He was the standout player in a stellar Melbourne Victory side, and after notching two assists in a 3-0 win over Brisbane Roar, a fit-again Marco Rojas suggested he is primed to return to his brilliant best.
The 30-year-old New Zealand international dismantled the Roar in his 63 minutes on the park on Sunday afternoon, playing a hand in all three of his side’s goals in a performance which sent Victory to the top of the Isuzu UTE A-League table at the end of Round 2.
Rojas created three chances throughout the game, two of which resulted in goals to Nick D’Agostino and Ben Folami. But it was the Kiwi’s passing accuracy in the final third which caught the eye of football expert Georgia Yeoman-Dale, who marvelled at Rojas’ impeccable distribution in and around the box whilst analysing the winger’s performance post-match.
Rojas played eight passes in the final third against the Roar at 100% accuracy, teeing D’Agostino up to tuck a tidy finish home at the front post with one, and floating an inch-perfect cross to Folami to head home in the second stanza.
“He made a huge impact, and what a great addition being his first game in (the starting XI),” Yeoman-Dale said in her post-game analysis on Paramount+.
“For me what stands out is that 100% passing accuracy in the final third. You don’t see that very often.”
MATCH REPORT: Victory go top after 3-0 win over Roar
Fellow Paramount+ panelist Daniel McBreen added: “(He’s) a quality player, and we’re starting to see glimpses of what we saw years ago.
“He’s had that injury run but today he was starting to show that we’ll remember that guy. I think as the games go on and the season goes on and he gets fitter and fitter defenders will start worrying.”
But it wasn’t just Rojas providing the home fans with a vintage showing to savour. It was the team as a whole, led by head coach Tony Popovic in his debut home fixture at the club, performing at a level the Victory faithful were once accustomed to.
After collecting the wooden spoon in 2020/21, the gloom has lifted throughout the opening two rounds of the current campaign, with six points clinched and two steadfast clean sheets suggesting the Popovic revolution is quickly taking hold.
The 13,026 fans in the house slotted seamlessly back into their old ways, too. The crowd dusted off a collective voice too often subdued through the season prior, with encouraging numbers certain to build should performances continue on an upward trajectory.
Wanderers save face with “baseline” second-half performance
It was a better Western Sydney Wanderers outfit in the second half of a 2-2 draw with Newcastle Jets on Sunday afternoon – but in the eyes of Andy Harper the improved performance should be considered the bare minimum for a team with such ambition.
The Wanderers came into Round 2 with high expectations of achieving maximum points from a clash with the Jets at CommBank Stadium, but for the second time in as many games Carl Robinson’s side has settled for a draw on home turf.
It’s not the start to the season Wanderers fans were anticipating, with expectations raising to new heights after an off-season recruitment spree which produced a crop of imports capable of making any side a title contender.
The Jets arrived at CommBank Stadium and proceeded to play the hosts off the park, going ahead in the first half and bossing possession and chances whilst playing with an identifiable style and a tactical approach bought into across the board.
A Bernie Ibini strike late in the half was a bolt from the blue which restored a parity the home side were fortunate to obtain.
The red and black went ahead early in the second half through Tomer Hemed’s debut club goal, but were pegged back by Olivier Boumal and the persistent Jets soon after to set up an entertaining finish in which both teams threatens to steal all three points.
Although encouraged by the Wanderers’ second-half showing, Harper pondered post-match whether the side that showed up in the second half, or the team that pondered its way through the first 45, would be the Wanderers outfit we become accustomed to seeing most this season.
“I wouldn’t be getting carried away with (the second half performance),” Harper said on Paramount+ post-match.
“This is a big club, they’ve got a lot of fans and they need to be challenging for the title.
“What I’d say about that second half, because you’d rather forget the first half even happened from a Wanderers viewpoint – the second half to me: that’s the baseline.
“For a big club that wants to win the comp, with al the investment, that’s baseline and we go from there. The big question now as we tune in for the Wanderers is: do they go (onward) from that baseline, or do they regress to the first half sludge which they dished up? I hope it’s the former, not the latter.”