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A-League Grand Final: 50-50 challenge

Australian A-League

Melbourne Victory produce one of the best A-League performances ever, Isaias shows leadership

As league leaders Perth Glory slipped up away from home, a serious contender emerged with one of the most commanding performances this season. Rob Brooks takes a look at another wild weekend in the A-League:

Talking point of the weekend

Melbourne Victory put all other clubs on notice with a frightfully good performance in their 4-0 drubbing of Western Sydney on Saturday night. Kevin Muscat's men were simply too good for their opponents in every facet of the game.

Some of the link-up play between stars Keisuke Honda, Ola Toivonen and Terry Antonis in particular was on a totally different level to what we have seen from the Victory so far this season. Indeed, this was probably the best performance of any team in the A-League for a long, long time.

What will scare the rest of the league even more is that Toivonen is not yet fully match fit, so the combinations and understanding within this team should only improve.

The Victory were tipped as one of the favourites before the start of the campaign because of their new signings, and they are now living up to that promise.

Goal of the weekend

In any other week, Brandon O'Neill's 30-yard screamer in Sydney's 2-1 triumph over Central Coast, or Luke Brattan's volley in Melbourne City's 3-0 win over Newcastle, would take this accolade hands down. But this was the week of the Victory.

Following a sweeping, length-of-the-pitch move in the 83rd minute, Toivonen controlled a Kosta Barbarouses early cross to perfection, laying it first time into the path of Antonis, who duly buried the chance from close range.

It was a truly beautiful team move from Melbourne Victory, and a goal worthy of any stage in world football.

Player of the weekend

There's certainly a theme going here, as there can only be one name above all others. Honda was effortless in his domination of the Wanderers, picking out pockets in between the midfield and defence with ease, and turning that space into goal-scoring opportunities.

Not only did the Japan international open the scoring himself, he was the architect of so many chances that Melbourne created.

It is a joy to have this maestro contribute to the growth of the A-League. If you doubt that by his performance alone, his post-match interview -- where he reveals the attitude required to not only win, but provide supporters an experience to remember, while remaining strikingly humble -- says everything you need to know.

Disappointment of the weekend

Though the performances of Western Sydney and Newcastle were each disappointing in their own right, there were other on-field actions which sadly overshadowed their poor play.

Most notably, in the 1-1 draw between Wellington Phoenix and top-of-the-league Perth Glory, the VAR's decision to send-off Ryan Lowry was laughable. In no game should Lowry's slide tackle be seen as a red card offence.

Having won the ball with a fair sliding challenge, Lowry does make contact with Chris Ikonomidis in his follow through, but that contact appears entirely accidental.

At worst it was reckless from Lowry, who could have kept his feet tucked as he approached an opponent, and perhaps a yellow card could have been brandished if referee Adam Kersey was feeling particularly harsh. But a red? No chance.

Sadly, this is just another example of poor execution of VAR in the A-League. Technology which was designed simply to ensure games weren't ruined by obvious mistakes is, at least in Australia, being used to ruin otherwise reasonable contests.

Silver lining of the weekend

If your favourite team getting thumped, or having a game spoiled by a crazy VAR decision got you down, watch a clip of the leadership shown by Adelaide skipper Isaias in his side's 2-1 win to lift your spirits.

After Brisbane's Stefan Mauk was knocked out in a clumsy challenge from Craig Goodwin, Isaias instantly realised the severity of the situation, and ran to shield his opponent's prone body.

And it's a good thing he did, because the Spaniard's teammate Jordan Elsey did his level best to pick up the unconscious Mauk in a move that could have been disastrous to the health of the Brisbane midfielder.

Head injuries are no joke, and no player should ever be grabbed and moved while lying on the ground. Somehow, Elsey avoided suspension for his action, which truly is the most dangerous thing we've seen on an A-League pitch this season.

But it was the quick thinking and heroism of Isaias, who put the wellbeing of his fellow professional ahead of any team allegiances, that will be remembered for a long time to come.


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