These are the key talking points from the sixth episode of Dub Zone, breaking down all the action from a blockbuster Round 6 of the 2023/24 Liberty A-League season.
Round 6 of the Liberty A-League presented plenty of twists and late minute drama.
We were treated to a seven-goal thriller at McKellar Park as Newcastle Jets secured a 4-3 win over Canberra United, headlined by the return of Philippines’ Women’s World Cup hero Sarina Bolden.
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Western Sydney Wanderers’ trip to Victoria was one to remember as they produced an upset against last season’s Grand Finalists Western United with a 2-0 win.
The impressive attacking performance from the visitors could be indicative of the style of play head coach Robbie Hooker will be looking to implement moving forward.
Wellington Phoenix also returned to the winner’s list with a 2-1 victory over Perth Glory despite the absence of their star player Macey Fraser.
Meanwhile, there’s plenty to look forward to on the international scene with the Matildas set to take on Canada in a two-match friendly series in December, but it’s head coach Tony Gustavsson who’s been in the spotlight given constant speculation over his contract.
On the latest episode of Dub Zone, A-Leagues commentator Teo Pellizzeri and host Niav Owens were joined by Matildas legend Alicia Ferguson and fellow commentator Pokuah Frimpong to break down all these major talking points!
WATCH DUB ZONE BELOW FOR A FULL RECAP OF ROUND 6
The 21-year-old star ‘making 100 in a losing team’
McKellar Park played host to an action-packed match between Newcastle Jets and Canberra United, with Sarina Bolden, Emily van Egmond and Lauren Allen securing all three points for the visitors.
The defeat leaves Canberra still searching for their first win of the season with just one point from the first four matches, but the attacking prowess they displayed on the weekend deserves plenty of plaudits.
That was largely thanks to the scoring exploits of Vesna Milivojevic who followed up Michelle Heyman’s opener with two goals of her own.
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The 21-year-old has lit the Liberty A-League alight since arriving in 2022 and is just three goals away from equalling her tally from last term.
Milivojevic has already announced herself on the international stage as well after declaring her allegiance to Serbia in the same year, claiming 14 caps for her national team to date.
Speaking on Dub Zone, A-Leagues commentator Teo Pellizzeri praised the young star for still stepping up in a side that has struggled for results of late.
“Vesna Milivojevic is making the 100 in a losing team every week because she continues to ball out and score amazing goals,” Pellizzeri said.
“But, (in) pre-season I almost facetiously picked (Canberra) to have the highest scoring attack and the highest conceding defence.
“They’re going to blow that away at this point, it’s almost looking like it’s inevitable.”
Fellow A-Leagues commentator Pokuah Frimpong added: “They showed at the beginning of the season that they didn’t get the defensive players they needed, but they got a beautiful attack and Vesna Milivojevic if you got her in your fantasy team you’re dreaming.
“Defensively they’ve just got something to fix and maybe they can get somebody that is a free agent.”
Canberra have shown plenty of promise in attack with 10 goals netted in total this term, the fourth highest in the Liberty A-League despite holding two games in hand on most teams, but head coach Njegosh Popovic now must instil balance to ensure the defence isn’t compromised with 13 goals already shipped.
Western Sydney Wanderers show promising signs
Western Sydney Wanderers snapped their 20-match winless streak away from Wanderers Football Park with a 2-0 win over Western United and the promising performance could prove a turning point.
The Wanderers have faced their fair share of challenges before the season even got underway after Kat Smith’s departure just 10 days out from the new campaign, later replaced by former Socceroo Robbie Hooker.
Matildas legend Alicia Ferguson was complimentary of the Wanderers’ Head of Women’s Football Tom Sermani and Hooker having noted a tactical change in the way the team set-up with a back three.
“I know Tom Sermanni really well and Robert Hooker very well,” Ferguson said.
“They were both the coaches when I was with the Matildas so I understand their approach which is basically forming good habits, protecting the ball and utilising what you’ve got on the pitch, rather than conforming to a specific formation and particular style of play.
“(Hooker is) looking to make players more adaptable so not being so set in a system because then you improve your decision making and with a bit more fluidity, that all is really easy when you win as well so they’ve got that confidence and now they just need to continue building on that and continue building on that momentum.”
Sophie Harding was the standout in the match, breaking the deadlock at the 81st minute and was involved in build-up play despite the lack of goalscoring opportunities in the match.
The 24-year-old has eclipsed her previous two-goal seasons having scored three goals in six games – her highest return in the Liberty A-League.
“I think Tom Sermanni said to me ‘she can catch pigeons’ that’s how quick she is,” Ferguson said.
“If (the Wanderers) have an opportunity to get the ball in behind and turn the opposition around. They need to be more positive and look for those opportunities rather than getting stuck in a set style of play where they might be building out from the back.”
Hooker’s side made a statement with their morale-boosting win over last season’s Grand Finalists and will now be hoping his players can continue on an upward trajectory to build on their seventh place finish from last season.
‘Go be a free agent’: Speculation around Gustavsson continues
The excitement around the Matildas is palpable ahead of their friendly series against Olympic Gold medallists Canada, off the back of their historic run to the Women’s World Cup semi-finals.
Yet it’s head coach Tony Gustavsson who has stolen the headlines in recent weeks due to ongoing speculation around his future, initially linked with the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT).
However, with Chelsea’s Emma Hayes confirmed as the new USWNT boss, Gustavsson is rumoured to have been interviewed for the role of the men’s Swedish team head coach to replace the departing Janne Andersson, according to reports from Swedish newspaper Sportbladet.
When asked what he’d like to see out of the Matildas in their upcoming fixtures, Pellizzeri said he’s seeking clarity over Gustvasson’s future with fears that the ongoing reports could be a cause of distraction.
“No more suspense,” he said.
“I think we all saw the story this week that Tony Gustavsson has been attached to the Sweden men’s job. Credit to him – it’s a good gig to manage your national team of your home nation, men or women.
“But we need an answer. Are (you) staying until the end of the Paris Olympics, serve out your contract and then go?
“Maybe announce that. If you want to go and use your current position as leverage to try and find a job in international or club football somewhere else, maybe leave.
“Go be a free agent. Do it in the open market. Stop using the Matildas to use this position for something else.
“Let’s just get an answer and move on so that we don’t have every media opportunist coming in and saying ‘let’s attach Tony Gustavsson to this job or this job.
“It’s our national job – it needs to be held in the gravitas it deserves.”
However, Ferguson said a manager capitalising on their current job to find a move elsewhere isn’t anything surprising.
“Don’t all coaches do that?” Ferguson asked. “Try to shop themselves around and negotiate?”
Pellizzeri responded: “After hosting this World Cup we should hold ourselves as a nation in the esteem that we’re not going to let coaches do this to our prize national job right up there, equal if not a greater gig than the Socceroos job.”
“Look I don’t think even the players even think of it as deeply as that… he’s done a great job performance-wise,” Ferguson replied.
“Paris (2024 Olympics) is the focus of this four year cycle. It’s the end focus so any other discussion around it I don’t think matters too much.”
Pellizzeri concluded the discussion by calling for a contract extension if Gustavsson has no intention to leave.
“What about an extension? If the players are fine with him, why not give him an extension until the end of the World Cup and then there’s no reason for thinking about ‘what is my next gig on the open market’.”
As it stands, Gustavsson is contracted until the Paris 2024 Olympics and when asked about the various reports, he restated his commitment to the squad.
“I’m passionate about the Commbank Matildas and, as I have stated before. I’m fully focused on qualification and participation at the Paris 2024 Olympics,” he said.
“Our team’s journey towards this goal is my primary focus and commitment.”