Talking points: Glory going to new levels under Popovic
Perth Glory Tony Popovic will do his best to keep deflecting the limelight from his high-flying side but the numbers are making it almost impossible.
Glory provided another compelling reason why they are most people’s tip to finally land some Hyundai A-League silverware with a dominant display in Saturday night’s 4-0 win over Brisbane Roar.
The win opened up a nine-point lead at the top of the ladder and, with just eight games of the regular season left, it would take a serious turn of events to prevent Glory finishing with the Premiers’ Plate.
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The side from the west is playing with swagger, scoring a stack of goals, and look near-impenetrable at the back.
Popovic’s imprint on the side has been phenomenal and he deserves plenty of credit for turning the club from underachievers to contenders.
In a season where Glory have set the benchmark, they are also setting plenty of records as they go.
The win over Roar was their 14th of the campaign, equaling the most amount of wins they have ever recorded in a single season (2014/15), with eight games still to go.
They are also now on a 10-game unbeaten run, equaling the club’s longest streak without defeat (also from the 2014/15 campaign).
“The challenges keep coming and we have three away games now that we know will be very difficult,” Popovic said.
“Hopefully our fans will remember this performance and result, and support us while we're away and be eager to see us when we get back.
“Hopefully we can enjoy more good moments at the end of the year."
Is Castro the league’s creative leader?
While Glory have built their success around their overall team game, there’s no hiding the influence their special Spaniard Diego Castro has had.
Anointed by Glory keeper Liam Reddy as the Hyundai A-League’s best-ever player last week, it’s hard to argue given the impact Castro has had since he joined Glory in 2014.
The 36-year-old, who scored one and assisted another against the Roar, created a match-high seven scoring chances on the night at HBF Park.
In fact, only once since Opta started collecting the data in the 2012/13 Season has any Perth player made more in a single game when Nebojsa Marinkovic had created eight, also against Roar two years ago.
And since his debut four seasons ago, no player has created more chances than the Glory star.
In 87 Hyundai A-League games, Castro has created 204 chances to sit atop the standings ahead of Newcastle’s Dimitri Petratos (182 in 88 games), Andrew Hoole (147 in 81) and Milos Ninkovic (142 in 96).
Are Newcastle Jets back in the finals picture?
Heading into Friday night’s clash against Melbourne City, the Jets’ top six hopes seemed pretty forlorn.
Ernie Merrick’s men were nine points behind both Wellington Phoenix – who had drawn 1-1 with Victory earlier that day – and City ahead of their meeting at McDonald Jones Stadium.
With the Jets’ ACL commitments meaning Merrick rested half a dozen regular starters, Newcastle’s hopes of getting a win over City seemed remote.
But their new-look squad put in a sterling display to come away with a 3-1 win to close the gap to six points with eight games to go.
The Round 23 clash against Wellington in New Zealand looms as a huge game if the Jets are to shoot through the clouds to make the Finals Series.
Lesser lights rise to the occasion
Round 19 of the Hyundai A-League had the peculiar scenario where the top five teams on the ladder heading into the weekend took on the bottom five clubs.
And underlining just how close the teams are in the competition, only one (Perth Glory) of the top five managed to take maximum points.
Both the seventh-placed Jets and eighth-placed Western Sydney Wanderers caused massive upsets by securing wins against likely finals-bound teams, while Central Coast Mariners put a serious dent in Sydney FC’s Premiership hopes with a 1-1 draw on Sunday.
It shows there are no certainties heading into the final eight games of the season with the Premiership, top four, top six and wooden spoon positions all up for grabs.