Another week and another sacked coach has the A-League on the tips of Australian sporting fans’ lips, as Steve Corica departs the club he served for near 20 years.
Sydney FC supporters will be expecting to see an immediate change when the team takes on the high flying Reds in Adelaide and Melbourne City fans will be hoping their season finally builds some momentum when the impressive Macarthur travel to Melbourne on Sunday afternoon.
Elsewhere there are excellent clashes to savour, with the Victory and Phoenix on Friday potentially the pick of the crop, Western United and Newcastle desperate for points on Saturday afternoon and the Wanderers and Perth set to do battle in the twilight on the same day.
The Mariners and Roar round out the weekend of action, with the three points urgently required in Gosford after what has been a shaky start to the team’s title defence. Good luck with your tips for the round and be sure to enter them in the sheet below to have a say in the improving voice of the people.
Join me live on the Roar for a live blog of the Western Sydney Wanderers versus Perth Glory clash on Saturday at 5.30pm (AEDT).
Here is the way the panel sees all the Round 4 action playing out.
Victory, United, Western Sydney, Adelaide, City, Central Coast
Just how Melbourne Victory didn’t win last weekend is a mystery – the intricate footwork in the penalty area and the drive and determination of Daniel Arzani 5.0 should have had them out of sight by half-time. They come up against Wellington Phoenix who dismantled Brisbane last week, so this should be a tasty Friday night game.
We’ll definitely see another kangaroo flex by Oskar Zawada as he scores once more, but his defence will be all at sea in the second half as Victory run riot, Zinedine Machach weaving his way into the box to draw three players before teeing up Bruno Fornaroli for the winner with time fading. A fabulous start to the weekend, and the appetite whet for more.
Another fixture away from Melbourne for Western United as they travel to their second home of Ballarat for a Saturday afternoon fixture at Mars Stadium. The home team should have won at Macarthur on the weekend but were wasteful, while the Jets coughed up a two-goal lead to hang on against the Wanderers at home. Those simple facts should suggest a home win here for Western United, but they will be made to work hard for it.
In-form Apostolos Stamatelopolous will score on half-time to level things up after Michael Ruhs’ opener, and the verve of Trent Buhagiar will keep United’s defence on high alert until a winner late on from Riku Danzaki, ghosting in at the far post after Ryan Scott’s world class save from former Jets favourite Angus Thurgate.
Western Sydney Wanderers had the fright of their lives at Newcastle last week but came away with a point. Perth Glory were under the pump against the Mariners, but a cruel sending-off allowed Adam Taggart and Co. to grab the points. To the untrained eye, this afternoon fixture at Commbank Stadium could be a classic.
However, this is where normal service is resumed, as Glory start brightly but are subsequently hammered. Oli Bozanic will have a point to prove for the visitors, but the Wanderers midfield will swamp him and they will be out of sight by the hour mark; Brandon Borrello returning to goal scoring form with a hat-trick by the end of the game, as a bumper crowd enjoys some vintage football.
Adelaide United will be missing their rising star Nestory Irankunda, and they will be kicking themselves for not taking advantage of the man advantage last week against Victory. The weekend’s premier fixture sees them host a Sydney FC team in turmoil, bottom of the table with no goals and no points. Quite rightly a new manager is in place for the visitors, but Ufuk Talay will be scratching his head wondering what to do with his talented charges to get them functioning like a team.
In the end, for all the toil and tactics, Adelaide’s goals will come from set pieces, Hiroshi Ibusuki heading home unmarked twice, exposing the issues the Sky Blues’ new coach faces, but a flicker of light at the end of the game will at least see Sydney FC score, even though it is a deflected shot from Joe Lolley in the 94th minute as a consolation.
When Melbourne City come up against Macarthur FC, there can only be one winner. The visitors somehow scraped a win last weekend, but could easily have been on the end of a hiding, while City were not exactly convincing against fellow strugglers Sydney FC, but did enough.
This afternoon’s low-key fixture will see the return to form of the home team’s sparkling attack. Hamza Sakhi with a thunderbolt to settle the nerves on the half-hour, and from there it will be a procession, Steven Ugarkovic adding a second and Jamie Maclaren rounding off a convincing victory for the once-mighty Melbourne City.
Saving the best ‘til last, the Central Coast Mariners versus Brisbane Roar fixture will give us the entertainment we crave as we enter the international break. The Mariners have been far from convincing this season, were fortunate to win in Bali on Wednesday, and are up against a Roar team smarting from an unexpected heavy defeat in Wellington.
The permutations are many, but this is a homecoming for the Mariners, the second part of a double-header with the A-League Women, and Marco Tulio’s first-half strike will settle the home team ahead of a five-star performance in the second half. End-to-end entertainment for the big crowd to enjoy as Christian Theoharous destroys the Roar with his trickery and a kick-start to a faltering season for the home team. This is another surprisingly shaky performance from the Roar defence, whose early season promise is evaporating quickly.
Victory, Newcastle, Perth, Adelaide, Macarthur, Central Coast
I’ve tipped the Victory at home with little confidence. Wellington look a real dark horse team this season and despite winning well in the opening two weeks, Tony Popovic’s team looks a work in progress. The North Terrace to be the difference in this one. Western United and Newcastle both need a confidence boosting win and the visitors showed plenty in the first half against Western Sydney last time out. Newcastle to pinch the points.
Another shock result will play out when the Glory take all three against Western Sydney, a team looking for excuses after a poor showing in the opening 45 minutes against the Jets. Adam Taggart on the scoresheet and already on his way to the golden boot for 2023/24. Adelaide will be easily too dynamic for the Sky Blues at home, whilst Macarthur have looked better than Melbourne City across the opening three rounds and thus will deserve their away win at AAMI Park over the Premiers.
The final fixture of the round looks a ripper, with the winless Mariners needing some points and Brisbane certain to rebound after a flogging at the hands of the Phoenix last weekend. Central Coast in a high scoring and controversial clash.
Victory, Newcastle, Western Sydney, Adelaide, Draw, Central Coast
I bet if you were to say “top of the table clash” and “Phoenix” in the same breath a month ago, people would’ve smiled patronisingly and enquired how the new medication was going. Yet Wellington fly into Melbourne having humbled Brisbane at the Cake Tin last week.
The two in-form forwards of the league will be on display when Bruno Fornaroli and Oskar Zawada tread the AAMI Park turf, and I fancy them both to continue racking up the strikes on Friday night. I was going to go a draw here, but just lean towards the home side, who really tested Adelaide last week.
Western United return to Mars. Honestly, that’s gotta be a bummer of an away trip for the Jets. Sigh, maybe one day Western can click their heels and really go “home”. In the meantime, they’re facing a winless but dangerous Jets side who know how to score, but just have to find a way of stopping the leakage at their own end. Western might be easier to keep out than the Wanderers were last week, so a good start by the visitors could secure the win.
The Wanderers came back from 0-2 to share the points in Newcastle. Brandon Borello hasn’t found the back of the net yet so he must be due. Perth did enough to beat a still-gelling Mariners but the Wanderers won’t be as spendthrift in front of goal, and if Perth give up the same sort of chances, they’ll find it hard to come back. Let’s hope a run of Wanderers form will bring back the lost tribes that used to routinely pack out Parramatta.
Sydney FC were victims of the “new coach” syndrome last week. Will it work in their favour this round? The exit of club legend Steve Corica and the quick appointment of Ufuk Talay may not have been transactioned soon enough for a game against the side on top of the table. Adelaide will be without Nestory Irankunda after the teenager was irritated into a red card last week, but the big question at Sky Blue headquarters is, where are the goals coming from? Talay may not have had enough time to resolve that by this weekend.
Melbourne City and Macarthur were both involved in ACL and Cup action midweek, with City getting an extra day’s rest leading into this game. Macarthur share the competition lead heading into round 4, which is especially notable given they are also playing the AFC Cup. Aurelio Vidmar had a first-up win to celebrate his return to the dugout, but that momentum stalled in the Champions League. With both sides possibly a little jaded, and City gluing the pieces of their broken start back together, this might end in a stalemate.
At some point, the goals will start going in for the reigning champions. It has been a rough start to life for coach Mark Jackson, who looks one striker short of a picnic. The Roar defence last week sprung more leaks than Federal Cabinet at budget time. Scoring hasn’t been an issue though, so the goals might flow at Gosford like Blue Tongue lager used to (before they stopped sponsoring the place).
While this season hasn’t kick-started for the Mariners yet, they have beaten the Roar in their last 3 meetings. Sunday may see that streak continue.
|MVC vs WEL
|WUN vs NEW
|WSW vs PER
|ADL vs SYD
|MCY vs MAC
|CCM vs BRI
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