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Exciting and enthralling: Round One’s talking points

The first 5 games of the 2014/15 A-League season have come and gone, and Ultimate A-League’s James Anderson decided to look back on round 1, and the talking points that came out of an exciting and enthralling opening weekend:

A close battle for the premiership

It’s hard to ride off any team after the opening round of the A-League. Teams that struggled last year showed much improvement in round one, and the squads who were deemed title contenders in pre-season did not disappoint.

Melbourne Victory, Adelaide United and Brisbane Roar seem to be three of the teams at the top, though a dip in form or a plague of injuries could open the door for Perth Glory, Wellington Phoenix, Sydney FC, Central Coast and the Newcastle Jets, all of whom showed promising signs in their opening match on the weekend.

Improvement beckons

Three teams will need some improvement if they’re to make the top 6.

Central Coast Mariners are the most obvious, despite clinching a late winner against the Jets. The Mariners lacked any real attacking edge, apart from the inconsistent Malick Mane who may struggle against stronger defensive opposition. Mitchell Duke’s goal in the dying minutes was rather soft, and probably undeserving against a Jets team who played with tenacity and had clearly improved from last season. The Mariners also seemed lost for options in the midfield, which forced the tiresome long ball from deep in defence.

Western Sydney and Melbourne City also struggled, though City’s only real problem will be a void of goal scorers once Villa departs. If Damien Duff can continue on from his form last weekend, and if Melbourne can find some contributions from another attacking player, they will have just as much chance as the other clubs.

As for Western Sydney, their main problem was a lack of leadership in defence. But with Topor-Stanley and Spiranovic to return in the coming weeks, such leadership will surely be restored, along with Tomi Juric and Nikitia Rukavytsya who are expected to front up for the Sydney derby this weekend.

Exciting new crop of talent

The International call-ups were a blessing in disguise for round one, as they forced coaches to experiment with fringe players such as Craig Goodwin, George Blackwood, Brendan Hamill and Anthony Golec.

Goodwin impressed on the flank for Adelaide, and showed some real positive attacking moves despite a lack of game time last season for the Jets. George Blackwood made his Sydney FC debut at just 17 years of age, and whilst he struggled in patches, the young striker did have some eye catching touches, with the likes of Kisnorbo and Wielaert marking him tightly.

Brendan Hamill and Anthony Golec both struggled in defence against a ruthless Melbourne Victory side, though both have shown in pre season and in the Asian Champions League that they have the potential to make a big impact in the A-League.

Bruce Kamau, Jimmy Jeggo, Dylan McGowan, Tom Doyle and Jason Geria were other youngsters who got the chance to impress in round one.

Hype warranted for David Villa

He holds the all-time goal scoring record for Spain, has 33 goals in 77 appearances for Barcelona, and has scored over 200 in the La Liga. So, as you can imagine, his arrival in Melbourne received a good dose of media attention. But with so much expectation, there was the slight chance that Villa would struggle to find his feet in his 10 game stint for City.

The flying Spaniard made his debut in the 58th minute for Melbourne City, though his first few touches weren’t great. His first on the wing gave possession back to Sydney, and then a couple of minutes later his fancy footwork failed him as he couldn’t beat the two City defenders swarming him.

Then, it happened. Fifteen minutes after coming on, Villa came in from the left wing, and with the deftest of touches positioned the ball well for a shot on goal. He took the shot and the ball slid perfectly between Janjetovic and the goal post, bringing Melbourne City level with Sydney.

He is worth the hype.

The standard has risen

The opening game of Season 10 saw Melbourne Victory demolish a Wanderers side who had just qualified for the Asian Champions League Grand Final.

That’s insane.

The Wanderers’ defence had withheld one of the best attacking teams in Korea over two legs, and yet Melbourne Victory managed to put three goals past them in the opening 30 minutes of football. Granted, Western Sydney were without the first choice pairing of Topor-Stanley and Spiranovic, but it was still an impressive feat by the stacked Victory front-line.

Then, on Sunday, Adelaide United played Brisbane Roar, and in an extremely technical game of football it took a wonder-strike from front-man Bruce Djite to separate the sides.

The standard of the A-League has almost certainly risen again, and whilst the following weeks will highlight areas that may still need improving, it’s safe to say the 10th season of the A-League will be a step above the rest.

About the author

avatarJames is a devout Melbourne Victory fan and a UQ Journalism student, writing for Ultimate A-League.

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