After an interminable off-season the A-League exploded back onto the sporting landscape. Here are five things we learned from Round One.
1. Melbourne Victory state title credentials
It was supposed to be tough. With Western Sydney Wanderers coming into the game on the back of qualification into the AFC Champions League final, a tighter contest was expected.
Instead, Melbourne Victory had it all their own way and a 4-1 scoreline, Western Sydney’s heaviest since their inception, testifies to their dominance in all facets of the match.
After recruiting well in the summer, bringing in the likes of Besart Berisha and accomplished defender Mathieu Delpierre, Muscat’s men were touted as A-League favourites. And they lived up to their hype.
With coach Tony Popovic fielding a depleted defensive set-up, Victory placed the Wanderers on the back foot from the off, and their pressure paid off with Delpierre scoring in the eighth minute. A penalty scored on 19 minutes by Berisha doubled their lead. Broxham then scored in the 28th minute before Archie Thompson put the game beyond all doubt just minutes after the restart.
If this demolition job is anything to go by, it might be Victory’s year. For the Wanderers, though, back to the drawing board, it seems…
2. Long season ahead for Mariners and Jets
If the F3 Derby was anything to go by, the Central Coast Mariners and Newcastle Jets will be in for an underwhelming season.
Both teams lost some key players over the transfer window, strikers being at the forefront of the exodus – Daniel McBreen and Adam Taggart to name a few – and it showed.
A late goal in the second minute of stoppage time from Mitchell Duke saw the Mariners edge out their rivals.
Apart from the goal, though, both teams showed a lack of cutting edge with 24 shots fired off and only eight on target.
3. David Villa aging like fine wine
Having only landed days earlier, initial reports from Melbourne City training sessions suggested that David Villa might just be in line for a start.
That was not to be, and despite dominating for much of the first half, City failed to make much of their chances.
A Corey Gameiro stunner in the 54th minute against the run of play seemed to make them pay. Up stepped David Villa who, true to form, scored when the chance came.
It was a promising performance. As they say, quality remains forever, and the A-League better get used to seeing the net bulge when the Spaniard dons the City strip.
4. Same old Wellington Phoenix
Having arguably recruited the strongest Phoenix side to date, a lot was expected of Ernie Merrick’s men to out-perform previous seasons. After all, a wooden spoon and a second last finish in consecutive seasons has taken any shine off their reputation.
A pre-season which culminated in a win over West Ham and a narrow loss to Newcastle United had supporters excited that this might be the year in which the dream of a finals berth would become a reality.
After their loss to Perth, though, it’s hard to fathom such a case. When given opportunities to put the match to bed, Wellington failed to do so - Manny Muscat’s near miss in the 83rd minute a prime example. A late goal from Perth Glory’s Jamie Maclaren made them pay.
5. New season, more competition for Brisbane
A loss to a well-organised Adelaide United outfit was a result not entirely expected. Perhaps Matt McKay’s dismissal was a testament to Roar’s overall temperament.
Despite dominating possession, Brisbane were wasteful in front of goal and seemed to lack the finishing touch which Berisha had offered.
While Thomas Broich excelled, his teammates failed to step up and a lack of discipline on the field ultimately cost them the match.
Credit should not be taken away from Adelaide United, though, who, led by Bruce Djite, exploited gaps in Brisbane’s defence.
Isaias Sanchez too was immense and played a massive role as Gombau’s men ran away with a great win.