Two moments trigger iconic A-Leagues conversation; image that hints Victory may be back

Tolgay Arslan and Zinédine Machach feature in the opening round's best goals in the A-League Men

The Official Isuzu UTE A-League Podcast is back, and available every Monday to review the action from the weekend. Here’s a snapshot of some of the talking points discussed by KEEPUP’s David Davutovic, Tom Smithies and David Weiner.

Introducing our new cohort of stars…

Tolgay Arslan and Zinédine Machach both immediately earned entries in the Isuzu UTE Goal of the Week, with a real glimpse into the quality they are about to bring to the league.

While Melbourne City went down 2-1 to Western United, Arslan’s quality was clear straight away: a player straight out of Serie A is going to light up the A-League Men, especially once Rado Vidosic’s side’s combinations start flowing.

Machach’s goal was more of the barnstorming variety, and turned heads during the Big Blue.

“We talk about the visa players, I’m really excited to see some of these top end visa players mentioned, Zizou with Melbourne Victory and Aslan,” Davutovic enthused.

“I think these two have got the potential to absolutely take the league by storm and when you talk of the likes of (Thomas) Broich, (Diego) Castro, (Milos) Ninkovic – guys who came here with maybe lesser profiles, but, finished up as some of the elite greats and superstars in their own right. I think we could have another two.”

Options coming back takes heat off Velupillay and Arzani  

Melbourne Victory made an opening round statement taking three points back to Victoria from Allianz Stadium. 

“If you look at the (Luke) Brattan mistake, from an aerial point of view, I think it was almost like a diamond around him in terms of Victory shirts,” Weiner mused.

“There wasn’t actually an outlet for him to pass through… that showed to me a Victory side that was in cohesion, and had they not found that moment of brilliant finishing from Bruno (Fornaroli they) still would have been at a clean sheet or very close to a clean sheet…

“We’ll talk plenty about Nishan Velupillay and Daniel Arzani through the year and… I think what’s really important is the likes of Chris Ikonomidis, Ben Folami, Jake Brimmer (coming back) – you could argue if they were still injured, not fit yet, not in the squad, the pressure or the talking points around Velupillay or Arzani, and the need for them to bring more goals quickly to the game would probably be increased. 

“But he has options so those two can build their way into the season and everyone is saying, Popovic himself is saying, is give us the time to grow.” 

For the full, in-depth discussion around Victory and the Big Blue, listen here, or subscribe via Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to audio.  

Game time codes

8:23 - Adelaide v Central Coast
15:45 - Macarthur v Brisbane
21:10 - Melbourne City v Western United
28:23 - Sydney v Melbourne Victory
35:57 - Western Sydney v Wellington
41:44 - Perth v Newcastle

Davutovic added: “That’s a strong a bench as I’ve seen at Melbourne Victory.

“Certainly in over a year, year and a half and that will probably be the difference because last year when they were needing goals, chasing games, they looked at the bench and a lot of times there were just younger players.

“When you have the calibre…coming on the can change the game in an instant…that back four, that is good a back four as any.

“I think they’ve got the ingredients to really give it a shake this season.”

Adelaide not just about the kids

After all the off-season talk about Craig Goodwin’s departure, three of Adelaide United’s experienced brigade – Ben Halloran, Zac Clough and Nick Ansell – sealed a 3-0 win over Central Coast. Three teenagers might have been in the XI, but look more closely, and the side’s average age isn’t as young as the stereotype suggests.

“I think they’ve got their age profile absolutely spot on,” Davutovic observed. 

“They’ve got a really good combination of old and young and you’re looking at Nestory Irankunda, Panashe Madanha, Jonny Yull in that first 11. Then obviously, coming off the bench, Bernardo, Luke Duzel, and the younger Toure, Musa, who’s obviously following in the footsteps of his elder brothers.

“So they’ve got a really, really good balance and a good core of those older players. They probably can’t afford too many injuries with the older guys, but I think they were looking really, really good.”

Early signs worrying for the Mariners?

On the other side of the coin, Central Coast’s Championship defence kicked off with Alou Kuol and Brian Kaltak limping off, while Jacob Farrell saw red. 

“I can I can see them struggling, I have to be honest,” Smithies said. 

“There’s just so much that has to go right for them to have a good season; there’s so much that has got to click quickly.”

He added: “It’s almost like the ghosts may still be stalking the corridors. I would love to be wrong. But then I think they need a lot to go right for them fairly quickly to get that momentum going and remove these these questions, which are legitimate ones.” 

Smile back for Colakovski

Perth Glory copped a late equaliser at home to Newcastle Jets, but there were certainly big smiles when they went 2-1 up via a goal from Stefan Colakovski.

While 17-year-old Daniel Bennie and Socceroos striker Adam Taggart stole the headlines, Colakovski’s re-emergence after being frozen out last season was a feelgood factor on Sunday night.

“One of the things I enjoyed seeing through the weekend was Stefan Colakovski. It was really nice to see him not only coming into the action, but score a key goal,” Weiner added

“In a league where we pride ourselves so much in seeing young kids coming through, it was really disappointing to see a talent move from Melbourne City to Perth Glory and then disappear off of our radars.

“So, wonderful to see him come back here and see the relief on his face, the happiness on his face. And I thought that was a really lovely story for the weekend. And that was one of my highlights to be honest because he was one of the players I enjoyed watching a couple of years back and it was great to see a little bit of a redemption story happen in our league.”

Italiano gets early big call correct

Goalkeeping was one of the highlights of round 1, with Alex Paulsen’s performance in Wellington’s 0-0 draw at Western Sydney one of the standouts.

“And the fact that that he was given the nod ahead of Jack Duncan (was a big call),” added Smithies.

“It would be so easy to give (Jack) Duncan the gloves on the basis that he’s signed, that he’s coming from outside, his experience etc. But to give a 21-year-old (the nod), he has produced some outstanding saves…that will just do so so much for the goalkeeper’s confidence and and just that feeling that you’re unbeatable. And he would be by the end; he was walking 10 feet tall.”

Milanovic emerges as surprising Rudan asset

Meanwhile, there were positive attacking signs for Marko Rudan’s side despite firing blanks.

“I think Rudan would be generally happy aside from the fact that he didn’t take away three points,” Davutovic assessed.

“(Nicolas) Milanovic is a really interesting one. I did like his performance; a rare start from him. … he was at Western United, a Rudan signing at Western United, he’s a Western Sydney boy and… I think with the benefit of a full pre-season he’s a really interesting player.

“A left footer, a midfielder who has this ability to get himself in some really interesting situations…so I think he’s got huge upside (and there are also) some decent players on the bench as well for Western Sydney.”