There have been some surprising results this weekend, both in the identity of the winner and the size of the win, so let’s jump into the talking points from Round 9.
Congratulations Ange Postecoglou
Over the weekend, an Australian born, bred, and taught coach won a domestic title overseas, a hugely significant and historic feat.
If last week we recognised the passing of one key coaching figure in Australian footballing history, this week was an historic moment for one of the A-League’s former championship winning coaches, and former Australian head coach, Ange Postecoglou.
He of the back-to-back championships with the Brisbane Roar, and a brief stint with Melbourne Victory that was seemingly bearing fruit, has taken a relegation-battling Yokohama F Marinos outfit to a premiership win.
Ange’s achievement should not be underestimated.
The J-League is a fiercely fought domestic competition, and Ange has brought the title to Yokohama for the first time in near two decades.
In victory as well, Ange remained resolute about his methods.
In his post-match press conference, he maintained that the style of football that his team played was more important to him than the wins on the board column.
So resolute was he in fact, that despite suffering the loss of players through suspension and injury, he had developed a squad where other players could fit into the structure of the team and not miss a beat.
The A-League can take a lot of inspiration from Ange’s accomplishments.
Here is a coach from Australia who took his methods overseas, and managed success on both the international and domestic stage.
So full is Ange’s CV, perhaps the only thing missing is a continental club title, and he will have his chance next season to remedy that with Yokohama.
But the A-League should take pride in one of its own, and perhaps there might be a little further nugget of gold in Ange’s methods that other coaches can look to.
On a weekend where Markus Babbel said there was no pressure on him in a league without relegation – and after this weekend’s results, Babbel would be wise not to talk too publicly about ‘pressure’.
Coaches can look to Ange to at least follow in his footsteps when it comes to implementing a structure no matter what.
Ange withstood criticism, in the face of relegation, and stayed the course, to deliver a premiership the season after.
For A-League coaches whose team will stay in the premier domestic league no matter what, they have a freedom to put their methods to the test, and stay the course (job security notwithstanding).
And as Ange has shown, his methods work in the A-League, having taken the Roar to back-to-back championships and a record unbeaten Australia domestic streak.
Want further proof of Ange’s brilliance?
Overnight, Ange Postecoglou won a domestic title in Japan, the first Australian born coach to do so in an international league, while his former side the Brisbane Roar were defeated 5-1 against Sydney FC.
Nothing like making a statement
It was somewhat laughable that anybody was doubting Tony Popovic and the Perth Glory when after last weekend, unbelievably, they found themselves bottom of the table after eight rounds.
But in a league this tight, and with the quality at the disposal of Perth both on and off the field, to think that Perth were somehow spiralling out of control and Poppa had lost his ability to coach – that was a step too far.
So, if you want to talk about statement games, the win by Perth on Friday night was a big statement.
It was a statement for Perth that they are far from out of this, it was a statement from Popovic that he is certainly far from a spent force in this league, and finally, it was a statement from Bruno Fornaroli against his former club.
In the past I have made my feelings quite clear on the topic of players celebrating goals against their old clubs.
If ever a player was going to have the right to celebrate against his former club, you would not have begrudged Fornaroli the pleasure.
Melbourne City’s all-time scorer scoring against them to give his new side the go-ahead lead taking goal, that hurts, and given the acrimonious circumstances of Bruno’s departure, he showed his class by celebrating on mute.
While City have not necessarily missed Bruno since his departure, given the production of Jamie Maclaren, but still, Bruno’s goal scoring this campaign must at the very least make City fans wonder about what Bruno could have given them last campaign.
Friday was a bit statement for Perth, on a few fronts, and not a moment too soon, hopefully now they can put the indifferent start to this season behind them.
Is it coming together for Wellington?
Remember after the four rounds when the Phoenix had just lost their fourth game in a row, and were staring down the barrel of a record-setting five losses to start a season?
That form seems a whole other season ago, as the Phoenix avoided that fifth loss, and, in fact, haven’t lost since.
The Phoenix have ended up doing a reverse Wanderers – where Western Sydney now go into the next round on a four-game losing streak, and themselves staring down much the sam barrel that the Phoenix were recently looking at.
But full credit to Wellington, the coaches, and the players so far.
Winless after four rounds, there is every likelihood that doubt was creeping into every facet of the organisation, wondering where that first win was going to come from.
Wellington were not playing bad football, and at least in those first four games they were never roundly outplayed or destroyed by opposition (unlike a particular team in the next talking point).
Wellington needed to stay strong in the first half against the Wanderers, who looked like they would open the scoring without much worry, so many were the chances they were creating.
Yet Wellington took the lead at Eden Park through a Jaushua Sotirio opener, the former Wanderers man not at all worried about celebrating his goal against his former club.
And sure, the game-winning penalty had an element of luck about it, but in this day and age, what penalty is always clear-cut anymore?
You ultimately make your own luck, and come season’s end, the wins on the board don’t have any extra points for style.
Perhaps in the tradition of the opening talking point about Ange showing the way and maintaining the course, Ufuk Talay must have had some doubts going into Round 5.
And yet, going into Round 10, he can start hoping that his team is making a charge for the finals, instead of trying to avoid the wooden spoon.
Baumjohann, or BOOM-johann?
It is something of a curious case about what happened with Alexander Baumjohann and the Wanderers last season, and why things didn’t work out.
Baumjohann is an accomplished player, whose class is apparent, and while he has been feeling his way at times with the Sky Blues, last night he was in the zone.
On Saturday though, he unleashed the beast, and took control of the game to put in his best performance to date, perhaps not just in a sky blue jersey, but in his A-League career.
Baumjohann’s turn and pass to release Milos Ninkovic in the seventh minute that led to the opening goal and essentially set the tone for the game and final result, so smooth was the German’s movement that he takes pressure off Ninko to let him become, somehow, even better.
Baumjohann’s set up play that led to the second was just as instrumental, and it was no surprise that Ninkovic was able to score the goal relatively untouched, because by that stage of the game, Brisbane were at sixes and sevens about which star player to focus their attention on.
Yet as well as Baumjohann is playing this season, it remains a curious case as to why Baumjohann for the all the class and freedom he is displaying in eastern Sydney this Sydney was unable to do that last season for the western suburbs.
No doubt, the opposition helped Baumjohann find some form.
Look, a loss to Sydney is not exactly something that is a rare occurrence in this competition, especially with Baumjohann in the rarest of form in last night’s game, but it wasn’t the loss by Brisbane that was hard to stomach, it was the manner of the loss.
But sitting one point above the wooden spoon position, and with Central Coast having a game in hand over, yeah, it is tough times for the Brisbane Roar.
This game was over by half-time, and while it would be easy to point to Brisbane’s poor quality in that being the reason, Baumjohann’s masterclass had just as much to do with it.
It’s one thing to know what is going to happen…
Sometimes, even when you know what is coming, just because you do know, it doesn’t mean you are going to be able to do anything about it.
In the 43rd minute, watching Western United pressing to try and cash in on their one-goal advantage, the ball found its way out wide to Josh Risdon.
Risdon, out on the wing, had a man racing at him, as well as another defender in the area cutting off the passage to the forward target.
Now, the ball was at Risdon’s feet, and in a split second, I thought to myself: if he is going to make anything work from this possession, he’s going to have curl this cross around two players in order to hit the target, and it will have to be pinpoint.
Risdon did exactly that.
He curled his ball with the type of symmetry that can often make this game poetic, and the ball landed inch-perfectly onto the head of his forward target.
The ball was in the net, Western United had a two-goal lead, and they were momentarily into the top three.
Of course, if I was watching from home at Risdon on the ball, knowing exactly what was about to happen, there is no doubt that the Melbourne Victory defence would have also known, and positioned themselves accordingly.
In fact, Melbourne should have been prepared for it, having seen something similar from Connor Pain setting up a goal in a similar fashion on the other side of the field.
They just have seen that cross coming, and yet, there was nothing they could do about it.
We often hear in sport that execution is everything.
Risdon proved exactly that, because sometimes if you can execute a plan or a play perfectly, the other side won’t be able to do anything about it.
And so, United had put to bed their bizarre scoring drought and bagged a win over Melbourne Victory for the second time in their inaugural season.
Oh, and the forward target who nodded home the third goal just happened to be former Victory legend Besart Berisha, grabbing himself a double.
Victory probably knew exactly what was coming.
Brenton Speed asked a very legitimate question
Goals win matches, – it is a point that I bring up week in and week out.
In the 28th minute, Newcastle had weathered a particularly fierce storm by the home side to maintain parity, and looked like not only would they maintain their clean sheet, but having earlier hit the post, were about to take the lead.
What followed was something of a comedy of errors. Ugarkovic ran into the area, clean run and let rip, only to hit the crossbar.
The ball bounced violently upwards and landed to Dimitri Petratos, who smacked the ball, only for it to bobble at the feet of defenders in the goal mouth.
The ball then arrived to Angus Thurgate, who had a crack from a metre away, but his shot too was saved.
The Jets honestly had to work harder to not score than score, and instead, Adelaide managed to get away with a corner.
Brenton Speed gasped: “How did they not score?”
It was a very fair question given how hard it was for Newcastle to not have the ball in the net.
And to add salt into the still open Newcastle wound?
Adelaide travelled up the other end two minutes later and took the lead.
Ernie Merrick has ridden some highs and lows this early in the season, but surely after those two minutes of play, even he was wondering about his career choice.