There was plenty to like in football this week.
The A-League returned and was certainly worth the wait, with five highly competitive matches featuring a great showcase of talent and entertainment.
The Wanderers returned home, Western United created history and Robbie Fowler left Perth without defeat.
Overseas Italy got a large monkey off their backs in securing qualification into the 2020 Euros, though the same cannot be said for Spain who will have to wait until the next window.
This may be the greatest round the A-League has seen in quite some time.
Not only were all five matches competitive but they were filled to the brink with captivating story-lines and drama which has set up an exciting season.
The contest at Coopers Stadium justified its place as the season’s opener with Adelaide and Sydney treating fans to a five-goal thriller with VAR drama and a sending off.
In Parramatta the Wanderers may have returned home and escaped with the three points, but it was the Mariners who sent the biggest message.
Alen Stajcic’s team gave their long-suffering fans plenty of reasons to smile, as they flipped the script and scored first before nearly equalising at the death after Mitchell Duke’s brace put the home side in front.
In Melbourne 33,532 packed into Marvel Stadium for the derby, while in New Zealand Besart Berisha scored Western United’s inaugural goal as the side recorded a historic victory.
The dichotomy between the Wellington Phoenix and Western United squads made the tale all the more interesting – with it being a battle between youth and experience. While the experience of Western United got over the line, there was plenty to like about Ufuk Talay’s new side.
Perhaps the most surprising result of the round saw Brisbane outplay Perth away from home and walk away with a point, after Roy O’Donovan’s stoppage time equaliser.
There was perhaps no better individual performance over the weekend than Harrison Delbridge’s.
The ‘Wall of Delbridge’ was given the arduous task of limiting Victory captain Ola Toivonen – one which he passed with flying colours.
Not only did he limit the Swede’s influence but he got inside his head – frustrating the world-class forward to the point where he was forced to resort to jabs off the ball.
While Delbridge flirted with danger late in the match, he played his role to perfection. Not only did he tightly mark the Swedish international but put in several strong challenges and grew with confidence as the match progressed.
When asked about his performance after the match, City boss Erick Mombaerts told the press he was not surprised by what he saw from his centre-back.
With City having lost Bart Schenkeveld over the summer – City may only have to look as far as Delbridge for his replacement.
It was a good weekend to be a McGowan.
Ryan was the hero in his Sydney debut scoring the winner late on while Dylan played an instrumental role in the Wanderers win over the Mariners in the heart of defence.
A solid start to their respective careers in the Harbour City.
Round 1 Melbourne derby
As an event, the Melbourne derby ticked all the boxes – but could have been so much more.
While it drew an impressive crowd of 33,532, it was not given the build it deserves and something which could be fixed in future by not fixturing a derby in the opening round.
This poses an interesting discussion as the A-League’s largest home-and-away match was a Round 1 Sydney derby – albeit at a time when the league was believed to be in a better place than it is now.
Perhaps scheduling this fixture for Round 3 or 4 would have generated more hype – especially if both teams were playing well.
On the field while this was the most underwhelming match of the round it still had its moments.
Melbourne City showed impressive signs with the likes of Delbridge and Connor Metcalfe giving fans plenty of reasons to be excited.
Overall, this was a minor hiccup in what was a successful opening round.
Spain were moments away from European qualification until disaster struck.
A late goal from Joshua king destroyed their chance at being the third team through to Euro 2020 as they drew with Norway in a shock result away in Oslo.
Now they need to beat Sweden to ensure qualification.
Adelaide were on the fight back and were looking destined to complete an incredible turnaround.
However, a red card to Ryan Strain changed all of that.
His sending off saw Sydney take full control and able to get a win over the Reds as they took advantage of the numerical advantage. A day to forget for the youngster but something he will learn from as the season rolls on.