Round 1 Review: Record Crowd Marks Return Of A-League Action

by Jeremy Ruane:
with the compliments of

HAL Round Review

A Hyundai A-League record crowd some 61,880-strong was the outstanding highlight of the opening round of fixtures in the 2016-17 competition across the second weekend in October.

Those fans invaded ANZ Stadium to see the Sydney derby on Saturday, and at its conclusion, there was no doubt as to the colour by which the city should be adorned – sky blue, without a shadow of a doubt!

Because Sydney FC crushed Western Sydney Wanderers 4-0 in this opening round encounter, which saw a gathering of the clans around the half-hour mark after Robert Cornthwaite went in a little too hard on Sydney’s new marquee man, Bobo.

There was no scoring in the first half, but that all changed after half-time, when Filip Holosko opened Sydney’s account before setting up Bobo to double their lead before ten minutes of the second spell had passed.

They continued to keep Western Sydney at arm’s length, despite Mitch Nichols’ best effort, which forced a fine save from Danny Vukovic. Sydney increased their lead still further five minutes from time courtesy Brandon O’Neill’s delightful free-kick, after Wests’ Aritz Borda had been sent off, while Alex Brosque wrapped things up in stoppage time.

An even more remarkable match took place at NIB Stadium, where 9,501 fans saw Perth Glory squander a three-goal lead when held to a 3-3 draw by Central Coast Mariners, who found themselves trailing to an Adam Taggart goal just three minutes into the contest.

Perth’s new signing struck again before the half-hour mark, and when Diego Castro potted a penalty ten minutes before half-time, it was shaping up to be a rout, with last season’s wooden spooners on the receiving end of it.
Roy O’Donovan’s goal ten minutes into the second spell appeared to be of consolation value only, especially with Perth continuing to pound away, forcing a couple of fine saves from Ivan Necevski in the process.

But they failed to build on their advantage, and when Marc Warren’s attempted clearance ricocheted into the net off Liam Reddy’s head six minutes from time, Central Coast were suddenly just a goal behind.

Virtually straight away, they were presented the chance to level the scores from the penalty spot, an opportunity O’Donovan didn’t spurn, which left the locals gob smacked.

The season kicked off on Friday evening, with 15,805 fans witnessing a 1-1 draw at Suncorp Stadium between Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory, who appeared to gain the upper hand half-way through the second spell when Brisbane captain Matt McKay was sent off for his second bookable offence.

Sure enough, Melbourne made their numerical advantage count, and when Mitch Austin fired them in front seven minutes from time, the three points looked to be heading south.

But deep in stoppage time, Luke DeVere conjured up a Brisbane equaliser to bring about the first of two 1-1 draws on the opening weekend, the second of which saw Newcastle Jets and reigning champions Adelaide United sharing the spoils on Sunday evening.

All the scoring was done and dusted inside the opening half-hour at McDonald Jones (formerly Hunter) Stadium, with Wayne Brown’s seventeenth minute opener for the home side being matched by Jesse Makarounas’ leveller twelve minutes later, which came about thanks to an awful error of judgement by goalkeeper Jack Duncan.

In between times, ten-man Melbourne City scored a deserved 1-0 win over Wellington Phoenix in front of 10,034 fans at Westpac Stadium on Saturday evening, where Anthony Caceres scored the game’s lone goal on the half-hour.

The visitors dominated the opening forty-five minutes, and could easily have scored a couple more goals, but had to settle for the one, which ended up being just enough, with Wellington – without five of their All Whites, who were on international duty – unable to capitalise upon the sending-off of City goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen just shy of the hour mark.

Next weekend’s action sees Adelaide and Western Sydney squaring off at Coopers Stadium on Friday evening, while a couple of derbies adorn the schedule on Saturday night, that between Sydney and Central Coast at Allianz Stadium preceding the Melbourne derby at Etihad Stadium.

Newcastle and Brisbane meet at McDonald Jones Hunter Stadium in Broadmeadow on Sunday night, before the round is concluded by the ‘Long Distance Derby’, with Perth welcoming Wellington to NIB Stadium, Perth.

Match details:

Brisbane Roar FC 1 (L. De Vere (90)) – Melbourne Victory FC 1 (M. Austin (83)); HT 0-0
Wellington Phoenix FC 0 – Melbourne City FC 1 (A. Caceres (31)); HT 0-1
Western Sydney Wanderers FC 0 – Sydney FC 4 (F. Holosko (51), Bobo (55), B. O’Neill (85), A. Brosque (89)) HT 0-0
Perth Glory FC 3 (A. Taggart (3, 27), D. Castro (35 pen)) – Central Coast Mariners FC 3 (R. O’Donovan (56, 86 pen), “oggie” (84)); HT 3-0
Newcastle Jets FC 1 (W. Brown (17)) – Adelaide United FC 1 (J. Makarounas (29)); HT 1-1

Photo: Sydney derby, by Stephen Webb BOTN