The penultimate round of 2022-23 gave us plenty of thrills and spills, including a manic 4-4 stalemate at HBF Park on Sunday evening, so let’s get into it.
Here are your A-League Round 25 talking points.
Well, well, well. Let’s start with one of the wildest finishes to an A-League game I can remember. Perhaps not the craziest 90 minutes, but certainly an insane ending.
It was always going to be an attack-minded affair between the desperate Perth Glory and a United side who’ve had a very positive philosophy instilled into them by manager Carl Veart, but not many punters would’ve been on the 4-4 final score market, I wouldn’t think.
When talented striker Adam Taggart beat Joe Gauci from long range in the 96th minute, Ruben Zadkovich would have been forgiven for thinking his side had secured the three points only for the wildly promising Nestory Irankunda to salvage a point for the Reds three minutes later. It was fantastic entertainment and a testament to both sides’ quality, as well as their defensive deficencies.
Unfortunately, dropping two points right at the death likely spells the end of Perth’s campaign. Zadkovich deserves credit for what he’s done with a squad very little was expected of this season. An imperious home record made up for their dicey away form, allowing Glory to remain in the fight far longer than, realistically, they should have.
They’re not dead yet, of course. If Wellington lose to Macarthur, Glory will need to defeat Western United and make up the goal difference. A single point for the Nix will condemn Perth to another finals-less season.
Obviously there are few sides desperate for an injection of quality as Zadkovich’s, so that’s something that will need to be addressed over the winter. With a few key pieces added, this should probably be a finals team in 2023-24.
For Adelaide, it was actually quite an important point, too. With the Mariners right on their heels, it means a draw will be enough to secure second place for Veart’s side on Friday night when Central Coast come to town.
Newcastle isn’t the biggest market in the league, and that goes a long way to explaining why the heat isn’t on the club and manager Arthur Papas. Despite limited resources and some unfortunate circumstances, this season is still a failure for the Jets. It’s their fifth straight season without finals football, and now Papas’ second bottom-six finish since taking the reins at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Keeping the off-field issues in mind, on-field results are still the remit of the coaching staff and the fact is, results have not been good enough. Missing the finals in any given year is bad enough; twice on the bounce is bordering on a disaster.
Warren Moon was punted by Brisbane earlier this season to very little surprise around the league, yet Papas seemingly has a perpetual get out of jail free card. I’m not advocating for him to lose his job, but there needs to be some accountability at the club if they’re ever going to get moving in the right direction again.
Selling a football club is not a quick and easy process, obviously, but we do have a notoriously long off-season in this league and it sure would be fantastic if an owner can be found before season 2023-24 kicks off. Otherwise, it’s just going to be more pain and misery for the club’s long-suffering and loyal supporters.
As we head into the final round of the season, the case for playing all six games simultaneously looks more compelling with plenty left to play for. It’s a topic that’s been raised by journos and fans alike for many years, and of course it is the standard in the biggest league in the world, the English Premier League.
From what I’ve heard from a reliable source, it seems broadcast logistics are ultimately going to stand in the way of simultaneous kick-offs under the current rights deal. Perhaps it’s something the APL needs to consider when the rights come up again in a couple of years’ time, because it’s hard to deny how much drama the final day could bring when there’s top-two and finals places on the line, let alone the premiership potentially.
Whether you think Jamie Maclaren is the best striker in A-League history or not, he now stands alone at the summit of all-time goal-scorers with his hat-trick on Saturday night taking him to 143 goals.
It’s pretty easy to forget that the Socceroo is still on the right side of 30 (just), so there’s quite a bit of runway left for him. What comes next will be interesting, because he’s tried his hand at European football, with mixed results. A goalless run at Darmstadt in Germany was somewhat offset by nine goals in 27 appearances with Hibernian, before Macca was lured back to Australia by the City Football Group machine.
If he stays in Australia, he’ll top 200 goals and probably get closer to 250. That would be the safe play and seal his status as a league and City legend, allowing him to set a record that could potentially stand for decades. The question becomes: does he want to play it safe, or take a risk and aim a little higher?
Regardless of what the future holds, it’s no mean feat to outscore the likes of Archie Thompson, Besart Berisha and Bruno Fornaroli, so congratulations, Jamie.