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A-League Round 22 talking points: Reds pass WSW test, finals race heats up

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2nd April, 2023

Never fear, we’re back in action after last weekend’s international window as we speed towards the finals series. Headlocks, plenty of goals, Socceroos call-ups performing for their clubs – what’s not to love?

Here are your A-League Round 22 talking points.

Marcelo sees red as Adelaide flex title credentials

Billed as one of the biggest games of this A-League season, Western Sydney and Adelaide United went pretty close to delivering on the hype as the Reds left Parramatta with all three points. Credit must go to both teams for performing on the cow paddock served up by the ground staff at CommBank Stadium.

Now, I’m no turfologist, but it’s especially strange since the surface didn’t look anywhere near as bad seven days prior for Australia’s 3-1 victory over Ecuador.

Another negative was the attendance figure, which was a tick over 9000. Wanderers have bled fans since the club was forced into a nomadic existence after the old Parramatta Stadium was knocked down, and if a season like this one doesn’t get them back into the stands, then what will?

Marko Rudan will be concerned firstly that his side’s usually airtight defence conceded three times – and each goal from a set-piece. The backline has been very dependable so far in 2022-23, so it may just be an anomaly, although it is worrying how easily they seemed to concede on Friday evening against one of the competition heavyweights.

Rudan may also be in trouble for his criticism of referee Shaun Evans, even though it’s difficult to refute some of the former centre-half’s impromptu monologue.


However when defending his captain Marcelo, referencing the Brazilian’s upbringing, that’s just nonsense and is absolutely no defence for putting someone in a headlock.

(Photo by Steve Christo/Corbis via Getty Images)

Rudan has got his side performing well, and they’ll play finals for the first time in a long time this season, but he comes up with some very odd takes in his pressers.

Arnold’s faith in domestic players showcases A-League’s quality

Nine A-League players in Graham Arnold’s 26-man squad for the friendly series with Ecuador, including Craig Goodwin and Brandon Borrello, is pretty damn good representation from the domestic league.

Andrew Redmayne and Nestory Irankunda didn’t see any minutes in the green and gold, but it was encouraging to see Borrello and Goodwin continue their stellar club form, with the pair both starting at Marvel Stadium on Tuesday evening, and Arnie also handed debuts to Melbourne City duo Aiden O’Neill and Jordan Bos as well as gloveman Joe Gauci.

These were the first two national team games since the squad’s heroics in Qatar where Lionel Messi and his World Cup-winning Argentina side denied Australia a place in the quarter-finals. It marks the beginning of the road to North America 2026, and with Arnold entrusted by Football Australia to lead the squad for the next World Cup cycle, his trust in A-League clubs will be crucial for developing the next generation of Socceroos over the next four years.


Will the real finals sides please stand up?

With just four games left to play (five in Melbourne Victory’s case), the race for the finals is well and truly heating up.

Another abject Sydney FC home performance somehow resulted in a point for the Sky Blues after Western United couldn’t put them to the sword, the Jets played out a stalemate with Melbourne City despite playing against 10 men for the second 45 minutes, Tony Popovic’s side took three points home from Sky Stadium, Brisbane were dismantled in Gosford, and Perth got the job done in the west over Macarthur.

Assuming the top four is settled with only the order to be finalised, that leaves two finals spots up for grabs between the remaining eight teams, and just eight competition points separate Wellington in fifth and Roar on the bottom of the A-League table.

I can’t see anyone below fourth mounting a serious challenge for the toilet seat, but stranger things have happened, and each of these sides are capable of good football on their day.

Whatever happens, it’s going to be a fun end to the season with fans of all 12 clubs still holding out hope that their team can achieve something special.


Administrative incompetence is the best type of incompetence

After the comical events in the A-League Women, it seems the powers that be have decided to bring some incompetence to the men’s competition. Have a read of this thread from Simon Hill, and let me know whether Paulo Retre should’ve been serving a ban, as Sydney obviously thought.

This isn’t my men’s all age division 5 team in park football where players vape while on the bench, it’s the highest level of football in this country. Whether this comes down to the club’s incompetence or the league’s, surely it’s not that hard to ascertain whether a player is eligible to play or not.

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