Craig Goodwin celebrates opening the scoring against Perth Glory. (Image: Jordan Trombetta, Adelaide United)

From fiery thrillers to disappointing performances to red cards galore, The Inner Sanctum is here to take you through the good and the bad of round four of the A-League Men.

Western Sydney Wanderers vs Newcastle Jets

Good: Have the tables finally turned at Wanderland?

After a few years of poor results and disappointment, the Wanderers are 3-1-0 under Marko Rudan to start the season, and things look promising out in Sydney’s West.

While a good start does not necessarily guarantee anything (ask Macarthur what happened after a similar start last season), it does give a positive look at things for a team that has languished near the bottom of the league for a while now.

With a visit from the Mariners and a Sydney Derby on the horizon before the World Cup break, two wins are not out of the question for Rudan’s side to give the red and black faithful hope when the competition resumes in December.

Bad: The fans are still cautious, and rightfully so

Less than 10,000 turned up on Friday night at Parramatta, which is still quite a good number considering where things have been in recent years but still shy of what this fixture might have achieved during the Wanderers’ glory period.

If Rudan can keep his side performing at this current level, the crowds will return and remind everyone what Wanderland looks like at its absolute best.

Brisbane Roar vs Melbourne Victory

Good: Brisbane Roar are keeping up their form despite being held goalless

Last week, Warren Moon’s side started to find some form and scored for the first time this season with two more goals chalked off by VAR. The Roar were in good form on Saturday as well, but were unable to break down Victory’s defence.

After Jordan Holmes got red-carded, the Roar still had a couple of good opportunities on the counter but could not capitalise, while the defence did enough to ensure they ended the match with a point.

Bad: Victory can’t quite escape their current slump

Despite having a player advantage for over 35 minutes, Victory could not leave with a win on Saturday afternoon. Of the 29 shots they amassed, only two were on target, and the side has now failed to score in three straight matches for the first time since 2017.

With the box office Jets en route to Melbourne to face the Victory next and the incoming arrival of Bruno Fornaroli, there is no time like the present for Tony Popovic’s side to turn their form around and get a much-needed three points before the World Cup break.

Central Coast Mariners vs Western United

Good: The comeback

After giving up two goals to the struggling Western United, things looked bleak for the Mariners at home who were winless through their opening two games.

A red card early in the second half to Nikolai Topor-Stanley gave the home side a glimpse of hope and unlike some other sides this year with the player advantage, the Mariners took full advantage and slotted four goals home to pick up their first win of the season. 

Bad: Western United continue to struggle

It looked like the defending champions were going to turn their poor form that has plagued the side to start to the season as they raced out to a two goal lead in the first half.

Unfortunately, a lapse in judgement saw Topor-Stanley see the dressing sheds a little earlier than planned and left Western United in a world of trouble.

With one point in its opening four games, Aloisi’s side needs to find something from the remaining games against Adelaide (home) and Wellington (away) before the World Cup break, or else it could be a long struggle once play gets back underway in December.

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Sydney FC vs Macarthur

Good: A five-goal thriller entertained everyone on a Saturday night

It was an end-to-end thriller on Saturday night in Campbelltown that saw five goals, plenty of action, drama, and an almost equaliser in the final seconds of stoppage time which would have tied it that kept everyone hooked from start to finish in Sydney’s newest derby.

While the result went against the home side, there were plenty of positives to take out of it for Macarthur, as there were for the visiting Sydney as well.

Bad: Consistency and explanation would be nice

“For those who say they want more consistency… when fans watch a game, they often watch with their hearts as often as they watch with their eyes, and that can cloud your judgement of consistency.

“I want nothing more than to be consistent from start to finish.”

This is a quote from a referee who was interviewed for an article that gives insight into the minds of how referees operate across a variety of different sports.

This season has been a tough one for A-Leagues referees with a high number of red cards given throughout the opening rounds, and some controversial decisions of which there were several in this game.

As far as the communication and explanation of decisions in real-time go, the wait for that is going to be a while as it requires a change from IFAB and FIFA.

In the meantime, let us hope there is less controversy going forward.

Adelaide United vs Perth Glory

Good: What a return to the renovated Hindmarsh stadium

Fans were treated to an amazing display of football in Adelaide as the Reds returned to their home with renovations done to accommodate the Women’s World Cup in 2023.

Those who turned up were rewarded by the home side with a 2-1 victory with Adelaide looking reasonably comfortable in the win, and could have made it a larger margin with a little more accuracy.

Craig Goodwin looked amazing as well as he looked to seal his spot on the plane to Qatar.

Bad: Concerns remain out West

Despite a win against the Mariners last week in Gosford, the Glory looked much like they have throughout the opening two rounds.

It was not inspiring football and had it not been for a Giordano Colli wonderstrike, Perth might have headed out of Adelaide without any positives at all to take.

With just the one game remaining for Perth Glory before the World Cup break, they need to find something from that game against Melbourne City, or else it could be a long few weeks for the side waiting for the return to play in December.

Melbourne City vs Wellington Phoenix

Good: Wellington Phoenix mount the comeback

After Melbourne flew out to a wondrous start, Wellington left it very late to secure a point as Sam Sutton and Kosta Barbarouses scored in the 79th and 90th minutes respectively.

Despite the scoreline until that mark, Wellington looked very good for most of this match and had it not been for a penalty and a turnover off a heavy first touch, it could have found all three points.

Two more games at home await the Nix before the World Cup break, and at least four of the six points up for grabs is definitely doable for them.

Bad: City dropped points for the first time this season

With a 2-0 lead, you would expect City to see the game out and end the week having gone four from four. However, a late Phoenix comeback prevented that from being a reality, and it’s not ideal for a City side that should be dominating the majority of the league.

The good thing is that it is only one game and there’s still plenty of football to be played.

A similar performance against the Glory this week, however, and questions might move from the backburner to the forefront.

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