Round Five of the Liberty A-League gets underway this Saturday. aleagues.com.au previews every match.
Saturday, 6pm (AEDT): Central Coast Mariners v Wellington Phoenix
The high-flying Wellington Phoenix roll into Gosford on Saturday evening to kick off Round 5, when they face Central Coast Mariners at Industree Group Stadium.
Wellington have won their last three games, knocking off Western Sydney Wanderers, Brisbane Roar and Western United, winning plenty of admirers for their exciting brand of football under new coach Paul Temple along the way.
Their current winning streak is the longest in the team’s history and only two wins away from equalling the total amount of victories they had in their first two seasons in the Liberty A-League.
Macey Fraser has been the talk of the town due to her red-hot start to the season, capped off with a stunning free-kick in last weekend’s victory over last season’s runners-up Western United at Porirura Park.
“She’s super technical, great vision, really quick on the ball and she just makes it easy to play with when she’s playing central,” Phoenix midfielder Hope Breslin said on Thursday.
“She’ll take people on, she’ll play you the ball and she’s just really diverse in what she does and I’m really happy that she’s on our team and not on the other team!”
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Central Coast come into the contest off the back of a 1-1 draw with Brisbane, where they would feel aggrieved to have not taken more from the contest after an inspired performance from Roar keeper Jordan Silkowitz kept them at bay.
Emily Husband could welcome star goalkeeper Casey Dumont into the side this week, after her move to the Mariners was announced last weekend. Dumont joined the club after departing Melbourne Victory at the end of last season and spending the off-season playing for Hawthorn in the AFLW.
Husband has gone with Courtney Newbon in their opening three games, after she was signed just prior to their opening round match with Newcastle Jets following an injury to Sarah Langman.
Whether the Mariners coach makes the switch this weekend will be a curious watch, especially given how well Newbon has performed and the calibre of someone like Dumont waiting in the wings.
This is the first meeting between the two sides in the competition, with Wellington being one of four teams the Mariners are yet to face in the Liberty A-League including Melbourne City, Western Sydney Wanderers and Western United.
Opta stat: Rylee Foster (Wellington Phoenix) has a save percentage of 84.6 by a keeper in 2023-24 Liberty A-League, the second highest save percentage this season; it is currently the highest save percentage by a Phoenix player (min. 2 games) in their history of the competition.
Saturday, 10pm (AEDT): Perth Glory v Melbourne Victory
League leaders Perth Glory are looking to continue their hot streak to start the season when they welcome Melbourne Victory to town on Saturday night.
Glory have won their opening four games of the campaign, continuing their brilliant start with a come from behind 2-1 win over Adelaide United last weekend. In fact, their winning streak stretches to the final game of the 2022-23 season, where they defeated Brisbane Roar 1-0.
The last time Perth won more successive games in the competition was an eight-game streak from February to October 2014 – the same year they won the Liberty A-League Premiership and made the Grand Final, where they fell to defeat to Canberra United.
Perth will also celebrate a special milestone this weekend, as captain Natasha Rigby plays her 100th game for the club.
“It’s a huge milestone and I’m really happy for her, the impact she has on this team since I’ve been here, in particular over the last couple of years has been unbelievable,” Glory coach Alex Epakis said on Thursday.
“I don’t think there’d be enough words to really put into action or put into place that would describe how much she’s done for the team. Her personal values and what she brings just really resonates throughout the group and there’s a real clear link between the identity of our team and what she is and her personality.
“I really love that and I’m really happy for her this, this week, in particular, with the milestone and I think she’s been a big part of what we’ve been building towards over the last couple of years.
“She’s the ultimate club person in that sense. 100 appearance for one team… in any code in the sports across the country, you don’t often see that.
“That speaks volumes of her values, what she is as a person, what this club means to her and vice versa. I really hope that it’s well acknowledged what she’s done for this team. I couldn’t be more proud.”
Rigby debuted for Glory in the 2016-17 season, after moving to Perth from Margaret River to study sports science at university. From there, she’s become an integral part of the team over the last seven years, starting in two Grand Finals in 2017 and 2019, before taking over from Sam Kerr as the club’s captain following her departure.
“I think that story is even more important because coming as a young country girl into a system later on, that’s not easy,” Epakis said.
“I think that’s perfectly Tash though, because she is such a competitor and she really has this fierce mentality where I’m just going to be the hardest worker and I’m going to put everything into the team and those attributes they’re not gained in a youth development framework there. That’s from the grit.
“That’s why I think she perfectly fits Perth Glory and what we are as a team and what we want to be and I think the reality is, she hasn’t had the opportunity yet maybe to go and play in international camps and things like that, but she’s 100% in for Perth Glory 100% of the time, so it works in our favor.
“I believe that at some stage, an opportunity like that wouldn’t be wrong. It’d be perfect for her.”
While their attack, spearheaded by the likes of Grace Jale and Susan Phonsongkham has been firing on all cylinders, their defence has been just as impressive.
Talented centre-back Claudia Mihocic – in particular – has shown enormous signs of growth this season, winning 80% of her 15 duels which is the highest rate of any player in the competition (min. 10 duels attempted).
Their opponents Victory come into the contest off the back of consecutive wins against Adelaide and Newcastle Jets, turning around a difficult start to the season that saw them lose their opening two matches.
Central to that has been the form of Rachel Lowe, who scored twice in the big win over Newcastle, including a brilliant long-range strike.
Victory will be without star striker Emily Gielnik after she suffered a calf injury, meaning Kurea Okino looks likely to once again lead the line for Jeff Hopkins’ side.
The NPLW Victoria Golden Boot winner is still yet to find the net this season, having the most shots of any player (15 shots) to have not scored a single goal.
Victory have had the wood over Perth in recent times, winning four of their last six A-League matches against (D1, L1) and have won their last two away matches against Glory without conceding a single goal.
Opta stat: Perth Glory have scored eight goals in the 2023-24 Liberty A-League, a differential of 3.5 more than their xG of 4.5 which is the best in the competition; the Glory have scored as many goals as their opponents Melbourne Victory who also have a positive differential (2.6) more than their xG (5.6).
Sunday, 2pm (AEDT): Adelaide United v Sydney FC
Almost a month since their last match in the Liberty A-League, reigning champions Sydney FC return to action this weekend to face Adelaide United on Sunday afternoon.
The Sky Blues haven’t played a domestic fixture since their 1-0 defeat to Brisbane Roar on October 21, due to the international break and their commitments in the AFC Women’s Championship.
Ante Juric’s side were based in Uzbekistan for their three group stage fixtures, defeating Bam Khatoon and Nasaf, before falling to a 3-0 loss to Hyundai Steel Red Angels on Sunday night (AEDT) that saw them eliminated from the competition.
The big positive to come out of their time overseas is the form of Fiona Worts, who scored four goals in their opening two matches in the Women’s Championship, taking her tally to five in all competitions since arriving at the Sky Blues.
She will face her former side for the first time since leaving Adelaide this off-season at Marden Sports Complex, a venue she is still yet to score at in any of her five appearances.
Worts had plenty of success at the Reds, winning the Julie Dolan Medal and Golden Boot in the 2021-22 season, en route to helping the club secure their first ever finals berth.
Adelaide, however, have never quite been able to recapture the same heights, missing the finals last season and have started the new campaign without a win from their opening four matches.
Adrian Stenta’s side were much improved against Perth, taking the lead just before half-time, but surrendered their advantage against the fast-finishing league leaders.
Opta stat: Adelaide United have only won two of their last nine Liberty A-League matches against Sydney FC (L7); though, Adelaide have kept a clean sheet in their last two wins against Sydney FC but their last two losses they have failed to find the back of the net.
Sunday, 4pm (AEDT): Brisbane Roar v Western United
The Alex Smith era gets underway at Brisbane Roar on Sunday evening, when they welcome Western United to Ballymore Stadium.
Smith takes over after the club parted ways with former coach Garrath McPherson after two seasons at the helm. The new Roar boss previously worked as an assistant coach at both Brisbane and Melbourne City, along with coaching Peninsula Power in NPL Queensland.
He takes over a side that currently sit in fourth place in the standings, with two wins, a draw and a loss to their name going into this weekend’s contest against last season’s runners-up.
Brisbane were perhaps fortunate to come away with a point against Central Coast Mariners last weekend, with Jordan Silkowitz putting in one of the goalkeeping performances of the season to keep the scores level.
Their opponents come into the contest looking to bounce back after a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Wellington Phoenix last weekend. Mark Torcaso’s side have only won one of their opening four games, losing away trips to both Perth and Wellington.
However, they have shown in their 2-1 win over Melbourne Victory and 2-2 draw with Western United that their best is still as good as any in the competition.
A tactic to keep an eye on this weekend is how Western line-up in attack.
Torcaso has tinkered with his lineup this season, playing Golden Boot winner Hannah Keane out wide, while Chloe Logarzo essentially plays as a false nine.
Logarzo scored her first goal of the season with a stunning long range strike against the ‘Nix, while Keane only has the single goal to her name.
Opta stat: Grace Maher (Western United) has won possession 49 times, the most by any player in 2023-24 Liberty A-League ahead of Brisbane Roar’s Jenna McCormick (42); in fact, Maher also has won possession on average 12.3 time per game this season, the second most of any player (min. 2 games).
Sunday, 4pm (AEDT): Newcastle Jets v Melbourne City
Melbourne City are riding high to start the new Liberty A-League season.
Dario Vidosic’s side are unbeaten in their opening four games – three wins, one draw – continuing their strong beginning to the campaign with a 4-3 win over Western Sydney Wanderers last week.
In fact, City are unbeaten in their last seven regular season matches, a streak which stretches back to the final three games of last season, that’s seen them score at least three goals in three of those matches.
That doesn’t include their loss in the Elimination Final to Melbourne Victory on penalties, meaning they haven’t lost a game in regulation time since March 13 (2-0 defeat to Melbourne Victory).
Their unbeaten run is City’s best since the team’s halcyon days between January 2019 to December 2020, where they went undefeated for 17 straight games, taking home the 2019-20 Liberty A-League double during this period.
They will look to continue their fine run of form when they face Newcastle Jets on Sunday, a side that has never beaten City in the Liberty A-League.
In fact, the Jets have picked up just one point from a possible 39 points against City, coming in a 1-1 draw in November 2019, where Matildas star Emily van Egmond scored for Melbourne.
Newcastle have also failed to score in four of their last five matches against City, conceding at least two goals in four of the last five matches.
Gary van Egmond’s side also come into the contest without a win in their last three games, including a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Melbourne Victory.
They will be hoping to finally regain star striker Melina Ayres from injury, after she missed the last two matches.
Opta stat: Holly McNamara (Melbourne City) has been directly involved in eight goals in her last six games in the Liberty A-League (five goals, three assists) but was unable to find either a goal or an assist in her only previous game against the Newcastle Jets (March 4, 2023).