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Opinion

The A-League is back in red-hot form - so where are the crowds?

12th February, 2023
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Expert
12th February, 2023
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Who would have thought the A-League’s game of the round would be played at a sold-out state league venue with barely enough lighting to actually see the action unfold on TV?

The Sydney Derby may have stolen all the headlines, but Melbourne City’s exhilarating 4-2 win over Perth Glory at Macedonia Park was as entertaining as the A-League gets.

With Glory forced to leave the 20,500-capacity HBF Park while it’s being upgraded for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the tiny Macedonia Park – home of Western Australian state league side Stirling Macedonia – has become something of a fortress for Ruben Zadkovich’s battlers in recent weeks.

After recording just one win from their opening five games of the season – all of which Glory played away from home – it looked like the underdogs from the west were only here to make up the numbers this season.

But 15 points from their first six home matches at Macedonia Park hauled Glory back into finals contention and included a run of four unbeaten home games in a row.

Perth downed Western Sydney Wanderers, Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory during that run and scored a last-gasp equaliser to snatch a point from Sydney FC – and they did it all in front of near-capacity crowds sat right on top of the action.

So it was no real surprise when the ‘sold out’ sign went up a couple of hours before they kicked off against Melbourne City on Saturday night, even if ‘sold out’ in the A-League these days still means plenty of empty seats.

And the game itself lived up to all expectations, as Jordan Bos opened the scoring for the visitors with a superb solo strike just 16 minutes in.

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Jordan Bos dribbles against Macarthur

(Photo by Morgan Hancock/Getty Images)

Jack Clisby equalised for the hosts direct from the corner, but the complexion of the game changed when Glory defender Darryl Lachman was sent off for bringing down the marauding Mat Leckie as the last defender.

The big Curacaoan stopper claimed he played the ball, but we’ve seen those challenges result in penalties all season, and Valon Berisha rubbed salt into the wound after Lachman’s dismissal by expertly dispatching the penalty.

Yet when David Williams headed home the equaliser less than ten minutes later, it looked like Perth had set up a barnstorming finish.

Unfortunately for them, it was Melbourne City who produced it.

Leckie’s overhead kick to put the visitors back in front was one of the goals of the season from one of the competition’s best players, and his mazy run to set up substitute Florin Berenguer further underlined his class.

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The loss was Perth’s first of the season at their home away from home, but surely there’s a bigger issue at play here.

If Perth Glory can temporarily play home games at a state league venue, then why can’t Western United?

Four seasons in and there’s still no sign of their much-heralded stadium.

Just 2603 fans bothered to turn up to see the defending champions go down 3-2 to Adelaide United at AAMI Park on Saturday, with the travelling roadshow heading to Launceston and Ballarat next.

There was an even smaller crowd in attendance to see Macarthur down Wellington Phoenix 2-1 on Sunday afternoon, and if anyone from the Australian Professional Leagues ever awakes from their season-long slumber, they should probably have a word with the two expansion clubs about what they’re currently bringing to the league.

Because aside from the more than 26,000 fans who turned out to see a Max Burgess special help Sydney FC down Western Sydney in Parramatta, attendances across the board this weekend were abysmal.

It will be interesting to see what happens at the Melbourne Derby next Saturday night.

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Melbourne City should rip Melbourne Victory to shreds on current form, but the real question is whether anyone will turn up at AAMI Park to witness it.

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