‘From a different planet’ to a ‘second-rate team’: Two starts no one saw coming

Catch all the goals from a blockbuster second round of the Isuzu UTE A-League.

These are the key talking points from Round 2 in the Isuzu UTE A-League, which included 28 goals across the weekend!

Adelaide United made a statement with a crushing win over the reigning premiers at Coopers Stadium on Sunday night.

Melbourne Victory’s evergreen forward turned back the clock with an extraordinary performance, while Western Sydney Wanderers showed no mercy.

There was also a happy homecoming for Brisbane Roar to Suncorp Stadium.

With a lot to dissect, here are the key talking points from Round 2 of the Isuzu UTE A-League.

WHOLESOME INTERVIEW: Toure’s beautiful post-game chat after ‘amazing’ first Adelaide goal


Adelaide star ‘from a different planet’

Nestory Irankunda only scores bangers. Just look at his latest goal for Adelaide United.

The 17-year-old opened his 2023-24 account with a stunning free-kick as Adelaide crushed three-time reigning premiers Melbourne City 6-0 on Sunday.

Making his second consecutive start in the league, he left Jamie Young helpless after curling a set-piece into the top corner in the 14th minute.

That goal even earned praise from opposition coach Rado Vidosic.

“The first goal was from a different planet. 100%. That was just unstoppable,” he told reporters.

“The boy is very talented and caused problems all night.”

It was a merciless performance from Adelaide, who have been flawless to begin the season.

They have defeated last season’s champions and the reigning premiers, while scoring nine goals without conceding.

This is after the Reds lost superstar captain and 2022-23 Johnny Warren Medallist Craig Goodwin. Adelaide were relatively quiet in the transfer window, preferring to stick to their belief in youth.

“We’ve coped a bit of criticism this off-season because we didn’t really bring players in but we wanted to make sure we kept giving opportunities to young players,” Adelaide head coach Carl Veart said post-match.

“We have a great group at the moment. We saw some of them tonight and there’s still some waiting for their chances.

Young players, I’ve always said this, will surprise you if they’re given the opportunity. If they can see they will get rewarded for the work, they will lift and surprise people.”

For City, despite an unbeaten start to their AFC Champions League campaign through three games, they have lost back-to-back games in the A-Leagues.

The new-look side, after their 6-0 loss to Central Coast Mariners in the 2022-23 Grand Final, have conceded eight goals in two games, while just scoring once.

“It’s going to take more time,” Vidosic said. “We only had three players in the starting XI from last season.

“You can’t draw any conclusions from last season to this season because it’s a completely different bunch of players. We’re working hard and hopefully soon, we will start to get better results.

“We are quite successful in the Champions League. We just need to get that success back to the A-League.”

Listen below to the latest episode of The Official Isuzu UTE A-League Podcast for a full review of Round 2!

Sydney FC back to square one

It’s back to the drawing board for Sydney FC after starting the A-Leagues season with back-to-back defeats.

The Sky Blues’ early momentum from winning the Australia Cup has completely dissipated in the last fortnight following defeats to Melbourne Victory and now Brisbane Roar.

Steve Corica’s side have now conceded five goals in two games, and are still yet to score, heading into yet another tough contest against Melbourne City next Friday.

“They lacked any cohesion. They lacked confidence. They lacked any rhythm,” former A-Leagues striker Roy O’Donovan said on Paramount+ post-game.

“They looked like a second-rate team. To be honest with you, they don’t look like a confident team at all.

“To have a lack of desire is a cardinal sin in any sport, because you know you’re gonna come undone and they did tonight and they will every week, if they don’t match the energy of the other team. Simple, simple as that.

“Brisbane were hungrier. They look fresher and they look confident.”

A-Leagues Championship winner Daniel McBreen added: “It was like a boat that had been untied at the dock, and it was just drifting away out to sea slowly and you just stood there and watched it and you knew it was only going one way.”

A big question mark centres around how they can rectify their attacking woes from the opening fortnight.

“The press from Brisbane was fantastic, but it’s going to be interesting to see how (Fabioo) Gomes pans out. Is he going to gel? Because he’s a big six-foot-four striker. He’s good in the air,” McBreen said.

“(Joe) Lolley likes to cut inside on his left foot and bend things in towards goal. (Robert) Mak likes to come inside and combine.

“I’m thinking, with a striker like him, that you might want to swap sides and get them going outside and whipping the ball so he can attack that ball in the box in the air with his head.

“But it’s not working at the moment, those chances aren’t being created, they’re being really kept outside the box, the low percentage chances of goals.

“So they’re going to have to go and do some research and get on that training pitch and try and work out how they can change their fortunes. At the moment, those last two games have been dire.”

“The big striker (Gomes). I think he’s a bit under done at the moment,” O’Donovan added.

“Pat Wood’s Cup form was outstanding. I think he deserved to start, a bit more energy, but you could make 11 changes next week after that game today.”

Patrick Wood

As the game ran away from the Sky Blues, Corica made a number of changes, bringing on the likes of Zachary De Jesus, Jaiden Kucharski, Mitchell Glasson and Aaron Gurd.

The Sky Blues boss said post-game that he did it because the match “was over”, but there’s every reason to suggest they could help fix their current woes, given how well some of their youngsters performed en route to their Cup success in the pre-season.

“I didn’t want to say it in the call, but when he took (Anthony) Caceres off and he took (Joe) Lolley off, I felt like that was him going, this game’s done and he pretty much confirmed that,” McBreen said.

“The game is done. I’m not going to have the opportunity for these guys to get injured but also to say that, he could have taken another two or three off who weren’t doing their job.

“He’s not happy and you could tell. He’s not going to be happy, five goals against in two games and no goals, but he was seething, and I think it was seething in the way… when he said they (players) weren’t doing their job.

“They’ve said they’ve already had some choice words. I think he’s going to have a few more on Monday.”

Brisbane ‘roar’ back to life

“[It’s like] the days of Roarcelona!” Network 10 commentator Simon Hill said on Friday night, as Brisbane Roar ran away with a 3-0 win over Sydney FC.

The same feeling was tangible in Round 2’s opening game, as Ross Aloisi’s charges sent a statement to the entire competition with an emphatic victory against the Sky Blues.

They were quick, they were proactive and they were ruthless in-front of goal. It was exactly the sort of performance Brisbane fans had been yearning for many years.

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Aloisi’s side are a brilliant mix of youthful exuberance and hardened, established veterans, who have them looking the goods going into the remainder of the season.

Now, it’s about building off the green shoots, which Aloisi hopes will help get more people in the Suncorp Stadium terraces on a week-to-week basis.

“We want more supporters. We want our supporters back. I don’t want to play in front of 7,000, I want to play in front of 20,000. That’s what excites me,” Aloisi said.

“Having these young boys in and showing the Brisbane Roar supporters what these boys will do to play for the Roar jersey, that excites me.”

“We’re building it but it’s the second game of the season. I’ve had these players for four months but some coaches have their players for four-five years,” he continued.

“I’m extremely excited that we have so much more improvement in us.”

Wanderers’ history-making first half

No club had scored more than five first-half goals in a single Isuzu UTE A-League game – until now.

Western Sydney Wanderers equalled the all-time record in the opening half of their clash against Western United on Saturday evening, putting five past Thomas Heward-Belle before half-time.

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The 5-0 advantage was the biggest taken to half-time in any game in Isuzu UTE A-League history.

Lachlan Brook and Nicolas Milanovic fired home two each, while Marcelo added another in a scintillating first-half performance.

After the Wanderers’ 5-0 win over United, Milanovic told Paramount+ it was the type of performance he’d envisaged putting in against his old club, to show them what they were missing.

“It’s what I was manifesting all day, to be honest,” he said.

“I grew up with these boys, I was bred into the A-League with these boys. I just wanted to prove a point that I’m good enough for this league.

“The improvement was the fight. The fight and unity we showed together. This week in training especially, it wasn’t so much technical and tactical, it was more to show a hunger to score goals – and I think we showed that tonight.”

A tail of THREE keepers in Wellington!

Wellington Phoenix’s dramatic 2-1 win over Perth Glory in the ‘Distance Derby’ had it all.

There was Oli Sail’s return to Sky Stadium, where he gifted his former club Wellington a ninth-minute lead.

The Glory goalkeeper attempted to play the ball out from the back, however, he passed it straight to Oskar Zawada – who found the back of the net with a stunning long-range strike.

MATCH REPORT: Wellington’s goalkeeping sensation makes himself a hero again with dramatic penalty save

Then with time running out, Perth were awarded a penalty.

Wellington defender Lukas Kelly-Heald was penalised for handball as the ball appeared to be heading out of play – the referee overturned his original decision after a VAR review.

But 21-year-old Phoenix goalkeeper Paulsen bailed out his teammate and made himself a hero again after his round-one exploits, getting down low to deny Socceroos forward Adam Taggart with two minutes of regulation remaining.

Giancarlo Italiano became just the third manager to win their first A-League Men match in New Zealand as head coach of Wellington after Des Buckingham (14 January 2017) and Marko Rudan (21 October 2018).

And it prompted Italiano to make a joke about Kelly-Heald.

“At least we now have a third keeper,” he told reporters. “We got a bit of a chuckle.”

Italiano added: “My first reaction was that it was out. But then on the replay, it was actually hard to gauge whether the whole of the ball had gone out.

“I don’t want to speculate on what happened or whether the ball had gone out. To be fair, if I was the opposite coach, I think it’s a handball.”

Don’t tell Bruno he’s old!

Bruno Fornaroli and Melbourne Victory put on a show at AAMI Park on Sunday evening.

The subject of A-Leagues All Access heading into round two, the evergreen 36-year-old capped the memorable week with a stunning four-goal first half against Newcastle Jets.

His four goals helped Victory defeat Newcastle Jets 5-3 as Tony Popovic’s side preserved their 100% record.

Fornaroli’s haul took him to third in the all-time Isuzu UTE A-League goalscorer charts with 94 goals, overtaking Shane Smeltz (92). Only Jamie Maclaren, in a Melbourne Derby second-half in 2021, has previously scored four times in one half in the A-League Men.

MATCH REPORT: Fornaroli masterclass leads Victory to emphatic win over Jets in eight-goal epic

Popovic was asked whether he was surprised by Fornaroli’s exploits at this stage of his career, having also scored against Sydney FC in round one.

“No,” he said immediately. “If we start saying he’s 36 well then we treat him like a 36 year old which means we tell the player he is too old, that he can’t move, he can’t play and can’t score.

“He doesn’t want that. He wants to be treated as a p layer that if I perform, I play. If we promote an 18-year-old, why can’t a 36-year-old play? It’s the same.

“We will support him to keep doing well. He looked really sharp today.”

The prospect of a Socceroos recall was also raised during the press conference, with Fornaroli boasting five goals from two games to begin the season.

He has not played for Australia since March last year.

“Lets not get carried away,” Popovic replied. “Look, players should always dream. I tell my players to always dream, to always dream of the biggest place they can be and the biggest performance they can have.

“We have to find a consistency and put it into action on a regular basis. If that’s his dream and we can help support him to get there, I’ll be the first – if they place in Australia – to be in the stands to watch him.”

Rivals put on notice by Bulls boss

After opening his A-Leagues account, Macarthur FC head coach Mile Sterjovski said Valere Germain will only get better.

Germain was on target as Macarthur took down defending champions Central Coast Mariners 2-1 on Sunday.

The former Monaco and Marseille star gave Macarthur a 57th-minute lead in Gosford, where Kearyn Baccus doubled the club’s advantage with six minutes of regulation remaining before Brian Kaltak pulled a goal back in stoppage time.

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“He has come with a super attitude,” Sterjovski told reporters after Macarthur maintained their unbeaten start to the season with four points from two games.

“He is a winner. He leads by example. We all see the quality he has. He has a great football brain.

“He will only get better as he settles in and gets used to the climate in Australia and the heat.”

Macarthur midfielder Jake Hollman also impressed for the Bulls, who condemned Central Coast to consecutive defeats after two rounds.

“Jake’s getting better with each season,” Sterjovski added.

“He is getting a lot more maturity. He’s understanding the type of football we want to play at Macarthur

“He’s doing really well and he has a great attitude.”

For Central Coast boss Mark Jackson, he said: “We want to win football matches. But we want to show a better understanding of how we want to play.

“I think that’s coming with the team and I can’t fault the players for their effort.”