Talking points: the value of a lethal Hyundai A-League hit-man
A title-challenging team needs a reliable marksman – and the three Hyundai A-League pacesetters can boast exactly that.
Sydney FC, Adelaide United and Perth Glory currently sit top of the pack after three rounds and have emerged from the competition’s fledgling rounds resembling early contenders.
That is largely down to the form of their three principle attackers in Adam Le Fondre, Craig Goodwin and Andy Keogh respectively, and all three clubs will be looking toward their goal-scoring talismans to continue their march toward silverware.
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Forwards gunning for glory
Should the three marksmen maintain their start, the clubs are almost guaranteed to be in close contention for the Hyundai A-League’s biggest prizes. Only two of the last 10 Golden Boot winners played for clubs who finished the regular season lower than fourth – with Adam Taggart (2013/14) and Shane Smeltz (2008/09) the only outliers.
Adam Le Fondre demonstrated why he’s considered a finisher of the highest calibre with a clinical brace against Melbourne City on Friday, netting his third and fourth efforts of the Hyundai A-League campaign.
The Englishman has scored in every game he’s featured in for Steve Corica’s side, and has swiftly banished any concerns over the loss of Bobo.
Goodwin’s double against Central Coast Mariners was similarly emphatic, and underlined the 26-year-old’s rapidly growing stature as a match-changing player.
Meanwhile, Keogh proved yet again that he’ll be a critical focal point for Tony Popovic’s revolution at Perth Glory, and has shouldered his striking duties with impressive aplomb.
Golden Boot Standings
Adam Le Fondre - 4
Craig Goodwin - 3
Andy Keogh - 3
Terry Antonis - 2
Adam Taggart - 2
Sydney FC’s impressive statement of intent
It was their third match in six days, but there were no signs of fatigue or FFA Cup Final hangover for Sydney FC in their 3-0 triumph over Melbourne City.
The comprehensive manner of victory for Steve Corica’s side just 72 hours after their FFA Cup Final defeat – and over a potential top-six rival – is the kind of statement that could jolt the reigning Premiers back into top form.
Adelaide United moving along menacingly
Of all the early contenders Sydney FC are currently glancing at, Adelaide United may represent the biggest challenge.
After a masterful defensive performance in Round 1, and having downed Corica's men 2-1 in the FFA Cup Final 2018 thanks to a Craig Goodwin clinic, the Reds possess both the structure and match-turning quality to rival Sydney’s excellence.
That is in no small part down to the form of Goodwin, who has scored an incredible five goals in the last 10 days for the Reds.
Popovic influence transforming Glory into winners again
It’s only Round 3 but Perth Glory are clearly a different beast under Tony Popovic.
Currently level on points with Sydney and Adelaide, Glory demonstrated a combination of the defensive structure and attacking verve that Popovic prizes in their 2-1 win over Brisbane Roar.
From their formidable defensive cohort, to the lethal combination brewing between Keogh and Christopher Ikonomidis, Glory look re-energised and ready to stake a genuine challenge.
Grand Final déjà vu a reality check for Newcastle Jets
Newcastle Jets’ 1-0 defeat to Melbourne Victory mirrored the 2017/18 Grand Final in more ways than just scoreline alone.
The Jets flew out of the blocks and dominated Victory early on but were ultimately punished for their profligacy, with Terry Antonis inflicting a second half hammer blow.
It’s a shortcoming that saw Newcastle’s Championship dream fall apart, and one Ernie Merrick’s side will be looking to eradicate in order to fight for the title again.
Have the Wanderers found the right balance?
There have been few midfield trios more diminutive in stature fielded in the Hyundai A-League than Western Sydney Wanderers’ combination of Alexander Baumjohann, Keanu Baccus and Jordan O’Doherty.
But that unlikely midfield balance, assembled in the Wanderers resounding 3-0 win over Wellington Phoenix, could prove to be a Eureka moment for Markus Babbel’s side.
All three players turned in sterling cameos to direct the Wanderers through a wet and windy Wellington afternoon, leading the best performance of the Babbel era to date.