Liberty A-League R4 Talking Points: The unseen assist that set up 21yo’s ‘moment of magic’

Join Niav Owens, Teo Pellizzeri, Grace Gill and injured Sydney FC captain Nat Tobin for Dub Zone, unpacking all the biggest talking points from an action-packed Round 4 in the Liberty A-League.

These are the key talking points from Round 4 in the Liberty A-League.

It was another incredible weekend across the Liberty A-League.

There were goals, lots of them and some were unforgettable while Perth Glory preserved their 100% record.

Holly McNamara’s Melbourne City won a wild shootout, Melbourne Victory flexed their muscles and Wellington Phoenix showed they are a force to be reckoned with.

With a lot to dissect, here are the key talking points from Round 4 of the Liberty A-League.

Bend it like Fraser

It was the Macey Fraser show on Sunday as Wellington Phoenix made a statement with a 3-1 win over last season’s grand finalists Western United.

With the longest contract in the women’s team’s short history, Fraser found the back of the net with a stunning free-kick at Jerry Collins Stadium – their home away from home in Porirua.

After Chloe Knott opened the scoring, 21-year-old Fraser produced a moment of magic that will have her firmly in the running for Goal of the Season honours.

She curled a free-kick into the top corner to fire the high-flying Phoenix to a 2-0 lead four minutes before half-time.

MATCH REPORT: Wellington special youngster’s stunning free kick helps Phoenix put Western to the sword

“Well I actually saw (head coach) Paul (Temple) point at me and thought yeah I’ll take it,” Fraser said of the free-kick.

“I’m not usually taking set-pieces for the Phoenix, so this is pretty special to take one and put it in.

“It was awesome. Such a good feeling.”

Of her celebration, Fraser added: “I went to say thanks to Paul for pointing that me.,”

It’s incredible to think Wellington are a team who have claimed consecutive wooden spoons.

The 1,746 fans packed into Porirua Park for Wellington’s first game there lapped it up, and Sunday’s opponents – Grand Finalists in their debut campaign last term – offered the prospect of what can happen to a team that absolutely believes in itself.

Fraser is at the centre of Paul Temple’s new progressive style with the Phoenix.

“That was just a moment of magic,” he said of the Kiwi sensation.

“(We’re) very aware she’s capable of doing that and we were screaming at her to get on the free-kick.

“Incredible. I thought she was the best player on the pitch. Just the quality she showed today in everything she did. She looked in control and very at home at this level.”

Asked why he was shouting at Fraser to take the free-kick, he replied: “I’ve seen her do it enough times and you just have a feeling when a player is on and I just felt she was really getting into her flow.

“I’ll claim the assist but it was definitely all her work that put it in.”

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised at how quickly Wellington seem to have blossomed under Temple.

Officially, Temple has only been head coach since May, but his influence on the players, via various roles with the club and the New Zealand youth national sides, goes back further.

Still, the evidence of the first four games is remarkable, with Phoenix sitting third after three straight wins – and playing a style of football that is particularly easy on the eye. In this form, it’s hard to argue that any team in the Liberty A-League is playing better football.

Initially Temple’s side were unsettled by Western United’s physicality on Sunday afternoon, and only the crossbar saved them from conceding an early goal. But that seemed to settle Phoenix, who started to pen United in with some joyful one-touch football – this is a team with the freedom to play with style.

“It’s good for the confidence,” Temple said of his side’s trio of wins. “I keep telling them that we’re a team that is going to cause trouble for anyone in this league and we can beat anyone on our day, and we just need them to keep believing in that.

“The more we play, the more we keep winning and get on a roll the more they believe in themselves, and I think that’s the key.

“They’ve got to keep believing in themselves. Anything’s possible if we can put it altogether.”

Glory coach sets the marker for red-hot attack

Perth Glory are off to some start to the Liberty A-League season.

Alex Epakis’ side made it four wins from four games to begin the campaign, coming from behind to defeat Adelaide United on Saturday night – thanks to goals from Grace Jale and Susan Phonsongkham.

The duo took their respective tallies to three goals apiece this season, leading the charge for the fleet-footed Glory frontline.

However, Epakis has set the marker down to not only the aforementioned duo, but the rest of his attacking options to also start hitting the scoreboard.

“We’ve, for some time now, needed more goal scorers, more threats, not just from one player. We’ve now got attacking options across the whole front four,” he said.

“I think if we’re going to be challenging, for what we want to challenge for, that’s really important and Susan and Grace are having their time now and long may it continue. It’s very well deserved.

“But I also want to see the other players step up and, contribute to that, not just with assists, but also with goals.”

Millie Farrow also has three assists to her name and was denied a first goal by the offside flag, while Sofia Sakalis has one goal for the campaign. New signings Quinely Quezada and Tia Stonehill are also looking for their first in Glory colours.

At the other end, Glory have been just as strong in defence, led by Philippines international Jessika Cowart – who arrived in the off-season.

“She is a player that can play in a number of positions,” he said.

“She’s probably more of an attacker, believe it or not at heart and has played some serious minutes for other teams higher up the pitch, but for us right now she’s playing that role superbly.

“She’s immense with the communication. She’s immense with the physical challenge and with the ball.”

Epakis also praised her centre-back partner Claudia Mihocic, who continues to make strides this season.

“Claudia (Mihocic) has always been someone who has talent and I think it’s widely regarded that she’s someone that just needs time and she’s getting that time now and she’s got good people around her and she’s starting to really deliver on what her potential is, but she’s still got a long way to go,” he said.

“But the two of them together, they offer some serious steel in the challenges and they offer a really nice aura about them.”

Silkowitz saves the day amid Gosford siege

Brisbane Roar escaped Central Coast with a point away to the Mariners and they had Jordan Silkowitz to thank for their 1-1 draw on Sunday.

It was an inspired performance from the American goalkeeper, who saved an Isabel Gomez penalty and produced a number of fine stops to ensure the Roar left Gosford with a share of the spoils.

Silkowitz made the move to Brisbane on loan from National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) outfit Kansas City Current following the return of countrywoman Hensley Hancuff to Gotham FC in the United States.

MATCH REPORT: Roar keeper’s inspiring performance salvages a point for Brisbane in Mariners stalemate

The 23-year-old has hit the ground running for the Roar, who are fourth with seven points from four games.

“Time and time again for Brisbane she stepped up,” A-Leagues great Grace Gill said on Dub Zone.

“I can pretty confidently say that without some of her saves, Central Coast would have won this game.

“The penalty wasn’t the strongest… Later in the game, a really good technical save.”

Teo Pellizzeri added: “They have absolutely nailed their recruiting.

“They’re disappointed not to have been able to bring Hancuff back this season. But hey, Jordan Silkowitz appears to be just as good, if not a better goalkeeper.”

Gill replied: “Yeah, and if they’re the saves she’s making this early in the season, organising her defensive line and pulling off some of those top-drawer saves then yeah they’ve done very well.”

A career first for a City star at the top of her game

Since the opening whistle of the 2023-24 season, Holly McNamara has been a player in form and that continued in Sunday’s wild 4-3 win over Western Sydney Wanderers.

McNamara was the star of the show, scoring a hat-trick to help City outlast a resilient Wanderers side at AAMI Park.

It was a perfect hat-trick as the 20-year-old scored with both her left and right football before a powerful header capped off a stellar outing.

MATCH REPORT: McNamara’s star continues to rise as hat-trick leads City past Wanderers in seven-goal thriller

For McNamara, it was also her first A-Leagues treble as City stayed undefeated through four rounds – two points behind Perth Glory.

What is even more impressive is the fact she has four goals in as many appearances. It means she has already matched her best-ever A-Leagues tally from 2021-22.

A three-time Matilda, McNamara – who suffered an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury in February last year – is firmly playing her way back into the international conversation.

Victory’s resurgence continues

After a slow start to the season, Melbourne Victory have found their groove.

Losses to Brisbane Roar and Western United had Victory pointless through two rounds, however, Victory have since celebrated back-to-back wins following Sunday’s 4-0 rout of Newcastle Jets.

A Rachel Lowe brace, Ella O’Grady’s strike and a Rebecca Burrows own goal ensured the title hopefuls stayed hot and moved within a point of the top four.

These were Lowe’s first goals since arriving from rivals Sydney FC as Victory maintained their domination of the Jets.

MATCH REPORT: Injury concern for Victory & Matildas striker as another star signing dominates Jets

Victory have won their last eight league matches against Newcastle, having scored at least four goals in four of those games.

It may have come at a cost, however.

Emily Gielnik was brought on at half-time only to be withdrawn just 15 minutes later; post-game, Victory head coach Jeff Hopkins revealed the Matildas forward’s withdrawal was a precautionary measure as she experienced tightness in her calf.

“She felt her calf just tighten up so we took her off as a precaution,” he said.

“She’ll probably have a scan tonight or early tomorrow morning.

“Everyone else has pulled up well… The rest of the squad played this morning as well. We’re in pretty good shape physically as a group.”