‘She’s a star of the future for Australia… watch her, kids!’: Liberty A-League R3 Talking Points

Catch all the goals from an action-packed Round 3 of the Liberty A-League 2023-24.

These are the key talking points from Round 3 in the Liberty A-League.

Goals, debuts milestones and more history. The third round of the Liberty A-League had just about everything.

There were some worldies scored across the competition – from Wellington, to Melbourne and Newcastle.

A legendary Football Fern made an unforgettable debut, a Newcastle Jets great etched her name in history while another Liberty A-League record was shattered.

With a lot to dissect, here are the key talking points from Round 3 of the Liberty A-League.

‘A star of the future for Australia’: Holly McNamara gets her campaign up and running in style

It’s difficult to believe that Melbourne City’s Holly McNamara has only played 17 matches in the Liberty A-League, such is her quality at just 20 years of age.

The electrifying attacker appears to be out to make up for lost time following the knee injury that prematurely ended her last campaign and her display in the 2-2 draw against Western United was the mark of a player ready to rediscover her best and push for a Matildas recall.

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Just as you felt City may struggle to break down Western’s low block, which had proved frustratingly stubborn in the opening half, McNamara provided a moment of individual brilliance.

Jinking inside off the left flank, she dropped her shoulder and directed a strike up and over goalkeeper Alyssa Dall’Oste to equalise with a majestic solo strike.

Then, only 25 minutes later, she latched onto a ball, turned on the afterburners, entered the Western box and teed up Hannah Wilkinson for what appeared to be the winner, only for Kahli Johnson to respond with her own stunner in the final minutes.

Before this round, McNamara had yet to provide a goal or assist, but she already led the league in expected assists, key passes, chances created and carries into the penalty area. Now, that she’s opened her account, you can expect her to find even more momentum.

It could prove difficult for Tony Gustavsson to ignore.

“She is so fantastic. You can see she can score absolutely amazing goals, but she is also an assist queen as well; she is not selfish when she gets in front of goal,” Liberty A-League legend Cath Cannuli said on Dub Zone.

“She understands her role and what she does for this team. I am just so excited to see her back in this league and really wish her a fantastic A-Leagues season because she is a star of this league.

“She is a star of the future for Australia.

“… I think also the best thing about Holly is that she’s so unpredictable about what she does, she’s so creative. She’s not someone who does the same thing over and over again.

“She can change the way she plays the game and she brings her style to that Melbourne City style of play – and it’s just a fantastic watch. Someone you can look to and aspire to be.”

Sydney FC icon Teresa Polias added: “I think she deserves all the hype she gets.

“You can learn a lot as a player, not just as a City fan, watching Holly McNamara.

“She is just so hard to contain, she is amazing in one v one situations, she can finish… she sets things up. Watch her, kids!

“… A great opportunity as fans to build that connection in the A-Leagues and when, not if, she gets into that Matildas setup they’ve got that link to her and that connection. Very exciting stuff.”

Hoodoo over for red-hot Perth

In 13 previous visits over the course of 15 years, Perth Glory had never left the nation’s capital with a win over Canberra United.

However, that changed on Saturday thanks to a 3-2 victory at McKellar Park, where a Canberra regular-season record crowd of 2,229 fans watched on.

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A second-half penalty from Sofia Sakalis proved to be the winner as the Glory snapped their hoodoo to make it three wins from three games to begin 2023-24, while Canberra were left with one point after three rounds.

Glory head coach Alex Epakis acknowledged his league-leading side were aware of that “baggage” entering the contest.

“It’s very pleasing. More so for the players,” Epakis told Perth’s official website.

“It was something that was talked about a little bit inside Perth this week and they sort of brought that baggage with them when we travelled.

“I knew it something that was on the back of their mind but they knew we needed a performance to do that. The performance led to that hoodoo being broken.”

Glory skipper Natasha Rigby opened the scoring before Cannon Clough equalised, as Perth were pegged back before the break by Vesna Milivojevic’s penalty after Grace Jale had earlier found the back of the net against her old side.

While it was Perth’s first win away to Canberra, it was also the first time they had beaten the capital club in back-to-back games, having trumped United in the previous reverse fixture.

“To go up twice, then to concede twice, made it really hard for ourselves… but once we got the third goal, I thought we showed a lot more steel and resilience,” Epakis said.

“Maybe right now it doesn’t look like I’m too pleased, but I promise you I’m really happy with the whole group and where we are now isn’t by chance, the players have worked extremely hard.

“I’m really excited about what’s to come.”

Perth Glory sit top of the Liberty A-League after three rounds with a perfect record.

The moment a New Zealand legend ‘dreamed of

When Annalie Longo wheeled away to celebrate a wondergoal in front of the Yellow Fever on Saturday afternoon, it was more than a year and a half in the making.

Longo was set to play for Wellington Phoenix last campaign, but that dream of playing A-Leagues football in her native New Zealand – something she called the “missing piece” in his career – was put on hold by a season-ending knee injury.

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The legendary Football Fern signed a contract in the off-season following the FIFA Women’s World Cup, but again, her highly-anticipated debut was delayed after missing the first two rounds through injury.

But on Saturday, the Phoenix captain came off the bench and scored a worldie in a 2-1 win over previously unbeaten Brisbane Roar at Sky Stadium, where Wellington won back-to-back games for the first time in their history.

Introduced in the 62nd minute, Longo marked the occasion with a stunning 85th-minute strike after Mariana Speckmaier had given Wellington the lead before the Roar pulled a goal back in stoppage time.

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“I dreamed of that moment and replayed it over in my head, thinking what impact could I have [when I came on],” Longo said.

“I’m just so proud of the team. No Phoenix women’s team has won back-to-back games and that was a goal coming in.

”To get on the scoresheet, get us three points and move us forward was a special moment.”

Longo’s moment of individual brilliance inside the final five minutes of regulation saw her drift into the penalty area, cut back onto her right foot and unleash an unstoppable strike into the back of the net.

“I thought about taking my top off and swinging that around but then I thought [coach] Paul [Temple] will probably tell me of,” she said.

“I just thought I’d get the crowd behind us and roar us home for the last 10 minutes.”

Victory’s calming influence and how they’re trying to utilise import

Melbourne Victory kickstarted their season with a 2-0 win over old foes Adelaide United in Saturday’s Original Rivalry at AAMI Park.

After back-to-back losses to begin the campaign, the title hopefuls recorded their first points thanks to McKenzie Weinert and captain Kayla Morrison.

Matildas striker Emily Gielnik came off the bench in her second coming for Victory and first minutes of football since mid-March, while fellow Australia international Elise Kellond-Knight returned to the starting line-up in Melbourne.

It was Kellond-Knight’s first appearance of the season as the Matildas star reached 100 A-Leagues matches.

“She was on the clock… [I was] really pleased with what she did while she was out there,” said Victory head coach Jeff Hopkins.

“She brings a bit of calmness to the team… She actually starts to just guide one or two of the other people around.

“She brings that bit of stability and calmness to the team.”

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There was also a debut goal for American import Weinert.

“She’s been great throughout the preseason and in the games leading up to today, but she’s got a lot of quality… She’s probably the quickest player we’ve got here as well,” Hopkins said.

“We need to understand how to use her to the best of her potential… I love her attitude.

“She’s a fighter. In training she brings intensity and in games she does exactly the same and she was a spark for us today.”

The A-Leagues’ ironwoman gets her ultimate milestone moment

In 10 seasons at Newcastle Jets, Cassidy Davis has never missed a game.

Since her debut, the Jets skipper has played 132 consecutive matches, a record for any male or female player in A-Leagues history – and this weekend she seized another slice of history, becoming the most capped female at the Jets.

Despite her remarkable longevity, Davis had only ever scored one goal when she lined up for her milestone match against the Western Sydney Wanderers on Sunday afternoon.

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Incredibly, the football gods had something special in store to mark the moment.

On 92 minutes, the ball fell kindly to Davis, who struck a venomous volley that will surely be in the running to be named Goal of the Season when all is said and done in 2023-24.

It was a fitting moment to celebrate the ironwoman of the A-Leagues, sealing a 1-1 draw that sees the Jets sitting fifth in the Liberty A-League after three rounds.