For every round of A-League football in 2020/21, FTBL will be handing out awards for the brilliant, bad and bizarre moments each week. In round three, there were goals galore, shock results, and more promising youngsters announced themselves to the rest of the competition.
The Underdog Award
There were two major upsets in the league last week, with both the Mariners and Jets making statement victories over Sydney and Wellington.
Alen Stajcic's Mariners are flying at the moment, sitting two points clear at the top of the table following a shock 2-0 success away to the Sky Blues.
An impenetrable spine has been crucial to their success, coupled with young attacking talents such as Daniel De Silva, Alou Kuol and Josh Nisbet.
In an astonishing statistic, the Mariners latest clean sheet in Sydney means they have now held the opposition scoreless more times this season than the whole 2019-20 campaign.
Delighted for Central Coast Mariners. Proving the doubters, including myself wrong. Very impressive start. https://t.co/R5OpldVQb2— Phillip Rollo (@ByPhillipRollo) January 22, 2021
The boys from Gosford might have just sent a serious message that they aren't here to make up the numbers in 2021.
Newcastle finally got off the mark this campaign following a 2-1 success over the Nix in Wollongong.
Craig Deans said post-match that it wasn't their best 'footballing' performance, and he was right, as Ufuk Talay's side probably deserved something from the contest.
However, the Jets were arguably hard done by in their first four matches, having the line share of control and chances without putting their opponents away.
Deans might even look at Sunday's win as a blueprint for the future, especially when you consider the devastating pace they broke forward with to score both goals.
The Jets are off the bottom, and their win on Sunday reaffirmed that there are no easy games in this league.
The Award for the Most Entertaining Team
Richard Garcia's Perth Glory showed last week that you should always vacate the time in your calendar to sit down and watch them this season.
Chances are you should be in for a crazy, end-to-end, goal-fest.
The Glory's 5-3 win against Adelaide on Wednesday somewhat flattered the away side.
Meanwhile, their 5-4 defeat against Western United three days later was one of the A-League's all-time classics.
A see-sawing second half saw Garcia's side score four and concede four, with Saturday's performance showing the significant imbalance in their play at the moment.
One second Bruno Fornaroli's backheel finds the bottom corner; the next Dylan Pierias has the entire six-yard box to score with an uncontested header.
There are so many fascinating elements to this Perth team at the moment, but they must find a balance; otherwise, the goals will dry up, and they won't stop leaking goals at the back.
When a team scores nine goals in two matches, you usually expect them to have more than only three points to show for it.
After two games (nearly half the league has played four) Perth Glory have scored and conceded the most goals in the league 😍 https://t.co/WwVaLzREQV— Destruction In The Box (@DITBPod) January 23, 2021
The Greatest Half of A-League Football Award
I know we mentioned the Glory's epic 5-4 thriller with Western above, but it deserves a section on its own.
In fact, after watching the goals back again, I'm not sure if as an A-League fan I should be proud of the entertainment provided or concerned with the shambolic defending.
Don't get me wrong; both sides scored some great goals within the nine total.
Fornaroli's back heel, Tomoki Imai's thumping hit and Steven Lustica's clever dummy setting up Victor Sanchez all spring to mind.
But when you watch back the defending (or lack of defending), it makes you wonder how the match should be perceived.
Pierias' goals were far too simplistic from a Perth perspective.
The space both Nicholas D'Agostino and Carlo Armiento were allowed for their goals will frustrate Western coach Mark Rudan.
Australian football fans won't care because it was a great advert in terms of entertainment but take a closer look.
You will see gaping holes tactically.
The How Is He Only 16 Award
16-year-old Mohamed Toure has been the talk of the town in Adelaide these past few days, after a stunning individual performance against the Melbourne Victory in Saturday's Original Rivalry.
Toure burst onto the scene last season when he became the youngest ever goalscorer in the competition, by netting in a 2-0 win over the Mariners.
But Saturday was arguably an even more significant milestone for the 16-year-old.
He proved he is more than capable of leading the Reds' attack.
Right from the off, his electrifying pace caused all sorts of issues for both Ryan Shotton and Dylan Ryan.
He should have scored in the first half after being played clean through by Ben Halloran, and his goal was arguably a more difficult chance.
The exciting prospect utilised his frightening pace to brush aside Ryan, before finishing brilliantly with his left foot into the far corner.
🥒 A 16-year-old strokes it home with the aplomb of an old pro. Mohamed Toure scores in back-to-back games to give @AdelaideUnited victory over their fierce rivals in the @ALeague. What a talent! 💎 pic.twitter.com/TNRRKCDb5c— FIFA.com (@FIFAcom) January 23, 2021
Every time the youngster gets near the ball Reds fans get ready to jump out of their seat.
I think Carl Veart perfectly summed up the type of player Toure is in his post-match press conference.
"You don't coach Mohamed, you just let him go out and do what he does," Veart said.
Keep letting him do his thing, Carl, because I wouldn't be at all surprised if a European team came knocking in twelve months.
The NPL Is Still Important Award
This award does seem a little left of field, but I think it is important to mention.
Valentino Yuel was virtually an unknown before the start of this season.
However, right now, he might be a contender for the golden boot, having scored three goals in his last three appearances for Newcastle.
There's still a long way to go in 2021, but right now everything the 26-year-old touches turn to goals.
I think his rapid development speaks volumes of the influence NPL football still has on player development in the current climate.
Yuel only had his first taste of A-League football last season, when he joined Western United at a more experienced age of 25.
But many years of experience with several clubs in South Australia's NPL competition has made him a ready-made top-flight striker.
His success might even be an example for other clubs to follow.
Look out for the NPL players in the prime of their careers, and you might unravel a hidden gem.