Five things we learned in the A-League: Sydney win without Del Piero, Heart believe in Aloisi

The Sky Blues found a way to bag all three points despite losing their Italian marquee star just before the break, while the struggling red and whites are fighting for their coach
1. Mariners still searching for top gear (Hamish Neal @ Bluetongue Stadium)

Despite having a game in hand, and even taking into account the recent coaching change, a return of two wins from their first seven fixtures is not ideal for the Central Coast Mariners as reigning champions. Both them and the Melbourne Victory provided great entertainment for fans and neutrals alike on Saturday evening but lacked killer instinct in the final third. Archie Thompson had a rare off night, while the Mariners couldn't break down the visitors' defence, in which Nick Ansell ably filled in for Adrian Leijer. Combinations for both sides in attack will need to gel but with the next international fixtures not until March, the next month or so gives both sides a chance to prove their credentials and improve on this weekend's display.

2. Spell on the road to test Brisbane's mettle (Dan Colasimone @ Suncorp Stadium)

The Roar have now won six straight at Suncorp Stadium and their irrepressible home form is serving as the platform on which they are building their title challenge. Brisbane extended their lead at the top of the A-League ladder to three points with their 1-0 win over Perth Glory, whose coach Alistair Edwards, judging by his post-match comments, seemed almost relieved to have come away with a narrow away defeat against what he proclaimed to be the best side in the country. In fairness, Perth looked solid enough in defence for much of the game, despite Brisbane's 22 shots at goal, and remain within touching distance of the top six. The Roar, meanwhile, now face a test of their premiership ambitions with a run of four away games out of their next five.

3. Sydney go from strength to strength, even without ADP (Adam Lucius @ Allianz Stadium)

These are heady times for Sydney FC after a record fourth straight win, the latest over Newcastle. Four in a row has never before been achieved in the club's history and makes the early season calls for Frank Farina to be sacked look utterly ridiculous.

The Sky Blues were good value in the win over the spluttering Jets, scoring either side of the break and doing it without superstar Alessandro Del Piero for more than half the match.  Farina wants the team playing the ball on the 'carpet' and, for most of the match, they did manage to play football and looked good doing it. Richard Garcia was again a stand out, Joel Chianese chimed in with a goal and super sub Ranko Despotovic again came off the bench to score for the second time in as many weeks. No wonder there are so many smiles around Moore Park at the moment.

It's a nice problem to have, we suppose, but a problem all the same as Newcastle coach Gary van Egmond works out how best to use Emile Heskey and Adam Taggart together. Their combination didn't really gel, with Heskey peppered with long balls and Taggart caught between playing the role of a midfielder and striker.

That's one to work out on the training park. The Jets did fashion out a number of opportunities but were wasteful in front of goal and deserved to return up the

M1 without a point after their second loss to Sydney this year. But it was their first defeat in four matches so hardly time to go jumping off the Stockton Bridge.

4. Are the Phoenix trying too hard to find the back of the net? (Emma Stoney @ Westpac Stadium)

Wellington might be playing a better, more attractive brand of football under new coach Ernie Merrick but it is goals that win matches and the Phoenix are struggling to find the back of the net.

It seems the desperation to score could be the very thing stopping the players from doing so. Carlos Hernandez hasn't scored for the Phoenix yet and it is rare to see the Costa Rican miss from six yards out. But that's what he did against the Wanderers when he somewhat unusually snatched at his shot. Merrick will be hoping the players bring their training ground composure in front of goal to match days sooner rather than later.

5. The Heart players really do believe in John Aloisi (Iain Strachan @ AAMI Park)

The vast majority of footballers and indeed athletes in general these days all make the right media-trained noises in front of the cameras and microphones. On message throughout their dire start to the season, the Heart players have been no exception to that rule, singing from the same hymn sheet and stating their unceasing confidence in a coach who is yet to deliver a victory in 2013-14.

Surely behind those predictable, cliched words there were more than a few doubts beginning to emerge?

And they are probably still there, even after a 3-3 draw at home to Adelaide United that felt something like a victory for the beleaguered red and whites. But make no mistake, the Heart are playing for Aloisi. The jury remains out on his methods and capacity to salvage the season, but the emotional scenes at AAMI Park when the goals finally started flying in are likely to have bought the coach at least a few more weeks, and let us all know how much the members of the playing group want to succeed for the man in the dugout.

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