We saw the season’s first coaching change, plenty of goals and entertaining football across a busy week. Lots to discuss so let’s not delay.
Here are your A-League Round 3 talking points.
A surprising decision out of Victoria earlier in the week – albeit one that some commenters predicted – with Rado Vidosic dismissed after Melbourne City’s slow start in their first two fixtures. Vidosic, who was Patrick Kisnorbo’s assistant before being handed the top job, only lasted 12 months as head coach and was not the bookmakers’ favourite to be the first manager fired in 2023-24.
It’s true that Kisnorbo had laid a very strong foundation for him but Vidosic still led City to a third straight premiership, which is nothing to sneeze at. It’s a harsh call but clearly the powers that be saw Vidisoc’s tenure as untenable. To be fair, two huge defeats in three league matches are bad enough but when one is in the Grand Final, questions are inevitably going to be asked about the culture of the management and playing squad.
The new boss at AAMI Park, Aurelio Vidmar, was cooking a meal for his family when his phone rang. By the next day, he’d rejoined the A-League coaching ranks after more than a decade out of the competition, and a few days later he led City to a bounce-back victory over the mightily struggling Sydney FC. It was the perfect start but there’s certainly some work ahead for Vidmar, who’ll still be missing star winger Mathew Leckie for at least another month.
Speaking of managers and pressure, one club where expectations are always high is Melbourne Victory. After an 11th-placed finish last season, Tony Popovic would’ve been feeling the heat but his side have made an unbeaten start, with two wins from three including a commanding three points in the Big Blue.
Credit to Popovic: Bruno Fornaroli is looking like a much younger version of himself, ex-Sydney FC midfielder Ryan Teague is bossing the centre of the park and Daniel Arzani’s give-a-s**t meter is way higher than I’ve ever seen it.
Arzani is yet to find the back of the net but his link-up play has been great, and he’s working much harder on the defensive side of the ball, too. If Arzani can find the scoring touch he displayed in the early part of last season while he was a Bull, he’ll be amassing Alex Tobin Medal votes quick-smart. The 24-year-old has always been one of Australia’s most talented prospects – can he finally make it all click at the same time?
On Adelaide United, a case could be made that they should feel disappointed with the draw after Roderick Miranda’s second-half send-off. Paul Izzo made a couple of great saves to deny Carl Veart’s side. The Reds next face Sydney FC, whose current form should ensure the points remain in the City of Churches.
It seems Nestory Irankunda won’t be in the A-League for much longer, but while he’s here it’s clear defenders are starting to take a, let’s say… cynical approach to stopping him, which was no more evident than on Saturday night at AAMI Park.
Alex King was within his rights to issue the 17-year-old rising star a second yellow, however, discretion is a handy tool as a referee. Let’s put it in context: it’s deep into injury time, it’s a young player – is it really worth sending him off?
King ruled the initial contact from Chris Ikonomidis was insufficient to call a free-kick, telling Irankunda to “be stronger.” Well, that’s a foul. Plain and simple.
Should Nestor have reacted that way? No, of course not. Controlling your emotions, even when you’re being kicked mercilessly, is part of football. This will be a good lesson for the young man. But if King does his job, there’s no reaction, and there’s no second yellow.
What the data shows is a familiar trend around the league: the bigger clubs doing most of the heavy lifting with Macarthur trying their best to drag the average down. The fact Western United still haven’t played a home game is concerning, too.
Thanks in part to some nice and mild Spring weather, the football on show has been great and aside from the NBL – which is punching above its weight, to be fair – there’s not much currently hogging the general sport fan’s attention. We’ve got around a month and a half before Test cricket and Australian Open warm-up tournaments begin, and yet the fans just aren’t showing up.
Has the A-League reached a point where every regular fan is already on board, or can the APL do more to attract casuals?
-Patience must be running thin for Scott Barlow and the Sydney FC board. The Sky Blues are scoreless and zero from three in an utterly miserable start to the new campaign. How long can Corica hold on, especially with the next two challenges a trip to Coopers Stadium and then the Sydney Derby?
-Macarthur deserved the win but a cruel way for John Aloisi’s men to drop all three points after Ben Garuccio’s unfortunate slip. It was a solid enough performance from a side who needed to respond after that drubbing at the hands of WSW.
-Oskar Zawada notched this season’s second hat-trick in the Nix’s big win over Brisbane. Wellington don’t usually get much attention around the league but their Polish No.9 is definitely underrated.
-The Original Rivalry certainly delivered. Let’s recognise a couple of great shot-stoppers in Joe Gauci and Paul Izzo, who were outstanding.