The halfway point has been reached in the ten-team competition we call the A-League.

There have been highs and there have been lows as well as a few things in between, which have left us in awe and at times in laughter.

After a finals series which brought the best out of the league last season, aside from the VAR, the competition has continued to kick on and how could it not considering the quality of players and managers recruited.

While the league’s new stars Keisuke Honda and Adam Le Fondre shone from the start, a few familiar faces took their game to a new level and even stole the spotlight on occasion.

In the coaches ranks, seasoned campaigners Tony Popovic and Kevin Muscat sit atop the food chain but are making room for one Mark Rudan. Markus Babbel continues to entertain in his post-match rants and wardrobe and Ernie Merrick well, he’s the same old Ernie.

Further, two new teams were added in a tumultuous few months for Football Federation Australia.

The A-League never fails to entertain and here are some of the key takings from the first half of season 2018/19.

Biggest talking point – VAR at it again.

VAR discussion and bashing was all the craze in the opening two weeks of the season following controversial decisions in the Melbourne and Sydney derbies.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to the VAR.

There are those who disapprove of its use full stop, believing it takes drama out of the game as well as thinking the system exacerbates decisions instead of rectifying them.

The other view suggests it is not the technology which is at fault but rather the standard of referees.

Football Federation Australia has stood its ground with the VAR confirming it’s here to stay and despite a few contentious decisions, it has been put to good use on occasion.

Though there have simultaneously been instances where many, like Darren Davies last Friday night, have questioned why it was not referred to when it should have been.

Regardless, as long as the VAR is a part of the A-League it will always be a topic for debate and controversy, just ask the Newcastle Jets.

bris vs city

 

Biggest surprise – Wellington Phoenix.

Not even Steven Spielberg could have written this.

A club on the brink of extinction, renowned for poor attendances and football have, upon the arrival of Mark Rudan in his first season as a professional coach, not only solidified themselves as a finals outfit but silverware contenders.

For the Phoenix fans, this has been a long time coming.

Mark Rudan went across the ditch with a plan in place and has, so far, executed it to near perfection.

Unbeaten in their last eight games, which saw them travel three weeks consecutively, Wellington are not only getting points on the board but are playing attractive football along the way.

Former Premier League defender Steven Taylor has embraced his new club, playing for the name at the front of the shirt and showing centre backs can score goals too.

Roy Krishna has become the player everyone knew he was capable of being through improving his defensive work rate in addition to being one of the league’s most dangerous players, placing him in contention for the Johnny Warren medal.

As Mark Rudan continues to say there is still a long way to go, but the Phoenix have given the rest of the league plenty to think about at the season’s half-way point.

nix vs ccm

Biggest disappointment – Western Sydney Wanderers

It would be easy to give this title to the Central Coast Mariners who are without a win at the half way point, but the Wanderers have been big underachievers in this first half of the season.

They have been the league’s most inconsistent team with only two wins after 13 rounds and sit ten points outside the top six.

When they have wanted to, the Wanderers have played good football under Markus Babbel but too often their performances have been anything but inspiring.

An attacking line up which boasts names such as Oriol Riera, Roly Bonevacia and Alexander Baumjohann should not be so far off the pace but alas the Wanderers have lacked conviction so far this season, falling victim to far too many heart-breaking losses.

The team’s showing against Perth Glory on the weekend boasted many positives, considering five players were under 21, but the last ten minutes summed up the side’s season as they let a two-goal lead slip.

babbel.jpg

 

Biggest Drama – Bruno Fornaroli

The odd case of Bruno Fornaroli.

One of the league’s best players frozen out by Melbourne City, who have also appeared to have blocked a transfer to another A-League club.

There were rumours over his fitness as well as an ambition to join Sydney FC during the pre-season and then there was the proposed trade between him for Perth Glory’s Andy Keogh.

City fans did not take too kindly to Fornaroli’s absence and turned on head coach Warren Joyce, until City turned their season around that is.

Will Fornaroli play for City again? Not likely.

Will this saga continue throughout the season? You better believe it.

vuk 2

 

Best match – Brisbane Roar 2 – 4 Perth Glory

Under Tony Popovic, Perth Glory have a knack of coming from behind to provide some late drama.

They did it against the Melbourne Victory, Central Coast Mariners and against a youthful Wanderers outfit, but their comeback against the Brisbane Roar takes the cake.

While this game had fewer goals than the one against the Wanderers, the drama and subplots within this game were second to none.

It started when Adam Taggart, who left the Glory in controversial circumstances, scored a first half brace to give the Roar a 2-0 lead at half time, though the match was turned on its head after Daniel Bowles was sent off allowing for the Glory comeback to commence.

Perth scored four second half goals, three of which came in the last minutes, to lead 4-2 heading into stoppage time.

Brisbane were awarded a late penalty and the chance to surge a late comeback but Adam Taggart failed to convert and complete his hat-trick against his former employers.

perth kilkenny

 

Player of the season…so far – Adam Le Fondre & Roy Krishna

These two were too difficult to separate for they have been significant contributors to their squads this season.

Adam Le Fondre came to Sydney FC with big expectations and shoes to fill after the record-breaking Bobo departed the club.

Le Fondre wasted little time to get going and currently leads the golden boot with eleven goals, breaking the record for being the fastest player to reach double figures in goals.

Sydney FC have been quiet achievers this season under Steve Corica in a season many expected them to drop, but the Sky Blues are still right in the mix for silverware and have shown they are still worthy contenders.

Roy Krishna meanwhile is one player who took his game to a new level this season. He has lifted with his team and has even become a New Zealand citizen, providing hope to fans he will sign on despite being out of contract.

Krishna’s work ethic has improved significantly having scored nine goals and partnering up with young-gun Sarpreet Singh to produce the league’s deadliest duo.

With Keisuke Honda sidelined due to injury it appears the Johnny Warren Medal could come down to these two.

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Athos Sirianos
athos@footballnationradio.com.au