These are the key talking points from Round 5 in the Liberty A-League.
The Liberty A-League did not disappoint over the weekend.
There was a last-gasp equaliser in Perth as the league-leading Glory went head-to-head with Melbourne Victory, while a Matildas star made a stellar return to the competition.
Defending champions Sydney FC returned to league action with a win and Western United spoiled the party in Brisbane after Central Coast Mariners upstaged Wellington Phoenix.
With a lot to dissect, here are the key talking points from Round 5 of the Liberty A-League.
SUNDAY IN THE A-LEAGUES: Recap all the action from three massive fixtures
SATURDAY IN THE A-LEAGUES: How the action played out across two blockbuster matches
Flashpoints headline Mariners’ fiery win over Wellington
It’s fair to say Central Coast’s 1-0 victory over Wellington Phoenix on Saturday evening didn’t lack any spice.
The Mariners claimed their first home win since returning to the Liberty A-League following a 14-year hiatus, thanks to a late strike from Annalise Rasmussen, but there were a couple of contentious moments either side of the goal which had a say on the final result.
In the first-half, Phoenix striker Mariana Speckmaier went to ground inside the box following a challenge from Mariners captain Taren King, but referee Azusa Sugino waived play on.
Phoenix coach Paul Temple, however, felt that Wellington should have been awarded a penalty.
“I looked at it quickly on the iPad on the bench and I felt like that was a penalty live and I felt like it was a penalty when I watched it back,” he said.
“She’s through on goal and that was a huge, huge moment which didn’t go our way.
“Those things sometimes they go for you and sometimes they don’t, and today they didn’t see to go for us. That was a real momentum killer.”
Later in the game, Speckmaier was involved in another flashpoint, when she caught Mariners full-back Jazmin Wardlow with a late challenge.
Referee Sugino opted against sending off the Venezuelan international after a lengthy conversation with one of her assistant referees, despite Wardlow being forced off the field in the hands of trainers.
The defeat in Gosford means Wellington’s three-game winning streak came to a halt, heading into a huge clash with Perth Glory.
They may also be without Hope Breslin after she suffered a nasty blow to the head in the second-half.
“She’s in reasonably good spirits considering…it was a pretty nasty knock,” he said.
“We’ll have to reassess that and see how she is through the week. Not looking too nice in terms of the injury, but she seems to be okay which is good.”
Victory’s Lowe riding incredible high
Rachel Lowe is putting together a brilliant case for signing of the Liberty A-League season.
The former Sydney FC midfielder scored a five-minute brace in Melbourne Victory’s 2-2 draw with league-leading Perth Glory on Saturday night.
Lowe almost single-handedly won the game at Macedonia Park, as her double helped overturn an early one goal deficit, before Hana Lowry fired home a dramatic 96th-minute equaliser.
With Victory missing Emily Gielnik and Beattie Goad, Lowe took it upon herself to carry the attacking burden against the league leaders and showed tremendous skill playing as one of the advanced midfielders.
“Rachel was involved in a lot of [our good play],” said Victory boss Jeff Hopkins. “She’s been great since the time she [arrived at the club]. She’s getting better and better.”
“The players around her are starting to find her a little bit more and being able to combine with her.”
“For me, she’s the best midfielder in the competition at the moment.”
Since arriving at Victory, the one-time Matilda has been on fire, scoring four goals in her last two matches, equalling her career-best tally in any season prior.
In fact, her performance on Saturday was quite the early birthday present, given she turned 23-years-old the following day.
It is an explosion to form we should’ve seen coming.
When Lowe spoke to KEEPUP before the 2022-23 Grand Final with Sydney FC, she explained the illness that held her back last term.
She suffered post-viral syndrome followed by COVID so bad that it confined her to bed for a fortnight; after effects meaning she was still suffering physical and mental fatigue after each game.
In fairness, few people outside her club were aware of the severity of a reaction from her body to the flu that Lowe was warned could last for a year and a half.
Unlikely partnership sees two generations of homegrown heroes shine together
There may be 12 years separating Emily van Egmond and Lara Gooch – but the two Novocastrians were singing off the same hymn sheet on Sunday afternoon.
There was a near-telepathic connection between 30-year-old Van Egmond and 18-year-old Gooch in their first game together at Newcastle Jets for both of the club’s homegrown talents; Gooch assisted Van Egmond and the latter repaid the favour in a brilliant first-half display against Melbourne City.
The Jets went on to lose 3-2 to Melbourne City at No.2 Sportsground – but Gary van Egmond’s side will take plenty of confidence from what was displayed between the teenager forward with electric pace and the classy Matildas veteran and Australian World Cup hero who, through a four-game guest stint back at the Jets, looks set to unleash Gooch as an attacking force in the Liberty A-League.
Watching on as a co-commentator for Paramount+ on Sunday afternoon was Young Matildas head coach Leah Blayney, who lauded both Gooch and Van Egmond for their connected display and representing the Newcastle region with pride.
“Emily van Egmond and Lara Gooch are two Novocastrians born and raised,” she said.
“Gooch and van Egmond (being) on the same page in most build-ups, you can see they’re being rewarded for it.
“What I’m absolutely loving about this: these are homegrown Newcastle kids scoring for the Newcastle Jets.”
Blayney saved particular praise for the Jets pair when Van Egmond set Gooch up to score just beyond the half-hour mark; the goal came from the Matildas star playing the ball through the legs of Laura Hughes deep in defence, then launching a through ball down the ground for Gooch to latch onto and bury into the bottom-left corner.
“Lara Gooch is a Newcastle girl through and through,” Blayney said. “A Hunter Sports High kid, a tremendous up-and-coming talent. It’s just great to see the amount of game time she’s getting in this league with her home side.
“That is a fantastic goal by the Newcastle Jets. We have our current (Jets star) with our future right there in this build-up.”
While Australia international Van Egmond enjoyed a memorable return to the A-Leagues, there are concerns over City’s match-winning star Holly McNamara following her call-up to the Matildas.
McNamara bagged a brace to turn City’s 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead in second-half stoppage time – however in the process of squeezing her second goal past out-rushing Jets goalkeeper Isobel Nino, succumbed to what appeared to be a knee injury, and was stretchered off the pitch after a lengthy delay.
Adelaide boss explains what’s holding the Reds back this season
Adelaide United are five matches into the 2023-24 campaign and still searching for their first win following Sunday’s latest defeat.
The Reds were beaten 3-1 by defending champions Sydney FC as Fiona Worts came back to haunt her former side at Marden Sports Complex, where the Sky Blues returned to Liberty A-League action for the first time since October 21 due to the international break and their AFC Women’s Club Championship commitment.
Adelaide found themselves 2-0 behind after 26 minutes – a quick-fire brace from Worts put the Sky Blues in control but the Reds responded well as Hannah Blake snatched a goal back on the stroke of half-time.
The home side huffed and puffed but their hopes were extinguished when Princess Ibini converted a 79th-minute penalty.
With only one point from a possible 15, Adelaide head coach Adrian Stenta said: “I don’t think it’s bad luck.
“I think we keep giving away poor goals which isn’t helping us and then we’re getting ourselves into situations where we’re behind and having to chase the game.
“It’s a little bit of that, it’s a little bit of inconsistency from week to week within the game as well. It’s also been challenging to try and get our best players out on the park consistently for 90 minutes as well so it’s probably a combination of those three things.”
Alex Smith’s Roar bow doesn’t go according to plan and he jokingly addresses Matildas selection
Western United spoiled Alex Smith’s first game in charge of Brisbane Roar after emerging 1-0 victors in the Liberty A-League on Sunday.
Brisbane appointed Smith to his first A-Leagues head coaching role earlier in the week following the departure of Garrath McPherson but his bow did not go according to plan at Ballymore Stadium, where Kahli Johnson’s 10th-minute goal proved the difference.
“We started off very well. Put away a couple of chances in the first half and it’s a different game,” he said after Brisbane’s winless run extended to three matches.
“Really proud of the girls. The way they’ve taken everything on board and the effort they showed today. It’s a new way of playing, so it will take a little bit of time to get used to.”
Matildas star Tameka Yallop wasn’t deemed fit enough to start for Brisbane as she was named among the substitutes.
But she was introduced approaching the hour-mark with the Roar searching for a goal.
“It was a medical reason,” Smith explained with a smile.
“A bit of soreness rom the week. Nothing to do with me dropping a 120-cap Matilda for the first game in charge.”
There is concern over Chelsea Blissett after she left the field in tears on Sunday.
Blissett appeared to injure her knee around the hour-mark and had to be helped from the pitch.
“Still waiting to get a bit of word from Chelsea,” Smith said. “We will look after them the best we can depending on what it is.”