Farcical officiating, frustrated fans and one paltry project capped off a wild weekend of A-League football.
VAR, what is it good for?
If a software failure was blamed for the VAR no-show in last season’s A-League grand final, one can’t help but wonder what Football Federation Australia’s excuse for Friday’s disaster will be.
With the Western Sydney Wanderers and Adelaide United level at one-apiece midway through the second half, Craig Goodwin’s driven strike was inexplicably awarded without review after Nikola Mileusnic appeared to have drifted offside in the build-up.
Given that goals are one of the four types of calls that can be reviewed; Kris Griffiths-Jones – the official in the booth on the night – has no excuse, he flat out failed to do his job.
Was it the cricket; was it Alex de Minaur’s spirited straight sets defeat to Rafael Nadal; what on Earth was he watching?
Roly Bonevacia’s fine free-kick minutes into the second half seemed to give life to a defensively woeful Wanderers outfit, but it all mattered for naught in the end as poor officiating again left its mark.
What’s worse, Markus Babbel’s men were again denied by the VAR no less than 10 minutes later, after Ryan Strain’s challenge on Mathieu Cordier inside the box was deemed legal.
Fox Sports’ Robbie Slater lamented the two incorrect decisions during his live coverage of the match, further fuelling the viewers’ disdain for A-League officials this season.
Such errors have left little room for denial; the nation’s standard of officiating is just not good enough and, as such, so is the VAR.
City by name, not by nature
The City Football Group’s lavish Etihad Campus reception boasts the words “Beautiful Football” alongside each of its four clubs, but after witnessing their Melbourne project’s performance on Saturday night, you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise.
City failed to fire a single shot on target during their 0-0 draw with Perth Glory and left restless viewers struggling to stay awake.
Warren Joyce’s side sat back for the majority of the 90 minutes at AAMI Park, often clearing the ball out from their own half without any reprieve or attempt to alter their fortunes.
Though this “philosophy” fails to suit the CFG’s transcendent demands, Joyce remains unperturbed with City fourth and 12 points safe inside the top six.
And yet, one has to wonder how long he’s got left in the dugout.
As ex-Matildas coach Alen Stajcic found out on Saturday, on-field performances matter little when there’s unrest behind closed doors, and Joyce could meet the same fate should Bruno Fornaroli join a growing list of stars to depart the expectant club.
With the transfer deadline fast approaching, Joyce is yet to fill the void left up front by the Uruguayan’s absence and the fans have finally had enough.
Newcastle Jets fans were left fuming after Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Sydney FC – and with good reason.
The Sky Blues’ profligacy in front of goal fuelled a steady Jets fightback at Jubilee Stadium, but it mattered for naught after Jason Hoffman saw red with less than 20 minutes remaining.
Referee Adam Fielding sent the Jets utility off for a rather tame kick-out at Sydney’s Brandon O’Neill, but – to absolutely no-one’s surprise – the VAR failed to intervene.
Upon replay, Hoffman’s reaction was a result of a clear, albeit accidental, calf-stamp from O’Neill in the lead-up and should have called Kris Griffiths-Jones into action.
Unfortunately, much like the Wanderers found out on Friday, the correct call was not forthcoming.
With Ernie Merrick’s men a man down, hopes of a comeback quickly evaporated and the defending Premiers retook full control of the contest.
As Sydney keep pace with Perth Glory at the top, the loss now leaves the Jets 10 points adrift of sixth-placed Adelaide United, a mountain – much to Novocastrian rage – almost too steep to climb.
A-League goal machine
The league’s form frontman found the back of the net yet again on Sunday, this time in record-setting fashion.
Roy Krishna’s double midway through the first half helped the Fiji forward become the first player to score multiple goals in three consecutive A-League matches.
Krishna’s efforts sent Wellington Phoenix on their way to all three points at AAMI Park, only for Melbourne Victory to pinch a point with a stirring second-half comeback.
The 31-year-old now has 11 goals for the season and sits level with Sydney FC’s Adam Le Fondre in the race for the Golden Boot – a tally that will no doubt increase as Mark Rudan’s men continue their epic rise from mediocrity.
Sunday’s thrilling 3-3 draw kept the Nix 11 points safe inside the top six and while Rudan will rue the two points lost, Wednesday’s match at home to Sydney is the perfect place to make amends.
Central Coast revival
After 10 straight losses, the Central Coast Mariners are back.
Fresh from their surprise 2-1 midweek win over Melbourne City, the Mariners approached Sunday’s match against Brisbane Roar with a confidence not seen since round one’s reverse fixture.
And while both sides settled for a 1-1 draw, Mike Mulvey’s men were not without their chances.
In fact, the Roar dodged a bullet midway through the second half after referee Matthew Conger failed to rule on a potential handball inside the box, despite consulting the VAR’s initial intervention.
“This is my take on it: the referee didn’t give it. Somebody in his ear said, ‘you better have a look at this’,” Mulvey said.
“He’s gone and had a look at it and then he’s not gone and overruled himself.
“Who would overrule himself? ‘No, I saw it right the first time’.”
Three points would have seen the coastal club leap off the foot of the A-League ladder for the first time since round two.
Instead, they will have to wait until Wednesday’s F3 derby to avenge their frustration, a match they will no doubt approach with that same newfound confidence.