Talking points: Hyundai A-League history-maker Toivonen shines in Honda’s absence
The Hyundai A-League top three offered lessons in title-chasing resilience this weekend, and Ola Toivonen played a starring role.
Toivonen broke both club history and the hearts of Western Sydney Wanderers with a dramatic late winner at a rainy ANZ Stadium on Saturday night.
Meanwhile, Sydney reminded the competition of their attacking prowess as Perth Glory finished on top of the pile for the eighth week running after a remarkable second half comeback.
Here’s all the biggest talking points from a thrilling Hyundai A-League Round 11!
History-maker Toivonen shoulders the responsibility
Melbourne Victory need their heavy artillery to deliver in the absence of Keisuke Honda, and there are fewer bigger guns firing with greater effect than Ola Toivonen right now.
Toivonen became the first Victory player to score in five consecutive matches following his crucial opening goal late in the first half in Victory’s 2-1 win over Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday night.
That goal stunned the luckless Wanderers after another half full of enterprise but lacking reward, and the Red and Black succumbed to another hammer blow via Toivonen late in piece.
It was a scrappy finish from the Victory front man, but one that sealed a massive result in the context of Victory’s title chase.
The big Swede has now accounted for seven goals and two assists in eight matches this season. He’s continually appeared in the right place with Berisha-esque timeliness, and is growing in leadership and stature by the week.
All things told, Victory emerged from a potential banana-skin with their nine-match unbeaten run intact thanks to Toivonen, but it was only thanks to the defensive heroics of his colleagues that Muscat’s side were able to march on.
Lawrence Thomas pulled off a fine reaction save in the second minute to deny Bruce Kamau, while Leigh Broxham spectacularly headed Nick Fitzgerald’s goal-bound effort off the line minutes before Toivonen stole all three points.
Depth, belief and resilience help Perth stage remarkable second half comeback
Trailing Brisbane Roar two goals down away from home at half time, Perth Glory were fronted with arguably the biggest question of their title credentials to date.
As it proved, it was one that Tony Popovic’s side answered emphatically.
Aided by the dismissal of Roar defender Daniel Bowles on the hour mark and the resulting Neil Kilkenny spot-kick, Perth pounced on their numerical advantage and scored three goals in the final eight minutes of regulation time to win 4-2.
Glory were missing Matthew Spiranovic, Tomislav Mrcela, Christopher Ikonomidis and had Diego Castro on the bench, but the belief and drive coursing through every vein of Popovic’s squad is palpable.
Perhaps no other player embodied this better at Suncorp Stadium than Joel Chianese, who is turning into a genuine match winner under Popovic’s tutelage, evidenced by his role in three of Glory’s four goals on the night.
Chianese’s form is arguably scaling career-best, reflecting very kindly upon the confidence Popovic has helped instil in his game since his appointment.
Sydney FC offer reminder of firepower in Mariners blow out
In light of Perth’s continued title charge and Toivonen’s impact for Victory, Sydney FC have been flying under the radar in recent weeks.
Not that Steve Corica will have any complaints. The Sky Blues remain snapping at the heels of the league leaders after a devastating half of attacking football in Friday night’s 5-2 victory over Central Coast Mariners.
It’s a result that offers a stark reminder of the attacking quality the Sky Blues have at their disposal, as Sydney tallied five goals for the first time in Corica’s reign.
Adam Le Fondre duly converted from the penalty spot to bring up 10 Hyundai A-League goals in record fashion, while Alex Brosque registered his first ever Hyundai A-League treble in jaw-dropping style.
In comparison to the soaring heights of the previous two campaigns, there has been little fanfare surrounding the Sky Blues this season. But with more improvement to come from the Harbour City, who could possibly rule out another Premiership in the making?
City shut door on Jets to remain in the hunt
They say defence wins titles, and if the adage is true then Melbourne City must be considered a valid title challenger too.
Warren Joyce’s men have conceded a meagre 10 goals this season – the competition’s steeliest defensive record, one that was crystallized in Sunday’s 2-1 win against Newcastle.
City have scored 15 goals across their 11 matches – the same as ninth-placed Brisbane Roar. But while Joyce’s side do not boast the free-scoring outlook of the three teams above them, they do possess the stoic, arm-wrestling qualities that befit a true Premiership dark horse.
How City could do with a striker like Roy O’Donovan? The Irishman has now scored three goals in four matches since his return from suspension.
O’Donovan has given the wayward Jets some sorely-required edge in recent weeks, and his continued presence should help Ernie Merrick’s side climb the Hyundai A-League ladder over the course of the season.
Pieces missing in Adelaide and Phoenix stalemate
The absence of a true goal poacher in the mould of Toivonen and Le Fondre remains the biggest hurdle Adelaide United must overcome should the Reds mount a challenge for the title.
That was abundantly clear as United fired in 32 shots to Wellington’s four in the clubs’ 0-0 truce on Saturday afternoon.
Ken Ilso led the line for the Reds and was withdrawn just over the hour mark, while neither George Blackwood, Ben Halloran, Nikola Mileusnic or Ryan Kitto could make the difference against Phoenix’s 10-men.
Craig Goodwin remains the Reds’ leading scorer this season with four, who have won just a single match at Coopers Stadium this Hyundai A-League campaign.