Krishna up front against Sydney.
It was Krishna’s day out with his two goals sealing the Sky Blues’ fate in the first half, yet Singh was behind much of his good work; dexterous in the centre and difficult for the Sydney midfielders to control. Definitely a player to watch.
8. Alex Baumjohann (Western Sydney Wanderers)
If anyone was looking for an early contender for the A-League performance of the season, the German provided one on Friday night against the Mariners.
Despite an atrocious crowd, the Wanderers bounced back in resounding fashion, with Baumjohann’s passing game at the heart of much of their success. A couple of passes he completed bordered on genius. It was a masterclass from the 31-year-old and one that confirmed his quality.
9. Ola Toivonen (Melbourne Victory)
The 32-year-old Swede did what appeared inevitable on Saturday night, finding the back of the net against the Reds. Since his arrival, Toivonen has looked a star and brought a control and touch to the Victory front line that has caused mayhem in opposition defences.
The deftness of his passing sets wider runs free on the flanks and while Keisuke Honda may have made the biggest A-League splash of all the imports, Toivonen is not too far behind.
10. Roy Krishna (Wellington Phoenix)
Every now and then, forwards enjoy their day in the sun. Playing a more central role against Sydney, Krishna had one at Jubilee Stadium on Saturday.
It helped that the Sydney back four appeared to have never met, however, with quality balls played from the midfield by Singh, Krishna was able to use his pace to find the net twice before 30 minutes had been played.
With recent New Zealand citizenship and rumours of his departure, it had been a potentially distracting time for Krishna. Yet football was his focus as he led the Phoenix to their second win of the season.
11. Jair (Newcastle Jets)
Finally, he is in. The man who promised so much for the Jets has delivered little. He arrived in the Hunter unfit, underdone and undercooked. On Sunday afternoon, he finally showed the form that Ernie Merrick and the Jets know he can produce.
The Brazilian’s second-half goal allowed the release of much frustration and the thought of Ronald Vargas, Dimi Petratos, Roy O’Donovan and Jair all working together is a scary A-League hypothetical.
How does that stack up for Round 7? Any undeserved inclusions or unlucky admissions?