Talking points: Are Perth Premiership-bound after top-two tussle?

Are Glory days heading back to the west?

Tony Popovic’s side marched seven points clear of Melbourne Victory after Sunday’s triumph over the reigning Champions.

It is a handsome buffer, enlarged by that 2-1 victory at AAMI Park that has Perth basking in heights reminiscent of the NSL days Popovic set his heights on when appointed back in May.

Those in Western Australia’s capital must surely be starting to believe in the very real possibility of a first Hyundai A-League Premiership.

Indeed, the uplifting spirit of revolution and wave of momentum upon which Perth have staked their impressive bid for the Premiers Plate strikes comparisons with Popovic’s inaugural year in charge of Western Sydney Wanderers, where he also masterminded an uprising.

But if Glory fans are daring to dream with nine rounds remaining, the former AFC Champions League winner is remaining as cool and as meticulously calculated as ever.

"Of course we can [be caught]. If you do the sums, it's quite easy," he said.

"We'll see. We haven't spoke about [the title].

"We're not going to go home and say 'look boys we're seven ahead'.

"We'll move on and we'll finish where we deserve to finish and at the moment we deserve to be top. If we're there at the end we deserve to be Premiers."

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It is this sobering, ruthless mentality which has harnessed Perth's transformation from enigmatic underachievers to Premiers-elect.

Moreover, Popovic’s grounding message of calm should only grow in importance as nerves undoubtedly creep in ahead of Glory’s road home.

As the Perth taskmaster would profess, the chase is by no means over and Glory must navigate the potential potholes their fellow top six rivals - all reinforced by big name arrivals - will offer.

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Sydney FC have acquired a true Asian star in Reza Ghoochannejhad, Melbourne City boast a revamped Jamie Maclaren-led frontline and Adelaide have added a focal point of their own in Jordy Thomassen.

Throw in the return of a fully fit Keisuke Honda to Victory – who Perth meet again on the penultimate day of March – and Popovic’s reluctance to rejoice over their seven-point barrier becomes easier to contend.

Keisuke Honda

Has Glen Moss kept Newcastle's season alive?

Had Roy Krishna given Thursday night’s last-ditch penalty kick a touch more purchase, Newcastle Jets could well afford to spend today planning their end of season awards night.

As it proved, the Novocastrians are still in the top-six hunt courtesy of a history-making penalty save from Kiwi stalwart Glen Moss.

The Hyundai A-League veteran adeptly denied the Wellington Phoenix striker with an outstretched leg to prevent Mark Rudan’s side from establishing a near-unassailable 11-point buffer from seventh to sixth.

Moss' heroics saw him usurp Ante Covic for the record number of penalty saves in the competition - this was his 10th denial from the spot.

Hopes of repeating their Grand Final triumph of 2017/18 remain alive – just. But the Jets, who host Melbourne City this Friday evening, surely possess no margin for error now.

Maclaren arrives to challenge Goodwin as Australian benchmark

Spare a thought for Craig Goodwin.

Of all the Adelaide United players who mourned Jamie Maclaren’s equaliser in Saturday night’s 1-1 stalemate with City, the attacker must have felt it the most.

Goodwin had established a first half-lead Marco Kurz’s side with a textbook glancing header – his ninth goal of the season for the Reds – only for Maclaren to seal a happy homecoming with his own piece of penalty box predatory.

The Australian has now accounted for 54% of Adelaide’s goals this season on his return to home soil, and underlined just how much of a goal scoring talisman he is for the Reds on an occasion that saw eagerly anticipated arrival Jordy Thomassen unveiled for his debut.

As it proved, Maclaren stole the thunder of both Adelaide men on the evening. But the Sunbury-born forward could well shadow the path Goodwin has cultivated this season as a blueprint for a successful Hyundai A-League return.

Can Sotirio kick on from Mariners showing?

While part of the Western Sydney Wanderers furniture for over five years, Jaushua Sotirio has struggled to muster the consistency needed to best utilise his freakish physical ability.

However, amid the headline arrivals of Kwame Yeboah and Mitch Duke,  Sotirio delivered his own claim for a spot in a what could be a potentially lethal Wanderers front line to develop.

The 23-year-old arguably summoned his best display in a Red and Black jersey in the Wanderers’ 2-0 win over the Central Coast Mariners on Saturday.

His 77th minute match-sealer showed the type of composure that has often eluded him in his Hyundai A-League career. But if the additions of Yeboah and Duke have stoked a fire in Sotirio, perhaps the attacker can force his way into Markus Babbel’s plans.

Setback for Sydney FC poses tricky question

An all-out Brisbane Roar defensive crisis resembled the ideal opportunity for the partnership of Sydney FC duo Adam Le Fondre and Reza Ghoochannejhad to bloom on Friday night.

But the combination between the Englishman and the Iranian will need more than one solitary match to prosper into the deadly force that could secure silverware for the Sky Blues.

Although there were glimpses of a budding rapport from the duo, an uncharacteristically quiet night for Le Fondre may draw some cause for concern.

Sydney’s gap to leaders Perth is now eight points and with just nine matches remaining it would require a huge ask of Le Fondre and Ghoochannejhad to overturn that deficit.

It’s a potential question that Steve Corica might have to address promptly – will Ghoochannejhad’s arrival stifle the output of Le Fondre or can the pair work in tandem to fire Sydney to silverware?