They were the games of the 2020/21 A-League campaign that turned heads, flipped scripts and provided the fans in the stands with “I was there” moments to cherish.
Read on as a-league.com.au looks back on ten of the most memorable fixtures served up throughout 24 entertaining Matchweeks in the 2020/21 A-League campaign!
Matchweek 19: Western Sydney Wanderers 3-2 Sydney FC
“It’s a famous night at Bankwest. Scott McDonald on his debut with what proves the match-winner. A five-goal thriller to resurrect the Wanderers’ finals hopes.”
A berth in the Finals Series wasn’t to eventuate for Western Sydney by the end of 2020/21, much to the disappointment of a club with high expectations heading into the season. But in Matchweek 19, Wanderers fans dared to dream after a 3-2 Sydney Derby triumph in front of a vibrant crowd packed into Bankwest Stadium.
More than 20,000 fans filled the stands to watch the home side try and stop the rot, having gone six games without a win heading into the clash with Sydney FC. The Sky Blues hadn’t lost for six games heading into the Sydney Derby, and they wouldn’t lose for seven more in the games that followed. But on the first night of May, the Wanderers served up a performance to remember to extend their unbeaten run against the Sky Blues to six games.
The five-goal contest saw the brilliant Bruce Kamau open the scoring, before the Duke of Parramatta doubled the advantage. Alex Wilkinson found a rare goal early in the second half for the Sky Blues, but Scott McDonald made it 3-1 down the other end just minutes after emerging from the bench in his first appearance for the Red and Black.
Trent Buhagiar won the visitors a penalty in the 83rd minute, which Bobô blasted high over the bar – much to the delight of the home fans. A manic finish was to follow, as Anthony Caceres combined with Miloš Ninković to burst into the box and tee Bobô up to find his 50th goal in A-League history from close range.
Caceres thundered a late shot from outside the box off the crossbar as the Sky Blues tried desperately to salvage a point, but it was too little, too late for the eventual Grand Finalists as the Wanderers won out on a memorable night at Bankwest Stadium.
Matchweek 22: Wellington Phoenix 3-0 Western United
“There’s no place like home for the Wellington Phoenix… Lewis, Piscopo and Hemed all on the scoresheet. 24,000-plus delirious fans, Wellington Phoenix three, Western United nil.“
433 days after the last playing on home soil, Wellington Phoenix returned to Sky Stadium to beat Western United 3-0 in front of a record-breaking crowd at Sky Stadium in Matchweek 22.
Wellington’s biggest-ever home crowd for a regular season fixture flocked to see their side in the flesh for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic saw the ‘Nix base themselves in New South Wales to ensure both the 2019/20 and 2020/21 A-League campaigns could go ahead.
The sacrifices made by the New Zealand outfit produced plenty of challenges and hardships throughout the season. It’s what made their return across the ditch even sweeter when a travel bubble between the two A-League countries allowed the Phoenix to arrange two fixtures to be held in Wellington and Aukland before the end of the 2020/21 campaign.
The first of which came at Sky Stadium, and the performance of the home side combined with the passion pouring out of an emotionally-charged crowd made for an unforgettable occasion in Wellington.
Clayton Lewis, Reno Piscopo and Tomer Hemed were the scorers for the Phoenix on that special day in May.
Matchweek 18: Central Coast Mariners 2-2 Sydney FC
“The points are split on a pulsating night on the Central Coast.”
Second on the table and gunning to remain in the hunt for the Premiers Plate, Central Coast Mariners hosted the surging Sky Blues in front of the biggest home crowd pulled by the Gosford side throughout the regular season.
It seemed the Mariners faithful were in for a treat when goals to Marco Ureña and Matt Simon scored to put the home side two goals up in the first half, before Sydney put on a comeback effort inspired by Ninković’s inventive volley scored off the outside of his right foot in the dying embers of the first half.
The Sky Blues saw a second-half equaliser ruled out by VAR, and Andrew Redmayne denied Ureña a sealer down the other end with a strong save soon after before Buhagiar got Sydney back on level terms with less than ten minutes to play.
After the game Alen Stajcic said it was the most alive he’s felt at an A-League ground throughout his two-year stint as head coach of the Mariners, as he and the 10,000-strong crowd were treated to a classic encounter between two teams desperate for points.
Matchweek 10: Melbourne Victory 3-4 Western United
“A chance here to win it – SANCHEZ… Western United do claim the three points in the final seconds!”
The ultimate display of last-gasp drama occurred in Matchweek 10 when Western United pipped Melbourne Victory to the post in an intense instalment of the Battle of the Bridge at Marvel Stadium.
Victor Sánchez scored three goals throughout 2020/21 for Western United. Two of those strikes came on February 27 against Victory, with the second rippling the back of the net in the sixth minute of additional time to grant the Green and Black a 4-3 win.
Sánchez had scored the goal to take the two sides into the half-time break level at 1-1 after Callum McManaman’s opener for Victory. United then pulled ahead through a quick-fire Besart Berisha brace in the second stanza. Up 3-1 and cruising, United conceded to Jacob Butterfield before Tomislav Uskok earned a second booking for the half to reduce his side to ten men for the final half-hour of play.
Rudy Gestede netted a towering header in the 82nd minute to draw Victory level and send the home fans wild – but instead of watching their side go on to clinch all three points, the Victory faithful were to watch it all fall apart down the other end as Sánchez popped up in the right place at the right time to score the ultimate heartbreaker.
Matchweek 17: Melbourne City 7-0 Melbourne Victory
“An historic night, the 34th Melbourne Derby sees Jamie Maclaren score five… It’s elation for City and humiliation for the Victory, who cop seven for the first time in A-League history.”
In the moments before kick-off in Matchweek 17’s Melbourne Derby, Melbourne City fans held aloft signs displaying the number ‘6’ to remind their opponents, Melbourne Victory, of City’s 6-0 romp in the same fixture earlier in the 2020/21 campaign.
Little did they know their side were about to go one better on an unforgettable night at AAMI Park.
The contest was all but over by half-time after Andrew Nabbout and Jamie Maclaren scored on either side of Victory defender Adama Traoré’s straight red card on 30 minutes. But after the break City put on a relentless display, with Maclaren bagging four more and Adrián Luna putting the icing on the cake of a 7-0 rout.
City’s combined score of 13 goals to nil against Victory across the first two Melbourne Derby fixtures in 2020/21 signalled a seismic shift in Victoria as City went on to claim the Premiership/Championship double and Victory slumped to a club-first wooden spoon.
Matchweek 7: Central Coast Mariners 3-2 Western United
“Burgess was casual, Nigro took it off him, Bouman looking immediately for KUOL… can you believe it? It’s 3-2, he’s got a brace off the bench, and it’s 3-2 to Central Coast, on top turning it around again!”
Mariners young gun Alou Kuol was an unstoppable force in the early stages of the 2020/21 campaign, as the teenage sensation scored six of his seven goals in his first nine appearances.
In Matchweek 7 Kuol’s impact was as lethal as ever, as he emerged from the bench to haul the Mariners back from the brink in a magnificent comeback win over Western United.
It was the second time in as many games the Mariners were to secure a comeback 3-2 win. With the score at 2-1 in United’s favour, Stajcic introduced Kuol to the action with 30 minutes to play. His first goal drew the Mariners level at 2-2 before the energetic forward caused scenes of elation in the stands at Central Coast Stadium with an emphatic headed finish to Daniel Bouman’s cross, sealing a 3-2 win for his red-hot side.
Matchweek 5: Western United 5-4 Perth Glory
“That is the end, the end of an extraordinary game of A-League football. It will go down as a classic. Western United with their first win of the season over a gallant Perth Glory.”
After emerging 5-3 victors in their first game of the campaign, Perth Glory travelled to face Western United in Matchweek 5 eager to keep the goalscoring momentum rolling.
The Western Australian side managed exactly that, scoring four more against United. But the defensive cracks remained, got bigger, and ultimately cost Richard Garcia’s side the points in a manic 5-4 defeat.
United boss Mark Rudan admitted post-match he turned to Garcia during the game to say “this is crazy” as the two coaches shared a laugh as the mayhem unfolded.
There was only one goal scored in the first 56 minutes of play, through United’s Victor Sánchez, before chaos ensued in the final half-hour. Carlo Armiento and Bruno Fornaroli scored to put Perth 2-1 up, then Dylan Pieras netted a four-minute double off the bench to wrestle momentum back in United’s favour. Nicholas D’Agostino levelled it up at 3-3, then Tomoki Imai and Armiento exchanged blows to take it to 4-4 at the 78-minute mark.
Steven Lustica was the match-winner in the end, scoring the ninth goal of the game in the 84th minute as United won out 5-4.
Matchweek 12: Western Sydney Wanderers 4-3 Wellington Phoenix
“What an amazing game of football at Bankwest Stadium.”
A seven-goal spectacle capped off by a pair of goals of the highest order unfolded at Bankwest Stadium in Matchweek 12 as Western Sydney outlasted the Phoenix in a 4-3 affair.
The two sides took to Bankwest Stadium on a Monday evening in March to serve up one of the games of the season which will be forever remembered for Cameron Devlin’s thunderous strike for Wellington and Mitchell Duke’s chest and volley down the other end which won Goal of Matchweek 12 honours.
The Phoenix pulled ahead on three occasions in the contest, but the Wanderers found the answer on every occasion. With the score locked at 3-3 after 66 minutes of play the away side ran out of ways to try and kill off the resilient Red and Black, leaving the hosts to capitalise on their ability to find an answer to every question posed of them to find the decisive finish through Kwame Yeboah in the 84th minute, winning out 4-3 at Bankwest Stadium.
Matchweek 15: Welllington Phoenix 2-3 Melbourne City
“A beautiful header from Marco Tilio, off the bench to put City back in front. Wonderfully created, superbly executed, and Melbourne City lead 3-2.”
Marco Tilio’s match-winning display in Melbourne City’s 3-2 win over Wellington Phoenix in Matchweek 15 was the moment that sparked the creative teenager’s end-of-season form and stirring run toward playing a key role in City’s Championship push.
Tilio was given just 206 minutes of playing time in his first 12 games of the season as an attack fronted by star man Maclaren dominated the league. But the tide began to turn for Tilio after the 19-year-old scored three minutes into his cameo off the bench against Wellington in Matchweek 15 to decide a see-sawing contest in his side’s favour.
City twice took the lead throughout the game, and Wellington twice found the leveller as both Hemed and Dávila scored equalising goals at WIN Stadium, Wellington’s home away from home in Wollongong.
But the all-important fifth goal was to come off Tilio’s head, assisted by a cross whipped in by Scott Galloway after Stefan Colakovski – who would also see his minutes increase in the latter stages of the season – set up the chance with tenacious play down the right-hand side of City’s attack.
Matchweek 23: Wellington Phoenix 2-2 Perth Glory
“An absolute thriller at Eden Park ends in a stalemate…an absolutely scintillating encounter in the A-League. Both sides desperate for three points, both have to be content in a share. “
Wellington’s late push for a spot in the 2020/21 Finals Series ultimately hinged on a missed penalty from captain Dávila in the 90th minute of a thrilling 2-2 draw in the second of two Phoenix matches in New Zealand to end the season.
Instead of clinching all three points at Eden Park, the ‘Nix had to settle for a share of the spoils. Wellington went on to fall just one point short of a spot in the post-season after a win over Macarthur FC on the final day of the season.
But before Dávila’s penalty miss in minute 90, an enthralling contest between two evenly-matched sides played out in front of 22,233 fans in Aukland. Wellington took the lead through Tomer Hemed in the first half, then the away side turned it all around after the break. Bruno Fornaroli netted the equaliser, leaving Callum Timmins to blast Perth ahead with one of the goals of the season dispatched from distance into the top-right corner.
Jaushua Sotirio came off the bench to make his mark with an 80th minute equaliser, leaving Dávila with the opportunity to be the hero after Nick D’Agostino bundled Devlin over in the box.
It was an opportunity missed by Dávila – a “what if?” moment in a brave campaign by the New Zealand outfit.