Talking points: Are Phoenix the real deal in the Hyundai A-League?

It’s been some time since there’s been this much excitement coming from across the ditch.

But after ruthlessly dismantling Brisbane Roar 4-1 at Westpac Stadium on Saturday, you can’t help but get caught up in the hype surrounding Wellington Phoenix.

Mark Rudan’s Phoenix revolution is in full swing and it’s clear to see there is confidence oozing out of the playing squad.

With skipper Andrew Durante and Englishman Steve Taylor providing a solid base at the back, the pacy Roy Krishna delivering goals and teenager Sarpreet Singh the X-Factor, Phoenix has the tools to beat anyone.

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REPORT: Wellington Phoenix 4 Brisbane Roar 1
RUDES' WRAP: Phoenix boss hails teenage hero Singh

The question remains: Do they have the consistency to be a serious title contender?

On the evidence of the last four weeks – which has seen them pick up three wins and a draw – you would have to say the answer to that question is yes.

The Kiwi club will get a serious test of those championship credentials on Friday night when they take on defending champions and in-form Melbourne Victory, who are unbeaten in their last seven games.


Even in his first season as a head coach in the Hyundai A-League, Rudan is experienced enough to try and keep a lid on the hype.

But if the Kiwi club come away from AAMI Park on Friday night with another three points, it might be a tough ask to do so.

Attacking firepower behind rising Phoenix

Still on the boys from Wellington, a feature of their winning run has been the noticeable scoring power the side has shown.

Roar’s defence simply had no answer to the trickery of Singh, pace of Krishna and attacking smarts of substitute David Williams.

It was fitting that all three got on the scoresheet in the second-half demolition of Brisbane.

Rudan seems to have found a formula that works for his squad, getting great contribution down the flanks from Louis Fenton and Liberato Cacace, while Mandi and Alex Rufer have been superb in the middle of the park.

But it’s not just the fact Phoenix have scored nine goals in their last three games, it’s the number of chances the side has been creating which will most please the boss.

It underlines the attacking options and various threats Phoenix possess in 2018/19.

Sarpreet Singh
Sarpreet Singh

Sky Blues send gentle reminder to Hyundai A-League

Given their inconsistent start to the 2018/19 Season, there were plenty willing to right off Sydney FC’s hopes of going for a third straight Premiers’ Plate.

The scintillating form of Melbourne Victory and the new dawn at Perth Glory were generating most of the headlines over the opening two months.

But at a scorching HBF Park – formerly nib Stadium - on Friday night, Steve Corica’s men made a real statement of intent.

GRANT: More to come from Glory slayers Sydney FC
REPORT:
 Le Fondre, De Silva inflict Perth Glory's first loss in big Sydney FC statement

The 2-1 win over the previously unbeaten Glory not only kept the Sky Blues right on the tail of the league-leaders but proved they are right in the hunt for the Premiership heading into the New Year.

The result also maintained Sydney FC’s incredible record against the Glory.

The Sky Blues have now won their last nine in a row – scoring 31 goals - against the boys from the west and are unbeaten in their last seven at HBF Park.

Could that be a huge psychological factor if the clubs meet at the business end of the season?

Wait goes on for the Mariners

311 days. That’s how long it will be since Central Coast Mariners last won a match in the Hyundai A-League come kick-off against Perth Glory on New Year’s Eve.

It’s been a torturous start to the campaign for Mike Mulvey’s side, who have been ultra-competitive in most matches this season but still have a big ‘0’ in the win column.

Sunday’s narrow 2-1 F3 Derby defeat to bitter rivals Newcastle Jets really summed-up the Gosford club’s campaign so far.

REPORT: Jets compound Mariners misery in F3 Derby fightback

When the clock ticked past the hour-mark at Central Coast Stadium and they still led 1-0 – courtesy of Matt Simon’s first-half header – the home side looked on course for that drought-breaking victory.

But they were unable to halve the Jets’ late surge and it was another disappointing outing for the Mariners and their fans.

Mulvey and the players insist their luck will turn but there’s no doubting their confidence will be a little rattled heading into Round 10.

The Mariners often deliver their best in their traditional NYE fixture and they’ll hope that will be the case against table-topping Glory as they aim to break the long winless drought.


Late fadeouts a concern for Victory?

With a championship under their belt and currently on a seven-game unbeaten run, there’s a lot to like about Melbourne Victory’s 2018.

But Dario Vidosic’s stoppage-time equaliser for Melbourne City in Saturday night’s 1-1 derby draw may have highlighted a potentially worrying trend for Kevin Muscat’s men.

REPORT: City snatch late leveller in Melbourne Derby
ANALYSIS: Victory's worrying second-half trend

Vidosic's goal was the fourth time Victory have conceded beyond the 90th minute in 2018 alone.

Interestingly, that's more than the three stoppage-time goals they gave up in the two previous years combined.

While it hasn’t seemed to have affected them too greatly given their exploits in the last 12 months, it is something Muscat will want to eradicate as the season heats up in coming months.