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As the football rolls from one A-League round to another at this time of year, it can be a little tricky to decipher one week from the next.
Round 11 concluded on Sunday with City holding on against a brave Newcastle and Perth reclaiming top spot with a chaotic win against the Roar.
Here are the men that made the difference in Round 11 A-League action.
1. Filip Kurto (Wellington Phoenix)
While both goalkeepers had terrific games at Coopers Stadium, it was the Pole from Wellington who edged out Paul Izzo for the custodian position by the barest of margins.
It was an incredibly entertaining and scoreless draw yet the Reds had by far the better of the play. The Phoenix goalmouth was bombarded throughout, particularly when Mandi Sosa was sent from the field and the visitors played the final 25 minutes with ten men.
2. Ritchie De Laet (Melbourne City)
Despite the fact the Belgian left the pitch with 15 minutes remaining against Newcastle, he was a tireless engine on the right and created many of the opportunities that came City’s way down that edge.
His speed is somewhat humbling for many A-League left-backs and he was up to his usual tricks; tiring the ten men of Newcastle with excellent runs in behind the back four.
3. Steven Taylor (Wellington Phoenix)
The 13 goals the Phoenix have allowed over the course of the first 11 rounds of the A-League say a great deal about the transformation Mark Rudan has been able to oversee in Wellington.
Defensively, they are considerably tighter and Taylor has brought a hard-nosed approach to their work in the box. That was never more required than when the visitors went down to ten men on Saturday and the Reds threw everything bar the kitchen sink at them. Taylor was inspirational.
4. Nikolai Topor-Stanley
In a weekend that consisted of a mix of matches with plenty of attack and others with defence as the key feature, Topor-Stanley stood out.
With the Jets down to ten men after Ronald Vargas lost the plot and left his team short for three-quarters of the match, the big man stepped up and took command of the Newcastle defence that held firm in the face of City’s attacks.
In fact, his control at the back helped swing the game Newcastle’s way in the second half and the Jets were unlucky not to snatch an equaliser. In fact, Topor-Stanley should have been awarded a penalty when he was held back in the box. Sadly, VAR let the Jets down again.
5. Jacob Pepper (Brisbane Roar)
If there was one positive that the Roar could take from their loss to the Glory, it was the performance of Jacob Pepper.
Whether it was prior to the dismissal of his defensive teammate Daniel Bowles or after, the 26-year-old defender was brave and effective against Perth’s attacks. After the rather blunt and insulting assessment dished out by John Kosmina concerning his play during the week, his performance made a wonderful reactionary statement.
6. Josh Brillante (Sydney FC)
Despite the ailing Mariners and something of a caveat being placed on many of the results teams are achieving against them, Brillante was once again composed and crafty in midfield.
He sat comfortably in the hole and fed balls into the attacking area with precision and consistent quality. Brandon O’Neill was also impressive yet Brillante’s defensive work edged out his teammate for this particular spot in the team.
7. Alex Brosque (Sydney FC)
‘Old man Brosque’ must take up a spot in midfield in this team to make room for others up front. Father time was well and truly turned back at Jubilee Stadium on Friday night as Sydney’s longest-serving player had a day out against a Mariners team that is beginning to look more and more jaded and disjointed.
After a surprise early lead and a send-off for the visitors, the 35-year-old found three second-half goals, the first of which was as impressive a flick with the right boot as you could ever see on a night when the attacker could do little wrong.
8. Riley McGree (Melbourne City)
For the first time this season McGree, makes the team of the week, despite being close on a number of other occasions. Blessed with the simple and much-desired ability to simply run at defenders and create space for others, the 20-year-old produced it in spades at AAMI Park on Sunday afternoon against the Jets.
It will not be long before the man on loan will be called back to his parent club and Club Brugge begin appreciating his skill as much as fans do in Australia.
9. Ola Toivonen (Melbourne Victory)
I am nicknaming Toivonen ‘cut and paste’, such is the frequency with which he is appearing in this team. There is no doubt Keisuke Honda’s absence has a left a gaping hole in the creative juices of the Victory midfield, however, the big Swede has picked up a large portion of the slack.
Goals late in each half sealed the game for the visitors on a wet and wild night at ANZ Stadium. Toivonen’s performance led to one Melbourne Victory fan claiming online that he is ‘the best thing to come out of Sweden since Stefan Edberg!” Huge praise indeed. Another wonderful game.
10. Adam Taggart (Brisbane Roar)
The idea of Adam Taggart playing up front gets me very, very excited. He possesses the best goal-scoring sense of any Australian striker, having scored nine of the Brisbane Roar’s 13 goals.
Throw in the fact Brisbane have won just one match and Taggart’s goalscoring bona fides are only further enunciated. I tipped him for the golden boot, assuming Brisbane would be an improved side.
Taggart scored twice despite the calamity of the loss to the Glory. Under Darren Davies, the 25-year-old may feast if the improved form of the Roar continues.
11. Eric Bautheac (Brisbane Roar)
Already an established member of this team, Bautheac was superb for the Roar when the game was on the line and he created mayhem in the Glory defence. Sadly, his performance will not be celebrated in a fitting manner, after the Roar lost from a seemingly assured position and experienced a Glory surge; suffering with ten men.
After the brain explosions of recent times, Bautheac looks to have turned a corner and is playing the leadership role that an A-League foreigner should.