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Opinion

There are still signs of life in the A-League Men despite the 'bureaucratic nonsense' of the APL

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Expert
7th January, 2024
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Ben Folami’s dramatic late winner in Perth at least made one thing clear to the A-League Men’s long-suffering fan base – Melbourne Victory really are now top of the table.

Only the Australian Professional Leagues could conjure the sort of bureaucratic nonsense we endured last week when a tongue-in-cheek fan account on Twitter – no one calls it X – pointed out it should have been Wellington Phoenix, not Victory, who were top of the table according to the APL’s latest rule change.

The problem was that no one seemed to be aware of the change – not the clubs, not the broadcaster, not even the A-League itself.

It took a fan on social media to remind the APL that according to their new rules – which now sees total wins used as a tiebreaker to separate teams, instead of the global standard of goal difference – it was the Kiwi side, not the Melburnians, who were top.

After some back and forth online, with no one quite certain of when to actually apply the tiebreaker, the APL eventually released a statement and updated their own league table to reflect the fact they had been publicly celebrating the wrong league leaders all along.

You couldn’t make it up.

At a time when the A-Leagues desperately need to claw back some credibility, the competition’s administrators don’t even know their own rules.

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Fortunately for the APL, Folami’s 96th-minute winner in a topsy-turvy affair in Perth on Saturday night moved Victory top of the table outright and once again flexed their championship credentials.

With the scores locked at 1-1 at half-time, the complexion of the game changed when Glory attacker Bruce Kamau was handed his marching orders seconds after the restart after he received a second yellow card for a dive in the penalty box.

Yet Glory clung on grimly and thought they had snatched a point when substitute Kaelan Majekodunmi came off the bench to curl home a last-minute equaliser following Eli Adams’ own stunning long-range strike.

It was a thrilling introduction in front of a raucous crowd in The Shed, only for Folami to spoil Perth fans’ fun with an even more dramatic late winner.

There was a terrific atmosphere at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night as well, with The Den turning up in big numbers to watch Brisbane Roar turn in a battling display in their 2-1 defeat to Sydney FC.

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The hosts got off to the worst possible start when Fabio Gomes headed home a Jaiden Kucharski cross barely a minute in, and Kucharski went close to doubling Sydney FC’s lead when his header hit the post soon after.

Instead, it was Fabio who impudently flicked home a superb counter-attacking raid led by Joe Lolley, before Nikola Mileusnic smashed home a response for the home side in a frenetic end to the first half.

The sizeable contingent of Sydney FC fans in the away end did their best to will their side on to a third, yet there was genuine relief when a series of late attacking raids from the Roar failed to find an equaliser.

About the only real negative for Roar fans in what was a promising debut for new coach Ben Cahn was the abysmal state of the Suncorp Stadium pitch.

It’s a problem the APL should be stepping in to try and help resolve, but they’re too Sydney-centric to notice what’s going on in the rest of the league.

They’re already admitting privately they’re not expecting big crowds for next weekend’s Unite Round in Sydney, while the decision to schedule a Melbourne Victory game at Allianz Stadium right before Sydney FC play seems fraught with danger.

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If only we could get our administrators to concentrate on fixing the problems that actually need fixing – journalist Michael Cain messaged me during the week to remind me it was the third anniversary of former Newcastle Jets owner Martin Lee being stripped of the licence – the A-League Men would be in a much better place.

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