Isuzu UTE A-League R19 Talking Points: Aussie’s role in ‘force’ revealed as 2 young guns tipped for big moves

Catch all the goals from an action-packed round 19 of the Isuzu UTE A-League 2023-24.

These are the key talking points from Round 19 in the Isuzu UTE A-League, including two derbies and transfer speculation regarding a Newcastle Jets forward.

Sterjovski’s overseas prediction for young Bull

Bernardo Oliviera won’t be in Australia for too much longer if he maintains his current level of performance, according to Macarthur FC head coach Mile Sterjovski.

Bernardo was at the double on Friday night, scoring twice to lead Macarthur past three-time reigning premiers Melbourne City 2-0 in Campbelltown.

The 19-year-old sensation, who completed the January switch from Adelaide United, made it three goals in as many A-Leagues matches to help the Bulls move up to third in the standings.

Former Socceroos star Sterjovski lauded the teenage attacker in his post-match press conference.

SON OF A GUN: Bernardo scores twice as rampaging Bulls pile more misery on City

“He’s been quality since he’s come. He’s shown his quality. He’s fit in really well with the boys and the way we want to play,” he told reporters.

“Really pleased with his performance and for his two goals. He definitely has a bright future ahead of him.”

Bernardo – the son of Adelaide United legend Cassio – parted ways with the Reds following the mutual termination of his contract in January.

He had initially signed for the South Australian outfit in 2021, and featured in 39 matches across all competitions, scoring five goals.

However, Bernardo wanted to pursue another opportunity and opted to link up with Sterjovski’s in-form Bulls.

“It’s great to boost a squad with that sort of calibre. It pushes the other players as well,” said Sterjovski.

“A good quality young player like that needs someone to believe in him and give him game time. As long as he keeps working hard, he’ll get the minutes.

“He has a bright future. If he keeps working hard, I dare say he won’t be in the country for too long if he keeps performing like that.”

Two questions draw defiant responses from Vidmar as City boss addresses form slump

They’re the reigning Isuzu UTE A-League premiers – but the likelihood of Melbourne City booking a spot in this season’s final series is becoming increasingly unlikely. 

Aurelio Vidmar’s side have won just one game in eight in the league, with their latest defeat coming against Macarthur on Friday night.

But in the press conference following his club’s loss on the road, Vidmar wasn’t willing to entertain any discussion surrounding his City future, and whether he felt he was under pressure to keep hold of his position at the helm.

“We’ve already seen City make a coaching change this season, which brought you to the helm,” a reporter began. “Is the pressure on from the club in any sort of way?”

“Well, you’ll have to ask the club that,” Vidmar responded. “I’ve signed to the end of the year. I’m trying to do a job and get them into the six, that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Vidmar was also asked how he felt his squad was coping with their current form slump, having achieved such consistent success in the regular season in recent years. City have lifted the Premiers Plate three seasons running but now find themselves outside the top six with just eight games remaining.

Vidmar was quick to remind the reporter of the players pivotal to recent success who are no longer at the club.

“There’s probably only five or six who have been part of the furniture – if you want to call it that,” Vidmar said. “We’ve had 13 new players this year, so that’s a pretty big change.

“I think you’ve got to look a bit deeper than just seeing the end product. The players that were here in the past, the first couple of years they were unsighted. They eventually were here for two or three years – some probably a little bit longer – before you really saw the benefit of those players.

“So yes, I think it’s clear the end product, but it’s actually taken three or four years with the same group to get them to that level. If you look a bit deeper, that’s exactly how it is.”

‘This is a lot of his doing’

Sydney FC painted the town Sky Blue thanks to Saturday night’s 4-1 rout of city rivals Western Sydney Wanderers at CommBank Stadium.

It was a merciless performance by a Sydney outfit unbeaten in seven matches and now sit fifth in the standings, just two points behind third-placed Macarthur FC.

Ufuk Talay has transformed the club since replacing Steve Corica in November, with his high-octane pressing approaching wreaking havoc across the competition.

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But Talay and Wanderers counterpart Marko Rudan highlighted the work of a man behind the scenes who has been pivotal in the team’s evolution – Sydney assistant David Zdrilic, who previously worked at RB Leipzig in Germany.

Former Sydney and Socceroos striker Zdrilic returned to the club at the start of the season, taking on the role of assistant coach after accruing extensive coaching experience abroad.

There were assistant roles in RB Leipzig’s academy, where he worked under the likes of Ralf Rangnick and Julian Nagelsmann, at MLS club Chicago Fire, K.V Oostende in the Belgian Pro League and, most recently, at Genoa in the Italian top flight.

“This is a lot of his doing,” Rudan told reporters post-game. “This is the Red Bull system and how they press.

“He worked enough years to understand exactly what Ralph Rangnick wanted from all of their clubs.

“He was able to get into the ear of Uffie (Talay), not so much Bimbi (Corica). It’s been introduced and you can see what’s come out of it. They’re going to be a force, if they’re not already a force.”

‘I FEEL PRETTY EMBARRASSED’: Marko Rudan & Marcelo’s honest assessment of Wanderers’ Derby rout

In his post-match press conference, Talay said: “It’s very pleasing and something we work on. Something also Dave has been very heavily involved with.

“The knowledge he has brought from working at Red Bull has definitely helped us in that sense. I don’t want to say it’s just my work. It’s been a great collaboration with Davey as well to get the boys to that level.

“The boys have bought into it and thoroughly enjoy the way we way. I think it also makes a great spectacle for fans to enjoy that we’re always on the front foot.”

‘The scary thing’ about star’s two-goal haul

Marco Rojas came back to haunt slumping Melbourne Victory on Sunday evening.

Rojas scored almost 50 goals across three stints with Victory, but the New Zealand star was the hero for Brisbane Roar after scoring twice in a 3-2 triumph at Suncorp Stadium.

It was a significant day for the 2012-13 Johnny Warren Medallist, who opened his account for the Roar in his first start having joined the team in January.

ROJAS RETURNS: Familiar face comes back to haunt Melbourne Victory with his first A-Leagues goals in 2 years

Not since February 2023 had Rojas started a club game – that was during his time at Chilean powerhouse Colo Colo – but he was back in the starting line-up against former side Victory and scored his first A-Leagues goals since April 2022.

“Yeah I thought he was good in some moments and I thought he still has a lot of room to improve,” said interim Roar head coach Ruben Zadkovich, whose side condemned Victory to back-to-back losses.

“He’s been out of the game a long while. I’ve known Marco a long time. I remember years, years back playing against him and we’ve had a lot of conversations through those years. He’s a nice player to have back in the game.

“He spent a lot of time out. He’s been working with us for a while now and working really hard, especially in the last couple of weeks. He’s really started to turn the screws at training. We’ve been kind of holding him back with a bit of a leash, just trying to wait for the right game and moment when he is physically ready.

“I thought tonight he was great in some moments but the scary thing is, he was also poor in some moments. And he’ll know himself, he has a lot of room to improve.”

‘You only see how good he is until he leaves and goes overseas’

Ben Old’s reputation is only trending upwards, especially after his two-goal performance for Wellington Phoenix over the weekend.

Old scored twice as the Phoenix returned to the top of the table by overcoming lowly Adelaide United 3-2 at Sky Stadium on Sunday.

The 21-year-old Kiwi midfielder, who re-signed until the end of 2026-27 in November, is enjoying his best A-Leagues season to date, having scored four goals in 20 appearances.

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Wellington boss Giancarlo Italiano was asked if there would be more hype if he was an Australian player.

“Well he should be getting more hype he because he’s a Kiwi player,” Italiano replied. “If he was in Australia, yeah there would be a lot of hype. Again, the media hype in Australia is only for Australian clubs and so it should be. New Zealand media should be looking after us.

“I think he is such an exciting prospect that you only see how good he is until he leaves and goes overseas.”

Italiano continued: “He’s growing every week. The reason why I use him for 90 (minutes), I’m trying to build his fitness up.

“He’s been injured for so long, we’ve had to manage that quite extensively. Our physio has done an excellent job with him.

“For me, he is going to be a vital player in our push to create a really good season.

“He’s a player that needs a little bit of love but he also needs the space and set-up around him to bring his best attributes out, that’s running with the ball, taking players on.”

Jets boss addresses transfer speculation and a young gun’s first start

Is Trent Buhagiar off to Serie B in Italy?

During the broadcast of Saturday’s F3 Derby on Paramount+, it was reported that the 26-year-old Newcastle Jets forward had signed a pre-contract agreement with a team from Italy’s second tier, reportedly Brescia.

After Newcastle’s 1-0 loss at home to in-form reigning champions Central Coast Mariners, Jets head coach Rob Stanton was asked about the rumour.

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“I can’t confirm that. There’s been a heap of rumours on a lot of players in the team to be honest,” he told reporters.

“… this is something that’s been happening a fair bit.”

Asked if Buhagiar – who has five goals in 20 games in 2023-24 – had told him he was moving on, Stanton answered: “No he hasn’t. I haven’t had discussions.

“I’m in recruitment and retention phase at the moment and I’ve been doing that for a while. There’s been other issues with ownership and things like that, trying to solve that.

“I’ve had some conversations with Trent and where he wants to be. I have that with all the players, where they want to go, how they are going to go there, how we develop them and stuff like that.

“If it’s true, it’s great. I want players to thing big, think outside the square. If they can get there, that’s fantastic. He’s had a pretty solid season. He’s contributed a lot.

“Potentially he could be a 10-15-goalscorer if he can fine-tune some of his game. If it’s true, good luck to him.”

While Jets went down to F3 rivals the Mariners, there was another encouraging sign after local favourite Archie Goodwin made his first start of the season.

The 19-year-old attacker had been limited to 14 substitute appearances in the league this term as the Jets continue to manage his comeback from injuries, but he was in the starting line-up on Saturday.

“I think we have to develop his game because he’s missed that three years of his tactical and technical development. We’re trying to build on that,” Stanton explained.

“He will get some starts, we might use him off the bench. He is very useful – whether you change the game with him or obviously start him. So if we develop his game further, it will broaden him as a player. That will go hand in hand with his physical and mental development.

“It’s a little bit of work but I’m happy, because it wasn’t looking great when I first got there. It’s looking a hell of a lot better.

“… he will get better and better. (Apostolos Stamatelopoulos) Stama is a good player. You want an experienced player there with him. Just to help him grow and to learn off. Stama has been that player and he is young himself.

“I’m happy with Archie. I think he is in a really good space.”

Western striker repaying the faith

Noah Botic was the hero again for Western United after leading the basement side to a 1-0 win over Perth Glory on Saturday.

The Olyroos forward made it four goals in six matches as Western ended Perth’s six-game unbeaten streak.

It has been a challenging season, not only for John Aloisi’s Western, but Botic who has had to carry the goalscoring burden up front having bagged six goals in 21 appearances last term.

YOUNGSTER AT IT AGAIN: Olyroos striker ends Glory’s six-game unbeaten run despite late scare for Western

The former Hoffenheim youngster has scored five goals in 19 matches in 2023-24.

“As a club, we put faith into a lot of our younger players, particularly Noah,” Aloisi told reporters.

“We said at the start of the season, Noah needs to play regular football. He has to play on a consistent basis.

“Even though we don’t have experienced players up top around him, he needs to find a way to get through difficult situations and it has been difficult for him and us as a team because we haven’t been winning games, creating chances, not putting them away.

“As a striker, the pressure can build on you. But Noah never shied away. Kept on working on his game in training, looking to improve.

“That’s why I had belief he’d turn it around. He was excellent today. Not just his goal but his general player against two experienced defenders.”