Round 1’s lessons: A-Leagues first impressions

Bumper crowds flocked to Parramatta and Perth to see the respective debuts of two star English marquees, debut goals settled the F3 Derby whilst local bragging rights fell to Melbourne Victory after a slender win over Western United. 

Champions Melbourne City got off the mark with a win – but were made to work for it by a relentless Brisbane Roar, and honours were split between the Phoenix and Bulls in the final close encounter of Round 1.

David Davutovic, Matthew Comito, Tom Smithies and David Weiner pick out the stories to watch after the opening weekend.

Melbourne City v Brisbane Roar: Young gun makes case for place in Roar XI

Melbourne City feel they have ample improvement, while Brisbane Roar took plenty of positives from their opening game despite the 2-1 loss to the reigning champions. The Roar will be returning to AAMI Park to take on Melbourne Victory on Sunday, and the attack could be bolstered with ex-Real Madrid and Liverpool youth striker Juan Lescano pushing for selection. Friday’s super sub Luke Ivanovic will be considered for a start after netting the late consolation goal, but it could be too soon for Roar skipper Tom Aldred.

City’s Italian signing Italian Manuel Pucciarelli is in contention for Saturday’s trip to Adelaide United after starting in Saturday’s friendly win over NPL side Avondale. Otherwise City coach Patrick Kisnorbo is unlikely to make many changes as he attempts to establish cohesion after a disjointed off-season.

ANALYSIS: Will this be the best Australian-made attack we’ve seen?

READ: City escape as legend’s warn Roar: ‘don’t be afraid’

Western United v Melbourne Victory – Popovic marks Victory bow with clutch three points

Melbourne Victory will make wholesale changes for Wednesday’s FFA Cup clash against Perth Glory on neutral Adelaide territory, as Tony Popovic taps into his Asian Champions League squad-management experience.

New signing Francesco Margiotta, Johnny Warren medalist Marco Rojas and in-form teen Nishan Velupillay all showed glimpses off the bench for Victory, while Robbie Kruse was an unused sub, underlining Victory’s depth. Captain Josh Brillante could come into calculations for Sunday’s Roar clash, with Leigh Broxham yet again stepping into the first XI for the start of a campaign.

Portuguese defender Roderick Miranda could not have made a better start to Victory life, with a goal and clean sheet in the 1-0 win. 

Western United won’t be dispirited from their 2021/22 season opener, creating enough chances and star attacked Alessandro Diamanti looking primed for another big season. United coach John Aloisi will consider throwing big Aleksandar Prijovic into the first XI for Friday’s home clash with Perth Glory.

MATCH REPORT: Western United 0-1 Melbourne Victory

Western Sydney Wanderers v Sydney FC – Rodwell threatens to steal the show in goalless draw

Two cameos off the bench may have given the respective coaches a quandary as they look to build on the point apiece earned in the derby. For Western Sydney. Jack Rodwell looked relatively fit and assured on the ball in his 12 minutes on the pitch, and could have stolen a late winner with a long-range shot out of nothing. Round 2 is likely to be soon for Rodwell to start, but his quality on the ball will tempt Wanderers boss Carl Robinson to get him into the starting XI as soon as possible.

To rather less fanfare, Max Burgess came off the Sydney FC bench with 14 minutes left, and you suspect that his close control and ability in tight spaces will lend itself to the Sky Blues’ style rather better than Elvis Kamsoba’s direct running in the long run.

KEEPUP FEATURE: Familiar Sydney, but what are the Wanderers in 2021/22?

Perth Glory v Adelaide United – Fornaroli bags a stunner as Sturridge makes quiet debut

The fans flocked through the doors to see the Sturridge show – but it was Bruno Fornaroli who got the Perth Glory faithful singing at HBF Park. The club’s star recruit watched on from the substitutes bench as Fornaroli gave the 17.198 fans in the house a moment to savour, driving Perth level at 1-1 with Adelaide United with a scorching strike from 30 yards out. 

The Reds will now head home to prepare for a Round 2 clash with Champions Melbourne City at Cooper Stadium on Saturday night. Hot on their heels come the Glory, who have a Wednesday night FFA Cup play-off with Melbourne Victory at MARS Sports Centre in Adelaide to prepare for. 

Two days later the Glory face Western United at AAMI Park in Round 2 of the Isuzu UTE A-League season. Head coach Richard Garcia says the squad will be split to manage the unique situation, with a younger contingent headed to SA with a stronger Glory squad preserved for the clash with the green and black.

KEEPUP FEATURE: “We want Sturridge!” A night out at superstar’s debut

Newcastle Jets v Central Coast Mariners – Farrell, Nisbett net debut goals in F3 Derby triumph

First goals are special whenever you get them, but you couldn’t have enjoyed two more distinct emotions in the F3 derby. Josh Nisbett was beside himself, breaking his drought after 41 matches, but then Jacob Farrell, 19, and on debut, marked a momentous month with the goal that proved to be the winner in a 2-1 win to open Nick Montgomery’s account. 

The academy graduate enjoyed his birthday last week, and his first professional deal earlier in the month. A terrific talent, lauded for his talent during the game by co-commentator Andy Harper on

Paramount+, Farrell is another reminder of how the Mariners can continue to thrive while others flex their financial might in the market, consistently bringing players through the ranks.

“Young Jacob Farrell is from the Central Coast and from the academy and that’s what playing for the Mariners is all about,” Montgomery said. “He really put his name out there for the winning goal.” 

The weather was turgid for their season opener, but it was great entertainment – a sign that both the Mariners, and Jets, persistent outsiders, have ingredients for Messrs Montgomery and Papas to play with.

MATCH REPORT: Newcastle Jets 1-2 Central Coast Mariners

Macarthur FC v Wellington Phoenix – All square in Newcastle between two teams on the road

A tale of two disrupted teams ended all-square, but Wellington probably emerge with a greater sense of satisfaction. Well-organised and efficient, Ufuk Talay’s side made light of losing several key men in the off-season. For a home tie with the Mariners this coming weekend, getting Rene Piscopo on the ball more will be key to securing a first win of the season, assuming Piscopo is fit after an early withdrawal against the Bulls.

Macarthur visit Sydney FC on Saturday not knowing when or where their home games will be for the next few weeks, as the club wrestles with the shocking state of the pitch at Campbelltown Stadium. It’s an unnecessary distraction for Ante Milicic’s side, and the focus will be on whether Tomi Juric is available to play against the Sky Blues.

MATCH REPORT: Macarthur FC 1-1 Wellington Phoenix