A-League winners and losers: Faithful fans and frustrating VAR

Comments()
Goal takes a look at who and what stood out over the weekend - for the right or wrong reasons

The A-League's opening round was eventful on and off the pitch and though three draws were played out, there were some very clear winners and losers from the weekend.

From some controversial decisions to very encouraging crowd figures, Round 1 wasn't without the good and the bad. 

Here's our pick of the best and worst from the weekend's action...

  1. Winner - The fans

    After a long off-season, the A-League faithful turned up in force on the weekend with all but one game cracking the 10,000 mark.

    Even Wellington's turnout of 9,174 is significant being the club's biggest crowd number in 26 straight home matches.

    The Melbourne derby meanwhile saw 40,504 fans rock up at Marvel Stadium, a figure that handsomely beat last season's highest crowd number.

    Fans are the lifeblood of any sport and as the A-League faces an uncertain future, Round 1 was a timely reminder of the difference they can make. 

    Having been treated questionably in seasons past, A-League fans clearly aren't ready to give up on the competition just yet and this early show of faith deserves some praise. 

    Spare a thought also for the 14,849 that braved initially stormy conditions at Suncorp Stadium. Rain, hail or shine - it's reassuring to see so many fans stand by their side to start the season.

  2. Loser - VAR

    After a relatively successful World Cup, the VAR returned to the A-League looking to right a few wrongs from last season.

    Unfortunately, it started off on an inevitably controversial note as it saw Kurt Ams upgrade his initial decision of a foul on Bruno Fornaroli to a penalty in the Melbourne derby.

    In VAR's defence it rightly pointed out that the incident did take place in the box, however the system was unable to highlight Ams' mistake to award the foul in the first place. 

    "Penalty? I'll just go so far to say it's not a foul. Simple as that, it's not a foul," Kevin Muscat said post-match. 

    The VAR drama continued on Sunday with Wellington denied a goal for handball which opposition coach Ernie Merrick believes should have stood, before the Nix were awarded a very soft penalty for a push on Mitch Nichols.

    Not done there, it then overturned an Adam Taggart goal for a borderline offside call which was anything but clear and obvious. 

    While its use in Russia showed VAR can be implemented right, the system continues to suffer some serious teething problems in the A-League and walks away from Round 1 a very sore loser. 

  3. Winner - Deadly debutants

    There's nothing quite like marking a first A-League appearance at your new club with a goal - and that's precisely what six players did over the weekend.

    Scott Galloway bagged the first goal of the season to cap off his first A-League start for the Reds with a goal. Unfortunately for Adelaide, Sydney FC's Adam Le Fondre would do the same as he lashed home an equaliser in the 78th minute. 

    Japanese superstar Keisuke Honda then took just 28 minutes into his Melbourne Victory debut to find the back of the net, with Aston Villa loanee Ritchie de Laet following his lead to equalise on his A-League debut just before half-time. In his first A-League appearance for City, Riley McGree would then seal the win for his new side with a sharp finish moments after coming on.

    After a frustrating afternoon, Adam Taggart would also eventually bag a goal on his A-League debut for Brisbane but could easily have had a hat-trick should he have been sharper in front of goal. 

    Several bright starts for a number of players at their new clubs, who will be hoping this is just the start of more to come this season. 

  4. Loser - Mike Mulvey

    An encouraging start to Mike Mulvey's reign at the Mariners was unfortunately overshadowed by news Usain Bolt had reportedly been offered a contract by the club.

    It's become a lose/lose situation for Mulvey, who has seemingly been blindsided by his own club when it comes to the sprint star - should Bolt's agent be believed.

    Mulvey seems adamant his squad is strong enough without the Jamaican and will be desperate to avoid any unnecessary disruptions on his return to the A-League, but there's no questioning the potential impact signing Bolt could have on the club.

    Either way, Mulvey is a man stuck between a rock and a hard place right now with his post-match comments making for particularly interesting reading. 

    "I do appreciate how important this story is for the rest of the world," he said.

    "But if you have a look at our front line today and you wonder whether he could get into any of those positions.

    "We've got Connor Pain, Mikey McGlinchey, Tommy Oar, Matt Simon, Ross McCormack, we've got a very good front third. I don't know anything about that.

    "You're talking about speculation. I don't know anything about it. That's the god honest truth."

  5. Winner - Wellington Phoenix

    Not only were they actual winners over the weekend, but Wellington Phoenix also tasted some much needed success in the stands against Newcastle Jets.

    Their crowd of 9,174 was 1000 fans higher than any figure they drew in last season and showed the spirits are high at the beginning of a new era under Mark Rudan.

    Having struggled over the past few seasons and had their very future cast into doubt over the off-season, the Nix aren't ready to roll over without a fight.

    With Wellington fans turning up in strong numbers, the side repaid the faith with a lively and resilient performance.

    While it wasn't perfect by any means for the Phoenix, they looked dangerous in attack and if it wasn't for some wayward finishing, could have wrapped up the win more comfortably.

    Though they did let a goal in late, Wellington also did well to keep a lethal Jets frontline at bay with Polish keeper Filip Kurto impressing on his A-League debut. 

  6. Loser - Fox Sports

    Don't get me wrong, Fox Sports' coverage of the A-League was superb in Round 1. 

    From incredible access to coaches and players to a Mark Bosnich rant for the ages, Fox Sports did a lot right over the weekend.

    Unfortunately for them however, very few people tuned in. 

    Just 67,000 watched the A-League season opener with only 2,000 more watching the Melbourne derby on Fox Sports on Saturday night.

    While indicative of a move towards streaming, the numbers make for bad reading for the broadcaster, who have backed the A-League strongly over the past decade.

    The marquee player fund they've supplied the league this season was crucial in luring Keisuke Honda to Melbourne Victory and even the Japanese star couldn't convince more people to watch the derby at home over the weekend.