Talking points: Superstar quality shines across Hyundai A-League
Big names delivered big performances in rebel Female Football Round.
The weekend saw months of pre-season campaigning, hype and build up pay off all at once, with star quality gracing the outcome of every match.
It fuels what is already a jam-packed golden boot race.
Sydney FC’s Adam Le Fondre has shouldered the early favourites tag to claim that prize, and illustrated why with his fifth Hyundai A-League goal for the Sky Blues in Sunday’s Big Blue defeat.
However, the Englishman is being closely tailed by Melbourne Victory’s Big Blue match-winner Keisuke Honda, who slotted away his third for the season from the penalty spot.
As two of the league heavyweights tussled in southern Sydney, there was an air of Adam Taggart’s brace flying under the radar on Saturday night.
The Brisbane Roar striker hit a brace to help the Queenslanders break their Hyundai A-League duck in a 2-0 win over Melbourne City, and bring his tally for the season to five.
And while the spotlight has shone on Craig Goodwin’s show-stealing performances for Adelaide United so far, a new force may have emerged in Danish import Ken Ilso, who registered his first Hyundai A-League goals with a brace in the Reds' 3-1 win over Wellington.
Finally, Chris Ikonomidis’ stoppage time winner against Central Coast Mariners brings him level alongside teammate Andy Keogh in the Golden Boot race as Perth Glory continue their unbeaten start.
Toivonen focal point adds killer edge for Victory
This is what both Honda and Ola Toivonen, Victory’s international marquee stars, were brought Down Under to do.
The pairing struck in both halves to guide Victory to a crucial Big Blue win, in which they leapfrogged Sydney FC into second on the table.
The big Swede may have benefited from a fortuitous deflection in opening his Hyundai A-League account, but the veteran’s high-class movement and marksmanship was evident.
With a goal and an assist in two appearances for Kevin Muscat’s side, Toivonen has added a much-needed focal point and could be primed to throw his name into the ring for the Golden Boot.
"He's an intelligent footballer. He makes some really clever runs," Muscat said after the match.
"We'll utilise him better going forward and likewise him getting to understand his team-mates [will help].
"He's clever in the way he draws people. I have no doubt he'll get better.”
On Honda, Muscat said: "He had a huge influence on the game. He was excellent."
"We started to take control of the midfield more in the second half and that allowed Keisuke to push forward.
"It was a pleasure to watch. If he keeps influencing games the way he is I'll be pretty happy.
"He looks after himself unbelievably well. He's the utmost professional the way he carries himself and looks after himself."
Taggart's Roar importance made clear
Brisbane Roar’s match up at home to Melbourne City on Saturday night loomed as a match John Aloisi’s side simply had to win after three draws in their opening four matches.
Fortunately for the Queenslanders, Adam Taggart was the hero they needed to kick-start their Hyundai A-League campaign.
Taggart continues to create chances with clever movement for the Roar and his brace demonstrated the bag of finishes he’s got in his locker.
He made seven shots in total: only on two occasions has any player made more in a single game, and one of those instances was Taggart with eight against the Mariners in Round 1.
Ikonomidis the flag-bearer for Popovic's Glory
Physical fitness and a never-say-die attitude have been two cornerstones of Tony Popovic’s management career to date.
Perhaps no other player has typified this more in his early tenure at Glory than Chris Ikonomidis, who mustered another stoppage time winner for Popovic’s side in yesterday’s 3-2 win over Central Coast Mariners.
It's now four goals this season for the former Lazio starlet, to coincide with Glory's best run of league form since April 2016.
Ilso off the mark in Adelaide’s win over Phoenix
Craig Goodwin has stolen all the headlines for Adelaide United in the opening rounds.
But with Danish import Ken Ilso breaking his Hyundai A-League duck with a brace against Wellington Phoenix, the Reds now boast an ominous two-pronged threat.
Ilso’s playing time has been limited during his bedding-in period, but a brace against the Nix could be a glimpse of what is to come once the 31-year-old from Copenhagen fully hits his stride.
Wanderers, Riera continue to blow hot and cold
Western Sydney Wanderers continue to frustrate their fans in the season’s opening weeks, and Oriol Riera was perhaps illustrative of the Red and Black's inconsistency in Friday’s 2-0 defeat to Newcastle.
Riera let eight shots loose against the Jets – the equal-most of any player this season, but was unable to find the net at Spotless Stadium.
The Spaniard has hit a total of 12 shots off-target this season, the most of any player in the competition.
However, Western Sydney will undoubtedly be buoyed by the first-class ammunition Riera is being provided with as Markus Babbel’s men look to ignite their campaign.