Hyundai A-League Team of the Week - Round 8
The Hyundai A-League table became congested as a number of slow starters picked up wins in Round 8 – but who were the individual stars that delivered stand-out performances?
There was a much-needed win for Melbourne Victory against fellow early-season strugglers Perth Glory, while Robbie Fowler's Brisbane Roar downed the Central Coast Mariners.
Newcastle Jets made it back-to-back wins by defeating Western Sydney Wanderers, Sydney FC brushed aside Western United and Wellington Phoenix stunned Adelaide United in their own back yard.
The a-league.com.au writers have picked their Round 8 Team of the Week. Time to take a look at the line-up.
Glen Moss (Newcastle Jets)
After Western Sydney Wanderers' Swiss superman, Daniel Lopar, lit up the first half at McDonald Jones Stadium with a string of wonder saves, Moss surpassed him in spectacular style to lock down the clean sheet in the Jets' 2-0 win.
The Kiwi gloveman executed a remarkable finger-tip save to redirect Mitchell Duke's roaring 30-yard drive on to the crossbar on the brink of half-time, and later raced out to thwart Bruce Kamau's 12-yard effort.
The 36-year-old, who was named FOX Sports pundit Alex Brosque's Man of the Matchday on Saturday, delivered the pick of the bunch in the 62nd minute when he first denied Duke from close-range, and then recovered in quick-fire fashion to block Nicolai Müller's rebound.
Scott Neville (Brisbane Roar)
Neville adds so much to Robbie Fowler's side in terms of attack and defence, and all of his skills were on display in the 2-0 win against the Central Coast Mariners on Saturday.
The versatile right-back had opposite number Jack Clisby pinned back in his own half for so much of the game at Suncorp Stadium that his average position was inside Mariners territory.
Defensively, Neville barely put a foot wrong, making two tackles and two interceptions and winning five duels. He also had the final word, scoring a header from Jay O'Shea's corner, to show his ability in the opposition penalty area.
James Donachie (Melbourne Victory)
In a team with so much attacking quality, it was a heroic defensive display from Donachie which ensured Victory got all three points against Perth on Friday night.
In a new-look backline due to injury and illness, Donachie put in a commanding display to limit the impact of Glory stars Bruno Fornaroli and Diego Castro.
He won more than 50% of his one-on-one duels but also made eight clearances and seven interceptions as Victory kept a crucial clean sheet.
Lachlan Jackson (Newcastle Jets)
Western Sydney controlled possession against the Newcastle Jets in the first half but Jackson dominated to ensure Markus Babbel's men did not engineer a clear-cut chance.
Centre-back partner Nikolai Topor-Stanley was also a strong presence against his former club, but Jackson led the resistance, winning 11 of his 13 duels and making a staggering 10 clearances.
Wanderers were only able to get four of their 22 attempts on target, and much of that was down to Jackson's expert positioning and anticipation in reading the Red and Black's attack.
Alexander Baumjohann (Sydney FC)
With Milos Ninkovic ruled out as a late scratch with a sickness bug, Baumjohann stepped up his game and led the playmaking duties for the Hyundai A-League Champions.
The German tormentor ripped off a 12th-minute shot on goal as the Sky Blues turned the tide following a slow start, and he delivered a devastating set piece for Adam Le Fondre to open the scoring.
The 32-year-old created the second with a rampaging run but, even more impressively, he set the tone for Steve Corica's men on the ball, knowing when to launch a stampeding counter-attack and when to slow the pace down and close out the victory.
Luke Brattan (Sydney FC)
Often one of the more overlooked players in the Sky Blue jersey this season, Brattan rose to the fore with a swashbuckling display in a game that played to his strengths.
With Western United controlling 61% of possession, the 29-year-old stamped his authority on the midfield battle at GMHBA Stadium and was a key reason the hosts struggled to create clear-cut opportunities.
At the heart of the Sydney engine room, Brattan won 10 of 14 duels, four of his six tackles and made two clearances and an interception in a none-shall-pass performance.
Alex Rufer (Wellington Phoenix)
Another under-appreciated grafter, midfield general Rufer patrolled the Coopers Stadium pitch and stifled any creativity the Reds sought to produce.
The off-colour Riley McGree and James Troisi ran out of ideas against the Phoenix pair of Rufer and Matti Steinmann, and the Kiwi effectively ran the show by himself when the German was replaced by Garry Hooper on 66 minutes with Wellington chasing the game.
Not only did Rufer excel defensively but he changed the game in an attacking sense. A minute after Hooper's introduction, he surged forward and won a 50/50 tackle against Troisi deep in Reds territory. That vital touch resulted in Jaushua Sotirio crossing for David Ball to net the equaliser.
Dimitri Petratos (Newcastle Jets)
The Jets may have had a smaller share of possession against Western Sydney but the hosts' attack shredded the Wanderers defence over and over. Petratos' movement and ability on the ball was the root of most of Markus Babbel's side problems.
The Caltex Socceroo drifted between the left and centre of Newcastle's midfield, creating four chances and put in five crosses, and forced Lopar into a save from 20 yards. In addition to the stats, his link up play in earlier phases brought the best from inside wingers Nick Fitzgerald and Jason Hoffman.
A simple late tap-in to make it 2-0 was the least Petratos deserved from an effervescent performance of energy, verve and high-level quality.
Robbie Kruse (Melbourne Victory)
How Victory boss Marco Kurz must be relishing having Kruse back to full fitness.
The Caltex Socceroos attacker made his first start of the campaign on Friday night, marking it with the winning goal – his first in eight years in the Hyundai A-League.
Kruse’s impact on the match was more than just his goal, producing a number of eye-catching dribbles and attacks in a promising sign for the Navy Blues for the remainder of the season.
Adam Le Fondre (Sydney FC)
Le Fondre justified his reputation as one of the Hyundai A-League's most deadly marksmen, needing only two sights of goal to net a double against Western United.
Despite being one of the smallest men in the hosts' penalty area, the Englishman ghosted into space to head home the Sky Blues' opener at GMHBA Stadium.
His second finish showed the intelligence of his positioning and his natural goal-scoring instincts, which have seen him rise to third on Sydney FC's all-time top goal-scoring charts with 25 goals in 36 Hyundai A-League games.
Dylan Wenzel-Halls (Brisbane Roar)
There were moments on Saturday when it appeared Brisbane Roar's recent goal-shy form had returned until Wenzel-Halls upped the tempo and cut through the Central Coast Mariners defence to inspire their 2-0 win.
Starting his first Hyundai A-League match of the season, the 21-year-old's four first-half efforts on goal went unrewarded as Fowler's side were frustrated, but Wenzel-Halls sprung into life after the break and proved to be the difference-maker.
Cutting inside from the right after the break, he stung the hands of Mark Birighitti with a rasping low drive. Moments later, from a similar position, he left Clisby standing to deliver the perfect cross for Roy O'Donovon to break the deadlock – the highlight of his seven shots and five crosses.