The Roar
The Roar

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The A-League is enjoying a purple patch and we're all the beneficiaries

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11th February, 2024
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When Nestory Irankunda fired a last-gasp free-kick straight into the wall, Perth Glory coach Alen Stajcic could be forgiven for thinking he had another eye-catching victory sewn up.

I had an illuminating phone chat with Stajcic before the season kicked off in which he discussed his plans for the season, the strengths of his squad, and the sort of football Glory needed to play to get fans back through the gates at HBF Park.

Then I plugged my voice recorder into my laptop and realised none of it had recorded.

My bad, Alen!

I told their unfailingly helpful media manager Gareth Morgan I’d simply wait for the Glory to really stick it to a big-name opponent before I wrote a column about how much I genuinely enjoy watching Perth stick it to big-name opponents.

In which case, last week would have been the time.

Glory went into Friday night’s clash with rivals Adelaide United unbeaten in three and with a 4-2 thrashing of Melbourne City under their belt.

And they would have made it two huge wins from two in a pulsating clash at Coopers Stadium when they went into the last kick of the game holding onto a 3-2 lead and with goalkeeper Oli Sail having just saved a Stefan Mauk penalty.

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But this is football, of course, and the Reds were having none of it – as teenage defender Panagiotis Kikianis popped up in just his second game to steer home the last-second corner earned after Irankunda’s free-kick deflected off the wall.

Was Kikianis’ re-directed effort definitively over the goal line? How could anyone tell?

But while a stony-faced Stajcic looked like he was about to spontaneously combust on the touchline, it set up one of the craziest weekends of A-League action we’ve witnessed in years.

Wellington Phoenix’s 2-0 win over cellar dwellers Western United was routine enough, but Macarthur’s 1-0 win over Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park sent ‘Sokkah Twitter’ into meltdown.

The shot count alone ended up at 29 to six in Victory’s favour, yet somehow Tony Popovic’s team came out as the losing side against a Bulls outfit that have spent the entire campaign winding everyone else up.

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But that wasn’t even the most remarkable result on what was a dismal day for the Melbourne sides, as Brisbane Roar raced out to a 4-0 half-time lead against an utterly shellshocked Melbourne City.

I was at Suncorp Stadium and the 5-1 full-time scoreline somehow flattered City, with new Roar coach Ruben Zadkovich’s side at times looking more like Brazil circa 1970 than the battered rabble we’ve come to expect.

It would have been even worse for City had Keegan Jelacic not somehow conspired to miss an open goal – it wasn’t even the worst miss of the weekend – while there was even time for Zadkovich to introduce former City man Florin Berenguer to strut imperiously around the midfield and essentially cock a Gallic snook at his former employer.

Zadkovich brings an intensity to the Roar we haven’t seen since the days of, well, Ross Aloisi. Expect more upsets from the team in orange before the season is out.

Not to be outdone, Ufuk Talay played two up top for Sydney FC and watched his team race out to a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes against the in-form Central Coast Mariners in Gosford – and that still wasn’t the biggest talking point.

Pat Wood had his body shape all wrong when he tried to side-foot into an unguarded net, but you’ll still never see a worse miss all season.

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There was somehow time for Western Sydney Wanderers to play out another insane 3-3 draw with the Newcastle Jets at Commbank Stadium on Sunday, as the hosts finished with nine men and the red-hot Apostolos Stamatelopoulos bagged another brace for the visitors.

With 25 goals in just six games of football, it was – to put it mildly – a truly bonkers weekend of football.

And the best part about it?

Sports opinion delivered daily 

   

Next weekend Ruben Zadkovich takes his Brisbane Roar side across the Nullarbor to face former employer Perth Glory at HBF Park.

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I’ll be watching… popcorn at the ready. You should be too.

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