These are the key talking points from Round 5 in the Isuzu UTE A-League.
Wellington Phoenix goalkeeper Alex Paulsen was the hero once more in their 1-0 victory over Melbourne City, while the reigning champions Central Coast Mariners secured their first win of the Isuzu UTE A-League season.
Western Sydney Wanderers claimed Derby bragging rights and Macarthur FC surrendered another late lead against Melbourne Victory on Friday night.
With a lot to dissect, here are the key talking points from Round 5 of the Isuzu UTE A-League.
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Stanton explains unique Goodwin situation
Newcastle Jets fans finally got their first glimpse of wonderkid Archie Goodwin for this season and it didn’t disappoint, with the 19-year-old adding to his exceptional goal scoring record.
A second-half substitute, Goodwin took just 13 minutes to open his account for this campaign in the F3 Derby, producing a beautifully taken finish, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Jets going down 3-1 to local rivals Central Coast Mariners.
Goodwin has now scored six goals in just 630 minutes of action at Isuzu UTE A-League level, but they have come over the course of four seasons with the teen struggling for consistent game time.
When on the pitch, the striker has been extraordinarily potent for such a young player, but fitness issues have restricted his impact since bursting onto the scene aged just 16.
Only Adelaide duo Mohamed Toure and Nestory Irankunda have scored a goal in the Isuzu UTE A-League at a younger age than Goodwin.
Speaking in his post-match press conference, Jets boss Robbie Stanton praised the impact of his young forward, but explained the unique situation that currently sees his game time capped.
Asked how he will use Goodwin moving forward, Stanton said: “I think we just need to be really mindful of what we put him under in terms of loads and things like that.
“He’s coming back from some serious back issues and we just need to manage him really well, monitor how much we allow him to work.
“We’re just trying to get him to the point where he can play consistently 30 minutes and then recover really well without any issues. This is going to be a really good test how he pulls up this week, if there’s any problems.
“We kind of cap him with his time at the moment; how many loads he does during the week as well. Just to make sure it’s not putting too much stress.
“While we’re doing that, we’re trying to make him stronger and more durable and resilient. So far, he’s been able to do a bit of that in the last two or three weeks, we’ve been able to put him through some in-house games and stuff like that.
“It’s really promising, we’ve just got to do the right thing by him and not get too excited, and throw him in for longer and break him.
“If we do it in a nice good pace, we’ll see him a lot more, more consistent. Today, he changed the game. He made the right movement, nice ball in behind and finished comfortably.
“He’s a quality kid, you’ve got to remember he’s only young, you need to look after him. If they want to see this kid more, we have to look after him and do the right thing.
“I know people want to see him more consistently; I don’t want to put this kid out and have to live with that for the next 12 months knowing I overdid it with him. Today was probably the limit, he repaid me and the team, the club with a nice well-taken goal.”
He added: “It is (a frustrating period for him), mentally it’s really challenging for him.
“Even guys like Reno (Piscopo) they’ve suffered a bit from not being able to get on the pitch. He is a young kid, he’s quite mentally tough, he’s a charismatic fella. He’s just a great kid.
“You’re sort of drawn to him really easily, the way he talks, the way he holds himself with people. For such a young kid, he has some really good maturity. We still need to make sure we do the right thing and look after him. If we do, we’re going to see the best of him and I’m really excited.
“When I came here, that was a reason I tried to build the team a certain way, to help him develop.”
The Jets sit seventh in the table after five matches. Their next match is against Melbourne City on December 3. Newcastle fans will be hoping to get another glimpse of their starboy.
“It’s been a long journey. I had a few big setbacks coming back from the off-season,” Goodwin told Paramount+.
“(I) Played that game in Darwin then broke down after that again. I’ve had a good 14 weeks to build myself back up again and I’m in a good place now.
“It is all positive on my end, I’m just looking to get more game time and make an impact for the team.”
Paulsen the hero… again!
Alex Paulsen is having some start to the Isuzu UTE A-League season.
The Wellington Phoenix goalkeeper was once again the match winner on Saturday afternoon, saving Jamie Maclaren’s second-half penalty, among a string of quality saves in their 1-0 win over Melbourne City.
It’s the second time he’s saved a penalty to preserve a win for the Phoenix, doing so against Perth Glory in the 88th minute of a Round 2 victory, while also putting in commanding performances in their draws with Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne Victory.
Paulsen’s performances aren’t going unnoticed by the All Whites either, with the young gun called up to New Zealand’s national team this month.
Wellington head coach Giancarlo Italiano was full of praise for his goalkeeper, but admitted he didn’t expect him to save Maclaren’s penalty.
“I thought he was great, I think it’s a commendable performance because, he’s come across from the other side of the world, he’s had a great experience with the All Whites,” he said of Paulsen, who saved three penalties in a shootout victory over City in the Australia Cup back in 2022.
“Sometimes, young players can get a little bit ahead of themselves and we had a conversation before the game just to stay grounded, stick to what he’s done over the last couple of months to get him into this position and don’t rest on his laurels and he did that today.
“I wasn’t expecting him to save it (the penalty). I think it was great… To be fair, even the follow up was quite dangerous and we put our body bodies on the line and it was just overall a very good performance from AP.”
Italiano also explained his post-game chat with Paulsen after the pair were captured by TV cameras deep in conversation on the pitch.
“It’s more about the fact sometimes these events, even though they’re great for the player, can be a distraction,” Italiano said.
“Sometimes that re-focuses can take time. If you don’t have that conversation then give them your expectation of what is required sometimes they can get lost in what they think is appropriate.
“So I was just making sure that he understood what my expectations were.”
City boss Aurelio Vidmar added: “I think we should of got a little bit more out of it than we did. Obviously their keeper had a pretty solid game (laughing).”
Bulls leaving points on the table
Macarthur FC have been one of the surprise packets to start the Isuzu UTE A-League season, but their impressive opening five rounds could have more to show for it.
The Bulls surrendered a lead in second-half stoppage time for the second consecutive round in their 1-1 draw with Melbourne Victory, after Yianni Nicolaou put the ball into his own net.
It comes after Mile Sterjovski’s side led 3-1 against Melbourne City, before conceding two goals in the 90th and 93rd minute en route to a stalemate at AAMI Park.
Macarthur also led by a goal against Brisbane Roar in their season opener, but copped an equaliser in the second-half via a Jay O’Shea free-kick.
The Bulls have dropped six points from leading positions this season. They would be sitting top of the table with a perfect record if they had won each of those three contests.
“It’s difficult to lose four points in the last couple of weeks,” Sterjovski said on Paramount +.
“I thought we deserved a bit more of the game. We had a few good chances in the second half, especially in the end, we come away with a point against a very good team.
“I think we have to start believing that we are a team that can compete against the best. We still have that underdog mentality, I really believe in these players and I think there is a lot left in the tank.”
Mariners finally get off the mark
The weight of the world is off the shoulders of the Central Coast Mariners, who finally won their first game of the 2023-24 Isuzu UTE A-League season.
Central Coast defeated arch rivals Newcastle Jets 3-1 at Industree Group Stadium, getting their first victory of their Championship defence and first under new boss Mark Jackson.
The Mariners boss said he felt their fortunes were due to change this weekend, after four consecutive losses.
“We knew it was a derby. We know what it means to the fans, and we know what it means that we needed that first win,” Jackson said.
“I thought the players felt that today, and I don’t know, there was just a sense… You can smell it in the air, in the dressing room that the players were, they always are focused, but I just sensed something different today.
“My interactions with the players post game was limited, and at half time you go into the half-time dressing room and the players are solving problems themselves and as a manager, that’s fantastic to hear.
“I said to the players at the start of the day when I came into the dressing room, for the pre-match meeting, my work is done here because we did it all during the week and the boys had clarity in what we had to do, and they went and executed to it today.
“That’s the kind of environment we want to create and evolve and the players were a big, big part of that, and they they produced today.”
The Mariners are back in action on Wednesday night against Terengganu in the AFC Cup.
A win would book their place in the knockout stages, before then facing Melbourne Victory in the league on Sunday.
Tale of two kids sums up the derby
In a parallel universe, Jaiden Kucharski and Zac Sapsford could have been playing on the same side in the Sydney derby.
Instead it was Sapsford who walked away with the winning goal for Western Sydney and Kucharski who was left with a feeling of what might have been for him and for Sydney FC.
Sapsford spent a year at Sydney in their youth team, scoring seven goals in 12 appearances last year – one of which came away to Marconi Stallions and was created by a through ball from Kucharski, who of course came through the academy at the Sky Blues having been a fan from childhood.
It was that form that persuaded Western Sydney to put a three-year contract on the table for Sapsford and convince him to cross the city divide in search of first team football.
Now it looks like the 20-year-old will get more opportunities thanks to the injury suffered by Brandon Borrello early on Saturday night.
Wanderers coach Marko Rudan had already earmarked Sapsford to replace Borrello during the Asian Cup in January, and that opportunity will now come earlier.
“It was a kind of a blessing in disguise because Zac was filling that role while Brandon was away with the national team (last week),” Rudan said.
“So for two weeks we trained quite intensely on having a game plan to beat Sydney, he was the one playing in that position.
“So it was easy for him but like all of (the young players), we work pretty hard not on just the first team but all our squad for them to understand when they come in that it’s seamless.
“You can’t replace Brandon Borrello, it’s Brandon, right? The intensity and energy that he brings is quality.
“But for Zac to come on and do that job and to score the winning goal, I’m stoked for him because he’s put a lot of work in and, you know, he’s had 12 months of development with us.
“(The young players) need to bide their time and some get their chances for different reasons earlier than others.
“We’ve got really good senior players who look after the younger ones, they’re really good role models and they’re always encouraging them.”
Kucharski meanwhile was left with the memory of missing a golden chance just before the Western Sydney goal, after Lawrence Thomas fluffed a clearance but Kucharski could only shoot straight at the Wanderers goalkeeper with the goal gaping.
Luckily new Sydney boss Ufuk Talay has made clear he wants to inject youth into the first team, and Kucharski – very highly rated within Sydney – will continue to be a beneficiary of that.
“We want to give opportunities to young players,” Talay said. “Obviously they need to be good players, we’re not just throwing them in there for the sake of it, but you know that the players will get their opportunity to work with the first team.
“We have a lot of players coming up and training with the first team and get that opportunity to be in that environment.”
Aloisi remaining confident despite Western’s slide
Western United’s poor run of form continued over the weekend, falling to a fourth straight defeat of the Isuzu UTE A-League season.
John Aloisi’s side were defeated 3-1 by Adelaide United at Mars Stadium, a game which could have been markedly different had Western converted a myriad of chances that fell their way throughout a frustrating game in Ballarat.
Western had 2.92 expected goals to Adelaide’s 1.5 according to Opta, showcasing that the chances are being created but the final product in-front of goal is lacking.
Hence why Aloisi cut a confident figure in his post-game press conference that they can turn things around, starting with Wellington Phoenix next Saturday.
“Since I’ve been at the football club, we’ve never created that many chances in a game,” he said.
“We had three or four one-on-ones… normally you get that in half a season, not in a game of football.
“I’m confident. If we weren’t playing well or if I didn’t see the players going right to the end or I saw a group that was not believing them then you have to start to ask questions.
“I don’t see that at all. The results haven’t been there. The performances have been good. I’m a coach that’s been through many situations in the past.
“We’ve won with this football club, for this team. We’re still building, we’re going through a little bit of a transition in terms of a lot of players.
“And it’s a long season… we’ve got time. We want to win now. Yes, but we’ve got time. We know there will be there’ll be there, we’ll be there or thereabouts.”
Concerns for Brisbane after injuries to key duo
Brisbane Roar continued their fine start to the Isuzu UTE A-League season with a 2-1 victory over Perth Glory, but it has come at a cost.
Roar lost both Corey Brown and Florin Berenguer to injury on Sunday afternoon, providing a blow to Brisbane’s already injury hit squad.
Brown – who was in only his second game back with the team – was withdrawn after only 14 minutes with looks to be a “torn hamstring” according to coach Ross Aloisi.
“They will assess it but I’m pretty sure he’s torn his hamstring,” he said in his post-game press conference.
“He was pretty convinced and it looks like that he’s done it. It’s sad because the boy has worked so hard to get into a position he’s in playing and it’s another setback. I know the players will try keep him positive and he’s an important player in this group with his positivity.”
Berenguer – on the other hand – played 83 minutes before his afternoon came to an end due to a suspected quad injury.
“Absolutely there’s concerns,” Aloisi said.
“He’s a huge player in our team, so we will see what the assessment is, but I don’t think it looks good to be honest.”
Aloisi – however – was full of praise for the way Brisbane handled the contest, despite the condition of the Suncorp Stadium pitch.
“I thought the players were very brave to play the football we wanted to on that field because it was difficult,” Aloisi said.
“I explained to them yesterday when I knew what the pitch was going to be like that there were no excuses and that we would try and play our football and create as many goal-scoring opportunities.
“We had something like 23 shots at goal. I am very proud of that playing group.”