The A-League is showing a newfound competitive spirit this season, with the quality difference between the teams minimal, as seen by multiple results over the weekend.
Last season’s Premiers Perth Glory are at the foot of the table after another poor result, losing 1-0 to Melbourne Victory, who themselves are not positioned where they want to be. Another team in trouble are Western Sydney Wanderers, who fell to Newcastle Jets, with the pressure now mounting on Markus Babbel to turn things around.
Brisbane Roar recorded another consecutive victory against Central Coast Mariners as did Wellington Phoenix by upsetting Adelaide United. Sydney FC end the weekend in pole position after convincingly beating Western United through an Adam Le Fondre brace.
The competitiveness of the league is certainly something to celebrate, but so are the players! Here are the five standout performances from round eight of the A-League.
Confined to the bench by new coach Robbie Fowler, Wenzel-Halls has been forced to a bit part role so far in the season behind Roy O’Donovan and Jordan Amadi-Holloway.
Finally given his first start, the Australian showed exactly why Fowler should put more trust in his local forward than his British pair, as he dominated the show from start to finish to give Roar a much-needed victory.
The 21 year old took seven shots throughout the match clearly eager to get his name on the scoresheet to cap of his excellent performance, but it didn’t come through on the day. Still, his movement caused plenty of problems for the Mariners defence who had no idea how to contain Wenzel-Halls.
Hopefully, this is the belated beginning of a prosperous season for the Brisbane striker after showing his promise last year. Fowler has no argument not to start Wenzel-Halls now.
Kamsoba has had a difficult time since being embedded into the Victory squad last season by Kevin Muscat, and those struggles have continued onto this season. There are flashes of his clear quality which remind us that he fits in, but they are few and far between.
Against Perth Glory though, Kamsoba was able to consistently create chances for his time throughout the game, darting in behind the defence to trouble last season’s Premiership winners.
It seems like the return of Socceroos teammates Robbie Kruse and Andrew Nabbout helped lift his own game, and playing in behind the striker rather than the wings gave him the freedom to roam into the channels to really utilise his pace.
Although he didn’t score tonight, he was repeatedly receiving the ball in the box, and it might not be too much longer until we can finally see the Burundi international score a (legitimate) goal.
Newcastle claimed a crucial victory against Western Sydney on Saturday night and they had Glen Moss to thank, shutting out the Wanderers' attack to keep a clean sheet.
After dominating the first half, the Jets failed to retain control in the next, with Western Sydney coming at them, wave after wave. The defence was constantly opened up but Moss was always there to block the opportunity.
His standout action was the double save he made in the 61st minute, where Moss dived to get a palm on Mitchell Duke’s shot, sending the rebound to fall into the path of Nicolai Muller who thought he had an empty net to aim at, only for the Jets keeper to get his body in front of the goals and make an outstanding double save.
There was another rocket of a shot unleashed by Duke from well out of the box that was storming in, but Moss was able to use his quick reflexes to deflect the ball onto the post and then out for a corner, another huge save by the New Zealander.
On the other side of things, Daniel Lopar was also having a solid performance, yet Moss’s heroics came out on top on the night.
Baumjohann has the typical narratives surrounding him that we see from traditional number 10 playmakers from around the world such as his German compatriot Mesut Ozil.
He’s the type of player that divides opinions because he doesn’t take games from the scruff of the neck and carry the team to victory. He looks a bit lethargic without the ball because he’s not sprinting back after losing possession.
On his day though, Baumjohann is a joy to watch, and Sydney’s win against Western United was one of those days. With Milos Ninkovic out of the squad, it was up to the German to step up his game and he dutifully delivered by creating both of the Sky Blues’ goals.
His first was by delivering a corner – set pieces are an underrated part of his game – with it reaching Adam Le Fondre who capitalised on the mistake by United goalkeeper Filip Kurto.
Baumjohann’s second was a thing of beauty. The 32 year old made a clever run beyond the United defence on the right wing, and then played a precise ball straight to Adam Le Fondre on the far end of the box, taking out three Western United defenders.
His eye for a ball is immaculate and it is certainly something A-League fans will see for the rest of the season at Sydney.
The former Manchester City striker has shown throughout the season that he’s a quality player but, although he had a couple of assists to his name, he was yet to score one of his own.
He finally broke that duck on Sunday night as he flicked a Jaushua Sotirio cross into the back of the net, though Adelaide United keeper Paul Izzo should probably have done more to save it.
Nevertheless, the goal seemed to lift the Englishman’s confidence as he continued to threaten the opponents and he was just as good when he came deep to hold up play. Clearly used to the physical game, he was perfect at using his body to shield the ball while waiting for teammates to make runs forward.
Wellington are a team on the rise, and Ball’s colleagues in former Celtic striker Gary Hooper, exciting playmaker Ulises Davila and young Australian Rene Piscopo mean that forward line-up is one that should cause fear for A-League defences.