Talking points: Re-born Wellington Phoenix underline their credentials again

An away to trip to the reigning Hyundai A-League Champions is a challenge in which Wellington Phoenix have traditionally withered and burned.

However, the Phoenix showed again that they are a completely different animal this campaign in Friday's 1-1 draw with Melbourne Victory, another marker of the massive strides the club are making under Mark Rudan.

Phoenix's fearless aggression rattled Victory early on, but Rudan's side had to wait patiently for their time to strike - with that blow ultimately arriving in the form of a David Williams stunner.

Although different in outcome, it was the blueprint that saw the side comfortably best Sydney FC in their own backyard earlier this month and, but for Ola Toivonen's fifth Hyundai A-League goal, it might have earned the Kiwis another huge scalp.

Moreover, it demonstrates that Wellington are not only ultra-competitive under Rudan, but are turning up to some of the biggest tests on the Hyundai A-League calendar with a game plan - and executing it.

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While talisman forward Roy Krishna and Kiwi prodigy Sarpreet Singh have each been poster boys for Phoenix's re-birth this season, it is Wellington's wing-backs who garnered huge praise on Friday night.

Eighteen-year-old live-wire Liberato Cacace tore Victory to shreds down the left flank in the opening half, and in Louis Fenton the Phoenix have a hugely competitive, reliable Hyundai A-League charge.

Against Victory, the two wing-backs epitomised the energy, fearlessness and ultimately the new-found competitiveness that Rudan has instilled in the New Zealanders.

READ: Toivonen to the rescue as Victory, Phoenix play out thrilling draw
ANALYSIS: Are Phoenix the real deal?
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Signs of life for Brisbane, Le Fondre issues Golden Boot claim

Brisbane Roar are on the verge of the club's worst-ever losing streak, but the struggling Queensland outfit might just have turned a corner.

There was plenty to like about Roar's aggressive and committed approach in their 2-1 defeat to Sydney FC on Saturday under the energetic guise of interim coach Darren Davies.

Dane Ingham was one of the biggest rays of Roar sunshine. The Kiwi flyer was one of five players aged 21 or under in Brisbane's match-day squad, while penalty villain Adam Taggart has proven he's more than capable of bouncing back from adversity.

In contrast, opposite number Adam Le Fondre demonstrated why he's potentially the leading candidate for the Golden Boot. Le Fondre's antics have been overshadowed by the form of Ola Toivonen and Roy Krishna in recent weeks, but you'd be a brave man to bet against the former Premier League marksman after Saturday's brace.

REPORT: Le Fondre double lifts Sydney FC over resurgent Roar
Le Fondre ousts Taggart in crucial Golden Boot face-off

An evening of violent contrasts in Gosford

Perth Glory's resounding 4-1 win over Central Coast Mariners not only underlined their title credentials, but offered a stark reminder of the chasm that separates top from bottom in the Hyundai A-League.

With key attacker Chris Ikonomidis missing and Diego Castro not even summoned from the bench, the competition front-runners issued another statement of intent with a crushing win. 

Perth had triumphed just twice in their 20 visits to Gosford, but Glory are operating under an entirely new mentality under Tony Popovic.

How Central Coast Mariners could take a leaf from the AFC Champions League-winning coach's book. 

REPORT: Ferreira, Keogh fire as four-goal Glory end 2018 on Hyundai A-League high
READ: Glory crush Central Coast Stadium curse in landmark New Year's Eve victory

Marco Kurz tames Newcastle storm to get back on track

There are few teams in the Hyundai A-League more effective at pulling off smash and grab victories of this ilk.

It's why Adelaide United will always be there or thereabouts under Marco Kurz if they can kick on from Sunday's 2-1 victory over Newcastle Jets.

The Reds were completely out-shot by the Jets in Sunday's clash, but, with the enigmatic German barking orders from the sidelines, the Reds stood tall amid a desperate Newcastle assault.

Kurz will hope a result attained through such resolve steadies an inconsistent season to date for the Reds. But with the team nicely poised at the turn of the New Year and with plenty of improvement undoubtedly still to come, Adelaide will surely be in the mix come finals time.

REPORT: Goodwin dispatches last-ditch penalty as Adelaide punish Jets
READ: Marco Kurz praises goal-shy Jets after Adelaide’s gutsy win

Wanderers at square one but Babbel remains optimistic

The arrival of Markus Babbel in Western Sydney heralded a bright new era for the Wanderers, but the club still appears stuck at a crossroads following a miserable 2-0 defeat to Melbourne City on New Year's Day.

City hit two goals in two first-half minutes to consign the Wanderers to a morale-sapping defeat in front of an increasingly frustrated supporter base.

It's been a case of one step forward, two steps backward at time this season for the Red and Black, but Babbel insists that the club is heading in the right direction under his leadership.

“They’re not happy with the situation. This is a process, it’s going definitely in the right way," he said.

“I was also maybe hoping it was going a little bit quicker but [it's] important [we] keep going."