Goals galore, stunning performances by youthful and exciting players and perennial contenders struggling early has made for a brilliant start to the 2023/24 A-League season.
The experts were right on form in Round 2 and The Crowd also bounced back, repairing much of the damage done across the opening weekend. Yours truly holds a slender lead and the panel saved some face after a horrible opening round.
Both Melbourne City and Sydney FC have been rubbish thus far, and meet in an unexpected bottom of the table clash on Friday night. The following evening, the impressive Victory will host the Reds in what looks easily the pick of the bunch in Round 3.
A host of teams looking competitive also have the opportunity to pick up three valuable points to add to early momentum. The Bulls are at home to Western United, Phoenix welcome an improving Brisbane Roar to Wellington and the Jets need a result against a Wanderers outfit that belted United last time out.
Good luck with your tips for the round and be sure to enter them in the sheet below to have a say in the roar of the crowd. Here are the thoughts of the panel and how they see all the results playing out in Round 3.
Sydney, Wellington, Macarthur, Victory, Perth, Newcastle
Not only have Sydney FC lost their first two games of the season without scoring a goal, but now they go into the weekend knowing a new manager bounce is heading their way. Aurelio Vidmar’s first game in charge will be a firecracker, and some Sydney FC fans will be hoping for a towelling in order to dethrone their own under-fire coach. Expect this one to be a battle of patience, with Sydney under siege but not in the slightest bit worried, and a late goal from Joe Lolley will be the difference between the two teams as City start off the Vidmar revolution with a whimper.
Wellington Phoenix will be unbeatable at home this season, but they will be made to work for it this weekend. Roar have started their campaign very well, and the first half will be a continuation of that form, but alas, there will be no goals to show for a flowing performance. Kosta Barbarouses’ far post bicycle kick will have the fans off their seats midway through the second period, and once Oskar Zawada has added a bullet header, the points will stay in New Zealand despite a late Nikola Mileusnic consolation right on full-time.
Take away the first half performance against Western Sydney Wanderers, and you would think that Western United could be world-beaters this season already. Macarthur FC came up with a thrilling win in Gosford last week and will fancy themselves in this one; the astute signing of Valere Germain giving them an out-and-out striker to complement their tidy midfield. Western’s first half will see them dominate Macarthur on their own patch, but a Clayton Lewis shot from nowhere is enough to win it for the home team as the visitors spurn gilt-edged chances and leave empty handed.
Super Saturday continues at AAMI Park as Melbourne Victory look to parlay their form against free-scoring Adelaide United. With expectations of a goal fest, the opposite will be true, Joe Gauci and Paul Izzo unbeatable in a see-sawing first half of open attacking football. The solitary goal will be scored at the death, Daniel Arzani waltzing through the Adelaide defence to smash an incredible goal in off the bar. The visitors will earn and miss a penalty in added time to add to the frustration of a puce-faced Carl Veart; the result no way a reflection of the performance of the visitors and they will be gutted to leave with nothing.
The Mariners have misfired in the opening two rounds and were quite rightly beaten by Macarthur at Central Coast Stadium last week. A long journey to Perth will be just what they don’t need right now, and with the vocal support in the Shed to cheer on the home team, Glory will be out of sight very early – David Williams and Stefan Colakovski scoring and the visitors offering a very lacklustre performance. Angel Torres will have them back in the game briefly, but further goals from Luke Ivanovic and Adam Taggart will see the scoreline reflect the performances. Glory back to winning ways, reigning champions Mariners left winless after three rounds.
The Wanderers complete the weekend’s entertainment at Newcastle on the back of a five-goal performance and the Jets having conceded five themselves the weekend before. The home team will soak up the pressure in the opening stages, but Apostolos Stamatelopolous will nick a goal on the counter. Brandon Borrello’s shot from distance will set up an end-to-end final ten minutes, and a freak own goal from Jorrit Hendrix will gift the hosts the win. Wanderers brought back to earth with a bump.
City, Wellington, Macarthur, Adelaide, Perth, Western Sydney
The Friday night loser between Melbourne City and Sydney FC will be in an instant world of pain. A cagey draw might suit both but the new coach will lift the hosts and the City leaders will claw the three points off the boys from the harbour city. Wellington and Brisbane have reasons to believe they can play finals this season, and both impressed last week. The Phoenix might just have the weapons to score one more in a high scoring affair.
Macarthur have started well and United put in a shocker against a hot Wanderers team last time out. The Bulls look good to me and despite another small group of people cheering them on, should take all three points against a team that looks a little short of a gallop.
Join me on Saturday night for live coverage of the Victory and Reds from AAMI Park, it should be a ripper. I’m tipping Adelaide with little confidence, yet their attacking arsenal is the best in the league and defensively, they are yet to concede a goal. I’ll stick with them.
Perth are good things at home against a Mariners team desperate for something to get their season moving, that won’t happen against a now well organised Glory team and the Jets will be up against it when the Wanderers come to town. They can beat Western Sydney and have already looked better than some predicted they would, however it is impossible to tip against the red and black after the handful they put passed Western United last week.
City, Wellington, Macarthur, Adelaide, Perth, Western Sydney
We’ll see if the “dead cat bounce” factor aids City against their sky-blue rivals on Friday night. Rado Vidosic paid the price for the bloodletting of last week’s horrible thrashing against Adelaide. New boss Aurelio Vidmar gets a first-up chance against a coach who might be under similar pressure if form and results don’t turn around. Two of the most successful clubs of the last five seasons find themselves fighting for scraps at the bottom of the ladder. There’s a betting market opening soon on how long Vidmar will last before calling Melbourne a pissant town if he doesn’t get some wins up.
Wellington have been solid if unspectacular thus far but it seems like twin import bright lights Zawada and Kraev are liking the early season. They host a Roar side who swept aside a pedestrian Sydney last week, and who have invested in youth with some success. Teenager Tom Waddingham started his first A-League game last week and could be that Number 9 the country has been hoping for. No pressure, young fella… The Phoenix will be a much sterner test for Brisbane this week, and their defence might be a little more switched on. I fancy the home team scoring the only goal.
The two newest sides in the league clash with varying form lines. Macarthur don’t need to go anywhere hot and sticky like Cambodia midweek unless they’re having a team bonding session at a local curry house. Their win on the Central Coast last weekend was all the more notable for that travel schedule.
Western employed the curious strategy of not coming out of the dressing rooms after the pre-game warm-up against Western Sydney, allowing the hosts to run up more first half goals than any side has done before in the A League. Two full halves of football is a minimum requirement against an underrated Macarthur side, and still might not be enough at Campbelltown.
The original rivalry is going to be a corker. These two teams banged in 11 goals between them last week and there are attacking weapons all over the place. Bruno Fornaroli has become the league’s Benjamin Button, ageing in reverse with his 4 goal first-half against Newcastle. Nestory Irankunda and Musa Toure will try to outdo each other in goals and backflips again. Adelaide have knocked over last season’s Grand Finalists with an aggregate score of 9-0 in the last fortnight. It could go either way but the Reds are on an absolute roll.
Alen Stajcic’s last two A-League coaching projects meet up at HBF Park on Saturday night, and the home side will be hoping to get a rub from the great crowds who turned up in their thousands for the Matildas three Olympic Qualifiers in the city over the last 6 days.
The Mariners appear to be struggling for total cohesion so far; understandable with the exits of Cummings, Silvera, Nkololo et al, as well as a relatively late-arriving coach. It will come eventually and on chances created, the Mariners should probably have got something out of both games. But a former coach and 5,000km trip might conspire to keep Mark Jackson waiting for his first A League success.
Newcastle looked like the patron saints of lost causes in their first two games. A late, late equaliser got them a point in Perth, and an unlikely fightback from 5-1 down made the Victory sweat more than they should have. But defensive frailties may be ruthlessly exposed by a Western Sydney side who didn’t even need to call on ace marksman Brandon Borello to put five past Western United in 45 minutes. If he gets in the mood, the Jets might be ducking for cover.
|MCY vs SYD
|WEL vs BRI
|MAC vs WUN
|MVC vs ADL
|PER vs CCM
|NEW vs WSW
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