The reigning premiers appear to have misplaced their shooting boots, while Gary van Egmond's Hunter Stadium outfit are proving a serious threat
Friday night offered a glimpse of what Adelaide United could be capable of if they can turn around their fortunes and take a few steps towards mastering their new tiki-take gameplan. Roar coach Mike Mulvey admitted the Reds were unlucky not to be 3-1 up at the break after an impressive first half from the home side. Mulvey went on to pay tribute to his champion team who collected maximum points in an effort far from their best, while Besart Berisha confirmed his status as one of the league's most clinical finishers with his double. The Albanian needs just a sniff and he is more than half a chance, highlighted by his second goal, toe-poking the ball past Eugene Galekovic while laying prone on the deck in the penalty area after being bowled over by two defenders.
2. Glory youngsters deliver when required (Michael Washbourne @ nib Stadium)
Perth Glory's 4-2 win without a host of stars will give coach Alistair Edwards confidence his youthful squad is on the right track. Glory were missing Jacob Burns, Shane Smeltz, Scott Jamieson and William Gallas last Friday night, but the likes of Riley Woodcock, Matthew Davies, Jack Clisby and Daniel De Silva showed they were more than capable of filling key positions as Perth claimed three points despite trailing early in the second half. It's the opposite story for the Wellington Phoenix, who still remain without a win after eight games this season. It may have been the New Zealand side's worst performance of the campaign so far, but coach Ernie Merrick believes his equally youthful team will make the finals. Previous performances have suggested that is not an outlandish statement, but Phoenix will need to join the winners' circle soon rather than later for that premonition to come true.
3. Goal-shy Wanderers have cause for concern (John Greco @ Pirtek Stadium)
It's far from panic stations for the Western Sydney Wanderers but last season's premiers have now gone three games without a win. It's the club's longest run without a victory since the first three games of their debut season. While they are still well-placed after the early part of 2013-14, the one concern for coach Tony Popovic must be their struggles in front of goal. Despite sitting comfortably in the top six, the Wanderers have managed just 10 goals from their nine games so far and are finding it hard to finish off their chances with strikers Tomi Juric and Brendan Santalab currently sidelined through injury.
Melbourne Heart are still searching for their first win of the season but there has been signs over the last fortnight that better days are ahead. They showed great spirit to fight back from two goals down against Adelaide a week ago and there was more of that resolve evident to hold off the Wanderers. With marquee man Harry Kewell back on deck and sure to be better for the run, John Aloisi might get that breakthrough win which could kick-start the Heart's season – and ensure he keeps his job – very soon.
4. Sydney FC struggle without ADP, Mariners improving (Hamish Neal @ Bluetongue Stadium)
Coach Frank Farina was clear in the reasons for the 1-0 reverse suffered at the hands of the Central Coast Mariners on Saturday evening which cost Sydney FC a chance to win a fifth straight game and move into second place in the A-League. The lack of possession early and then the lack of penetration late in the match proved costly for Sydney. Even accounting for the absence of Alessandro Del Piero and Brett Emerton, Sydney looked directionless for large parts of the encounter. Having won two matches and drawn the other two to start Phil Moss' tenure as head coach, the Central Coast Mariners still look a top-three side despite recent off-field upheaval.
5. Jets mean business, home and away (Dejan Kalinic @ AAMI Park)
There was plenty to like about the Newcastle Jets at AAMI Park on Sunday. They were well set up by coach Gary van Egmond, stifled a static Victory attack and took their chances when they presented themselves. Van Egmond was brave to drop Emile Heskey to the bench and the move paid off after the Englishman struggled to link with Adam Taggart against Sydney. Taggart was far less influential, but his diagonal runs off the shoulder of defenders mean he is best suited as their central striker. As for Burns, more performances like the one against Victory and he could be on the plane to Brazil.
The hosts looked flat and coach Kevin Muscat expected more in front of over 18,000 fans back at their home stadium. In patches, particularly the opening 20 minutes, they looked dangerous, but too often it was pedestrian, especially going forward. The question over whether their system needs a striker will continue until they start looking more dangerous in the attacking third. And there are question marks over their defence as Pablo Contreras and Adrian Leijer both made errors in the lead-up to the goals.
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