Byline Banter: Can’t even deal

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That’s it for week five and it’s safe to say this season is among the most unpredictable and mind melting in the A-League’s 10-year history.

Surprise leaders and languishers, freedom from superstars and idiotic outbursts; Byline Banter breaks it all down for you using words that begin with B!

Boastful
What a story for Perth Glory. Who would have predicted Glory would be topping the league after five rounds? The men from the west disposed of the Central Coast Mariners at Bluetongue Stadium for the first time in 15 attempts last Sunday thanks mainly to a sensation free kick from Serbian midfielder Nebojsa Marinkovic.

If you just looked at the stats, it would be nearly impossible to imagine that Glory won the match. Mariners enjoyed 63% of possession, more on shots on goal, a better passing tally and accuracy and gave away only a third of the fouls the Glory did. To be fair, Perth by no means dominated the game and it won’t go down in history as the most entertaining match either.

But it doesn’t matter how you get it done and the Glory are deservedly top of the ladder for just the third time in club history. Three times is also the number of finals series the Glory have featured in and there is a renewed hope around nib Stadium that the Glory can go one better than their Grand Final defeat to Brisbane Roar in the 2011/12 season.

Honourable mentions
– Nebojsa Marinkovic personally, what a goal!
– Wellington Phoenix bragging about adding more domestic woes to the Western Sydney Wanderers.

Burden
David Villa exits and Melbourne City get their first victory of the season; perhaps they shouldn’t have bothered bringing him here to begin with. At any rate, that also notches up their first win in the new City colours. Where were all the headlines we’ve been waiting for? “City show heart in first victory” or “City break Roar’s heart”? Massively missed opportunity.

With the match taking place at Suncorp Stadium, the departure of Villa, and City’s away record of two wins in 29 away matches, many thought it was going to be a formality that the Roar would get their first win of the season. While there was plenty of action in the match, it was City which looked the better of the teams with the Roar providing very little in defence. But why now? Why couldn’t they win with Villa in the squad?

The difference is that City can now play without feeling the pressure to look for the superstar. Superstar players are fantastic for the A-League – Villa brought a buzz this league had not seen before – but he was seriously hampering City on the park as a collective with players constantly looking for Villa to provide the magic. Now that City is moving the ball about and playing as a team, the players can look to push up the ladder to where people expected them to be.

Honourable mentions
– The pitch at Hunter Stadium. While it was indeed better than most expected many players commented it was still hard and unforgiving.
– Mike Mulvey – rightly or wrongly, he’s having a lot more pressure dumped on him.

Beastly
It’s now apparent to all that there is something seriously wrong in Brisbane. Any resemblance to last year’s champions disappeared on the weekend as their loss to City left the Roar with the unwanted honour of being the first team in A-League history to lose their opening four matches. Fingers are being pointed at the coach, the backline, goalkeeper Jamie Young and at the team’s desire as a whole.

Irrespective of what’s causing the drama, Shane Steffanuto’s actions are inexcusable. The centre-back publicly lambasted Young following the defeat, leaving the suspected fractures in the Roar’s ranks for all to see. Young looked surprised and speechless and for good reason too; that kind of behaviour is unacceptable, particularly from such an experienced campaigner. It’s true that Young has been having a tough time but Steffanuto and the rest of the Roar backline played no better and quite frankly, will need to do better against an improving Jets on Friday night.

Honourable mentions
-Terry Antonis being ruled out of the Australia v Japan friendly after being involved in a car accident on the way to the airport. Thankfully the young midfielder was not injured.

Buzz
Each round throws up some exciting matches, but forget derbies and ACL finals because this week is the most exciting round yet. Here’s why:

Massive match Friday night between the Newcastle Jets and the Brisbane Roar with both teams still looking to get their first victory of the season. Jets were a far improved side last weekend in front of a home crowd and looked the better team in the closing stages of the match against Melbourne Victory. Jets stock going up and Roar stock going down means it’s a must win for both teams.

Saturday night opens with Adelaide taking on Wellington; separated by one spot and two points on the ladder, both of these improvers will be looking to push higher up the ladder. That’s followed by a big contenders match-up between Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory, no love lost there – does that match really need selling? Finally over to Perth in the battle of the haves and have-nots. The Glory, who have all the points, and the Western Sydney Wanderers, who have none. Glory will be looking to show they’re in it for long haul and the Wanderers are looking to show they’re in it at all.

Sunday sees Melbourne City welcoming the Central Coast Mariner to AAMI Park. City will be out to prove that the players can deliver on the preseason hype which saw them as one of the favourites to take out the title. For the Mariners, it’s time for action – another loss for the inexperience squad would see Phil Moss join Mike Mulvey in the battle of the first coach to be sacked.

Bemusement – Observation of the week
Why is David Carney afraid to shoot at goal? There were multiple occasions on the weekend where his hesitation and needless cutting back allowed a chance to go begging. Let the ball run across your body and fire, son!

Get involved with the observation of the week by tweeting what catches your eye to @TheFootballSack and using #bylinebanter.

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