A-League Winners and Losers: Young gun fires as Popovic lands a sucker punch

A decisive round of A-League action

Perth Glory took a giant step towards the Premiers Plate on Sunday, while a Brisbane Roar young gun fired a crucial blow into Sydney FC's hopes of retaining their title.

Elsewhere, the top six looks all but set and Central Coast Mariners showed they'll be worthy wooden spoon winners.

Aside from a great turnout on Sunday, crowds also continued to tumble over the weekend.

Read on for all our winners and losers...

  1. Winner: Wellington Phoenix

    Winner: Wellington Phoenix

    They really should have beaten Newcastle Jets on Thursday night with Roy Krishna unable to convert a late penalty, but the 1-1 draw was still an invaluable result for the Nix.

    Mark Rudan's men now sit eight points clear of the Jets in sixth with nine games to play and look poised for their first taste of finals football since 2015.

    It will be nothing less than Wellington deserves too after showing significant signs of improvement this season.

    While Rudan might not be sticking around beyond this season with Western Melbourne reportedly interested, the Nix will be hoping he can guide them to more success before he bails. 

  2. Loser: Steve Corica

    Loser: Steve Corica

    Sydney FC's hopes of retaining the Premiers Plate took a massive blow on Friday night as they suffered a shock 2-1 loss to Brisbane Roar.

    While on paper a surprise result, the performances on the pitch made it almost inevitable with the Roar rewarded for a resilient display and the Sky Blues made to pay for a fairly lifeless showing.

    Brisbane lost two players to injury in the first-half with a 16-year-old forced to make his debut, yet Steve Corica still couldn't guide his side to victory.

    Even with new signing Reza Ghoochannejhad, Sydney lacked an edge to their game and got just five of their 18 shots on target. 

    Now eight points behind league leaders Glory, Corica looks like he'll be unable to deliver what Graham Arnold has the past two seasons in what will be an early mark against his name.

  3. Winner: Dylan Wenzel-Halls

    Winner: Dylan Wenzel-Halls

    He's been biding his time on the bench this season and the 21-year-old striker made the most of a rare start on Friday with a stunning match-winning strike.

    Having impressed in the NPL, Wenzel-Halls had shown glimpses at A-League level and stood up when it counted against Sydney FC.

    Aside from the thumping strike, he also caught the eye by giving Rhyan Grant's mullet a stroke.

    All in all, it was a night to remember for the young man, who is one to watch in seasons to come. 

  4. Loser: Central Coast Mariners

    Loser: Central Coast Mariners

    After letting a 2-0 lead slip last week against Melbourne Victory, the Mariners never got going against the Wanderers on Saturday in a 2-0 loss.

    The result has all but handed them another wooden spoon and looks to be the nail in the coffin of another very disappointing season.

    Mike Mulvey conceding after the match his side failed to show the necessary fight. 

    “We don’t have excuses, we just need to turn up and we didn’t turn up today, as I know that we can,” Mulvey said.

    “We didn’t really have a creative threat in the front third in the first half.

    “I take full responsibility for everything. As a coach, you have to."

    Set to add another wooden spoon to their trophy cabinet, the Mariners need another massive overhaul over the off-season and you've got to feel for the fans, who have become far too used to seeing their side lose. 

  5. Winer: Tony Popovic

    Winer: Tony Popovic

    Just as he did with the Wanderers in their inaugural season, Tony Popovic looks set to deliver a Premiers Plate at Perth Glory in his first season with the club.

    A 2-1 away win against Melbourne Victory has seen his side go seven points clear at the A-League summit and it's hard to see them dropping many points across the next nine games.

    Popovic gambled somewhat on Sunday by benching Andy Keogh but his side still found a way to strike with Chris Ikonomidis and Diego Castro particularly catching the eye. 

    Glory's biggest transformation this season has been at the back with Perth's back line essentially a brick wall under Popovic.

    A centre-back trio of Dino Djulbic, Matthew Spiranovic and Shane Lowry proved difficult for even Victory to break down on Sunday, who despite having all the momentum couldn't find an equaliser. 

    Set to deliver Perth's first piece of A-League silverware less than a year after signing with the club, Popovic's coaching stocks have well and truly been restored after his Turkish nightmare.  

  6. Loser: Poor crowds

    Loser: Poor crowds

    Only one game in Round 18 pulled in over 10,000 fans with Victory and Glory attracting a very healthy 25,071 to AAMI Park on Sunday afternoon.

    It made for a striking contrast with Melbourne City and Adelaide United playing in front of just 6,569 fans at the same venue the night before.

    In fact, the rounds four other A-League games combined attracted a total of 29,298 - a figure Victory and Glory nearly beat by themselves.

    The poor crowds come as no great surprise with the competition staling and the season's standings all but decided.

    Glory look likely to finish first, while the top six is hard to see changing and even the wooden spoon is already firmly in the Mariners' hands. 

    All in all, it makes for less than captivating viewing and it's hard to see the crowds getting any bigger before finals.