2021 welcomed us back with an array of entertainment on the pitch.
The A-League and W-League go from strength-to-strength with every match played, with several young players beginning to make a name for themselves in the early stages of the season.
At the other end of the spectrum Chelsea finds itself in a world of trouble, while Fantasy Premier League players were left frustrated after several last-minute cancellations.
Central Coast Mariners
You’d be hard pressed to find bigger winners than the Central Coast Mariners this week.
Taking a tumultuous off-season in addition to consecutive seasons shrouded with disappointment, the club’s win at Macarthur may have been one of its most important for some time.
Alen Stajcic’s plan has been executed to near perfection with the Mariners keeping consecutive clean sheets while also regularly finding the back of the net.
The Mariners succeeded in bringing the red-hot Macarthur back down to earth and had shifted the exuberance surrounding the Bulls their way – making a statement in the process that they will be no easy-beats this season.
Remarkably, the Mariners find themselves on a three-match winning streak and sit atop of the A-League table for the first time in a long time.
If we were to rank the weekend’s biggest party poopers then Brisbane Roar top the list.
The Roar came and spoiled Melbourne Victory’s homecoming in front of an electric AAMI Park crowd by walking away 3-1 victors after a dominant second half display.
It was as good a coaching performance as we have seen from new boss Warren Moon. The introduction of Jesse Daley for Joey Champness helped reshuffle the side in the midfield and press more aggressively in the second half.
Dylan Wenzel-Halls was a standout putting the nail in the coffin with a well taken goal minutes after he had fired a chance wide.
A quirk in the fixture gives the two sides the opportunity to do it all again this weekend when they meet for a second time in eight days at Dolphin Stadium on Sunday.
Four goals in two matches sees Michelle Heyman within touching distance of reclaiming her W-League goal scoring record.
The 32-year-old has wasted little time reminding everyone how good she is – following up from her Round 1 hattrick to score the opener in Canberra United’s 2-1 win over Melbourne City.
In addition, Heyman’s renaissance may just be the catalyst for Canberra United’s rise back up the W-League table after floating in obscurity for the last few seasons.
With 13 matches still to play, Heyman only has to score four more goals to pip Sam Kerr on top of the W-League all-time goal-scorers list and based off recent form, we could be celebrating this as early as next week.
Fantasy Premier League players
It’s been a tough few week for Fantasy players following the cancellation of several Premier League matches.
Teams featuring the likes of Harry Kane, Son Heung-Min and Raheem Sterling would have felt a little lighter over the festive period with Tottenham, Manchester City and Everton all having matches postponed.
With COVID cases continuing to rise in the UK and Prime Minister Boris Johnson considering tougher restrictions, more than a few Premier League matches or teams could be impacted.
One of the teams who perhaps wouldn’t mind a week off is Chelsea.
A 3-1 loss to Manchester City sees the Blues without a win in their past three and have since slipped to eighth on the table.
While Chelsea remains in the hunt for top four, conceding three first half goals at home is never a good sign. Moreover, considering the war-chest the club had to play with at the beginning of the season anything outside a top-four finish will be considered a failure.
A second half collapse undid an exciting end to the first half for the Victory.
A brilliant Callum McManaman goal was followed by several promising chances – including a Nick Ansell header which was cleared off the goal line – but this momentum sensationally came to a halt at the break.
To be fair, the Victory did come into this match without much of a pre-season and without any competitive football in three weeks leading in. The goals the side conceded were, however, avoidable and would have left a bitter taste in the mouths of the 10,000 plus who attended.