A-League Round 21 talking points: Sky Blue humiliation, another Glory late show, can Vuck play finals?

A-League, featured, football

Melbourne Victory moved to within six points of the top six, there was late drama in the Hunter and Wellington were taught a lesson by the rampant Adelaide, but the biggest story of the round was Saturday’s Sydney Derby demolition job by the Wanderers. Plenty to discuss, so let’s get into it.

Here are your A-League Round 21 talking points.

Western Sydney put rivals to the sword on awful night for Sky Blues faithful

Sydney FC’s return to Moore Park has been very bumpy (to say the least), but before Saturday night there had been nothing quite as egregious for the club as the 4-0 derby humiliation at the hands of their cross-town rivals.

From the first minute, Steve Corica’s unchanged line-up from the defeat to Wellington Phoenix looked insipid, disorganised and frankly uninterested. Goals within the first 20 minutes or so to Kusini Yengi and midseason signing Amor Layouni had Western Sydney in complete control of the derby, before Sydney discard Calem Nieuwenhof made it 3-0 with a fantastic strike from outside the box.

To rub salt in the wound, club legend Milos Ninkovic, who also left in the previous off-season in acrimonious circumstances, provided the assist for The Hof’s rocket.

It was Wanderers’ biggest winning margin in derby history, as well as the first time they’ve netted four goals in one game. It’s the business end of the season now, and Marko Rudan’s men will play finals football for the first time since the 2016-17 season – yes, it really has been that long – and will most likely secure a top-four finish.

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Bimbi’s time is surely up now. There’s been plenty of innuendo from supporters and journalists, but this has to be the final nail in the coffin.

Finally on the derby, a hat tip to referee Alireza Faghani for keeping a lid on any overflowing testosterone.

Can Victory make the six, and what will it mean for Poppa?

After the Vuck’s miserable campaign it does feel odd to type that subheading, but with a 2-0 win over Central Coast Mariners they are now within striking distance of Sydney in the sixth place. A lot still has to go right for the Tony Popovic-led side – including the results of quite a few other sides – but the race for a place in the six will certainly make for an interesting conclusion to the season.

I do wonder what the next six fixtures (Victory and City still need to complete the abandoned Melbourne Derby) will mean for Popovic’s future in the top job.

Are plans afoot to sack him regardless of what happens from here on out, or can a miraculous run to the playoffs save the former Socceroo from the breadline? Because this is a squad, coming off a second-place finish, that should’ve easily been nudging top four, if not more.

Glory refuse to lie down as Newcastle’s poor run continues

For the second week in a row Perth managed to score in injury time, this time clawing back a point at McDonald Jones Stadium. I don’t know what it is about this plucky side whose realistic target was surely just to avoid 12th place in 2022-23, but they just keep fighting and rookie boss Ruben Zadkovich has been able to extract maximum effort and energy from his charges.

On the Jets, well, there isn’t really that much to say. Should they have closed that game out, or did they get what they deserved?

I believe Arthur Papas is a good manager but he really should be getting more out of this team. Although it’s not the flashiest roster around, it’s better than their results would tell you.

APL come to their senses with Sunday prime time fixture

On another sweltering day in the Harbour City, a 3pm kick-off for Melbourne City’s visit to the highly revered Campbelltown Stadium would’ve been an absolute disaster. Thankfully, however, the powers that be have seen the light and scheduled a 7pm start in Sydney’s southwest.

The spoils were shared between City and Macarthur, although the ladder leaders could consider themselves a bit unlucky after seeing two penalty decisions overturned by VAR.

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