The Hyundai A-League has seen some pretty handy exponents of a free-kick over the years but there’s arguably no one better right now than Central Coast Mariners attacker Andrew Hoole.
The 25-year-old scored not one, but two, simply stunning goals from direct free-kicks in Saturday’s heart-breaking 3-2 loss to Melbourne Victory.
An often-maligned player throughout his Hyundai A-League career at the Newcastle Jets, Sydney FC and the Mariners, there’s no doubting Hoole’s ability over a dead-ball.
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The first effort – which was cited the Round 17 Goal of the Week – was a combination of placement and power from more than 30 metres out, while his second was pinpoint.
And his double on the weekend took his career tally to 14 goals, four of which have been from direct free-kicks.
But how does he compare to some of the best free-kick exponents in the competition?
Only four players have scored more free-kick goals in the Hyundai A-League than Hoole since the start of the 2012/13 season: being current Caltex Socceroos Aaron Mooy, ex-Perth Glory star Nebojsa Marinkovic, Adelaide's Isaias and Victory's Gui Finkler.
Mooy and Marinkovic both scored six times from a direct free-kick, while Isaias and Finkler boast five apiece.
Former Mariner Ross McCormack – while playing for Melbourne City – holds the record for most free-kicks in a season with four.
But with 10 games still to go this season, you wouldn’t bet against Hoole adding to his tally given his confidence over the dead ball right now.
The best comeback in Hyundai A-League history in Adelaide?
Adelaide United wrote themselves into Hyundai A-League folklore with their astonishing comeback to beat Brisbane Roar 4-3 at Coopers Stadium in a crazy game on Saturday night.
It was the first time in more than 7500 top-flight Australian domestic matches – dating back to 1977 – a team had gone 3-0 down and won the match in 90 minutes.
So, is it the best fightback we’ve ever seen, especially in the Hyundai A-League? Let's look at some of the contenders.
Roar famously blew a 3-0 lead against Western Sydney Wanderers in a Semi Final in 2016, going on to lose 5-4 after Extra-time.
A couple of seasons back the Mariners trailed 3-0 at the break against Perth Glory but fought back to snatch a 3-3 draw, while earlier this season Glory themselves came back from 3-1 down with 11 minutes left to beat the Wanderers 4-3.
In the 2015/16 Season, the Mariners lead Melbourne Victory 3-0 at half-time in a match in Geelong, only to draw 3-3.
Where does the Reds’ heroics rank?
Have the Jets rediscovered their attacking mojo?
Now where did that come from? Prior to Friday night’s 5-1 drubbing of Western Sydney Wanderers, Newcastle Jets were the Hyundai A-League’s lowest scoring team this season.
Even the struggling Mariners (16) had scored more goals than Ernie Merrick’s misfiring men, who incredibly, were the side who had created more chances than any other team in 2018/19.
But in one scintillating 90 minutes, the Jets found their groove to breathe new life into their finals hopes.
While the Wanderers’ porous defence could be one reason for their influx of goals, there were significant signs the Hunter club are getting back to the kind of football that made them so successful last season.
It was pacy, direct, positive football. If they can keep it going for the last 10 rounds, starting with Thursday night’s must-win clash against Wellington Phoenix – the Jets might just come from the clouds and reach the top six.
Ikonomidis back with a bang for Glory
Confidence can do wonders for players and that’s certainly the case for Perth Glory attacker Chris Ikonomidis.
Returning to the Hyundai A-League after playing at the AFC Asian Cup – where he was one of the Caltex Socceroos’ best – Ikonomidis was the star as Glory were too good for Wellington Phoenix.
Ikonomidis’ mesmerising display and headed goal in the 3-0 win at HBF Park continued where he left off prior to joining Graham Arnold’s squad in the UAE.
The 23-year-old now has seven goals for the campaign from just 10 appearances.
It’s scary form from the former Lazio prodigy and is sure to have Melbourne Victory on high alert ahead of their top-of-the-table clash this weekend.
Victory show resilience in Gosford fightback
Speaking of Victory, they showed the mark of champions in their come-from-behind win over the Mariners in Gosford.
Trailing 2-0 at the break, a massive upset looked likely until Victory’s class shone through.
It wasn’t just the fact their big-game players stood-up when they needed to, coach Kevin Muscat pulled off a masterstroke with the introduction of Elvis Kamsoba and tinkered his formation to pull off the comeback.
Victory’s eye-catching football and the attacking skills of the likes of Ola Toivonen, James Troisi, Kosta Barbarouses and Keisuke Honda often gets talked up the most.
But they also possess the fighting spirit and ruthlessness needed in all successful teams.
Ivanovic cameo gives Corica food for thought
Sydney FC were one of the big movers in the January transfer window, bringing in two players to boost their attacking stocks.
Iranian superstar Reza Ghoochannejhad and speedy winger Mitch Austin were signed as the club battles injury problems to the likes of skipper Alex Brosque, Siem de Jong and Trent Buhagiar (out for the season).
But perhaps the answer to the question of who should partner leading scorer Adam Le Fondre in attack is teenage forward Luke Ivanovic.
The 18-year-old marked his first Hyundai A-League start with a maiden goal just nine minutes into Sunday’s 2-0 win over Melbourne City.
It came just a week after he came off the bench to cause Champions Melbourne Victory all sorts of problems in the Big Blue, with only the width of the post coming between him finding the net and the Sky Blues snatching a draw.
While he is still a little raw around the edges, Ivanovic’s fearless approach, speed and composure around the box is refreshing for someone so young.
And with the Sky Blues looking to fight for silverware on two fronts in coming months, the Bonnyrigg White Eagles junior might just be the x-factor.