With all the recent negativity surrounding the round-ball game, the A-League needed an occasion to put it back in a positive light.
Saturday night’s top of the table clash in front of 17,000+ at Pirtek Stadium, was that very occasion and so much more.
As good as the quality of football has been recently, some in the media have had the casual fan focusing more on the off-field. So let’s focus on the off-field.
17,000 plus packed Pirtek Stadium and created an atmosphere second to none.
The return of both the red and black bloc, as well as the number of travelling Victory fans in attendance, meant for 90 minutes, plus injury time, Wanderland was rocking.
Having close friends in both camps, all reports I received were that fans were united pre and post-game, sharing a beverage, and focusing their energy on supporting their sides.
There were no flares, no riots. Just plenty of noise and plenty of passion.
On-field the game lived up to the hype and then some.
The Wanderers opened the game with two Romeo Castelen inspired moves that wouldn’t have looked out of place at the Camp Nou.
Mark Bridge was unable to take advantage of the chances but the fact the score remained nil all did nothing to take away from the entertainment.
The early chances seemed to wake the Victory from their slumber, leading to sustained pressure on the Wanderers goal.
In complete contrast to the opening ten minutes, the Victory piled on the chances and could very easily have broken the deadlock, if not for a goal line clearance.
With honours even at half time in terms of both the score and the run of play, one thing was for sure. Daniel Giorgievski, tasked with marking Dutch wizard Castelen, certainly earned his half time oranges.
Fans and commentators alike wondered if the second half could possibly live up to the attacking masterpiece we were treated to in the opening 45 minutes.
The home side arguably should have had a spot kick early in the second half, as Castelen was bundled over inside the box. With no sign of the Dutch flyer going down easily, those wearing red and black were left to contemplate what the officials had seen.
Those frustrations soon turned to utter euphoria when a superb Wanderer counter attack lead to the opening goal.
After pulling off an easy save, goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne wasted no time in turning defence into attack. Two perfect passes later and Mark Bridge was turning in his fourth goal in as many games.
The atmosphere got even louder following the goal, as the Wanderers fans sensed a seventh straight win, while the travelling fans urged their side on.
Fittingly, it was Castelen who iced the game for the Wanderers. After a brilliant move, it was his bullet shot that forced Danny Vukovic to turn the ball into his own net.
If the major papers want to show casual fans what the game of football is all about, THIS is the game they need to highlight.
We had two brilliant, in form sides trading attacking raids. We had goal line clearances, ridiculous full stretch saves by those in goals. Add to that two amazing goals and arguably the best atmosphere in the A-League this year and you have a brilliant occasion.
Real fans of the game didn’t need this to reinforce their love of the game, but this is exactly what the game needed to produce to raise its collective fingers to their lips to silence the critics.
Mid Coast Worries
I hate to put a team down when they’re well, down, but neither the Jets nor the Mariners look like they’ll worry any of the top sides this season.
The Jets have three wins and sit just outside finals contention, but if the Phoenix can find any sort of consistency, the race for the top six may already be close to over.
The Mariners, after a brilliant opening round win over the Glory, have gone winless since, and now sit rock bottom of the ladder.
The held a one-nil lead against former 10th placed Perth on Saturday night only to walk away without a point.
They’ve got a few players coming back from injury, but it’s not like they’re missing an entire side’s worth of talent.
On the plus side their youth side scored seven goals is yesterday’s game. Perhaps it’s time to blood some youngsters.
I feel like I could copy and paste this every weekend, but how good is Aaron Mooy?
Reports indicate that City have recently turned down an A-League record bid for their star, but I expect many increased bids to come in January.
For the league’s sake, as well as my fantasy side, I hope Mooy is able to stay around as long as possible, but if one of the Premier League sides come calling, my money is on Mooy boarding that plane.
If he were to leave it would make “who is the best player in the A-League” polls a lot more fun.
Right now there is NO question who the number one in the league is.