23/04/2024

The Inner Sanctum's the A-League Men Team of the Week, Round 1. (Photos: Perth Glory; Melbourne Victory; Melbourne City)

One weekend done and dusted – well almost! The F3 Derby will be played at a later date after Central Coast Stadium was washed out, but for the five matches that did go ahead, we saw some outstanding performances.

A stunning Big Blue at the new Allianz Stadium headlined a blockbuster round of football, with marquee debutants everywhere you looked.

Here is the very best XI from this weekends’ matches:

(Design: Will Cuckson)

Goalkeeper and defenders

GK: Liam Reddy (Perth Glory)

Despite his side going down 1-0 on Sunday afternoon, the veteran shot stopper was arguably the man of the match. With a back four made up almost entirely of debutants, Reddy did extremely well to keep the deficit to just one, as he made five saves including a fantastic penalty save late in the match.

RB: Joshua Risdon (Western United)

Due to the continued absence of skipper Alessandro Diamanti, Risdon donned the captain’s armband yet again to start the season. He looked steady at the back in an otherwise struggling Western United defence. He won 16 duels – the equal most of any player on the pitch, and played multiple strong balls forward to boost United’s attack.

CB: Connor Chapman (Brisbane Roar)

Only three clean sheets were kept this round, and one belonged to Chapman’s side. Despite picking up a yellow card in the 27th minute, he had a strong game as the focal point of the back five. He passed the ball well all day and dominated in the air.

CB: James Donachie (Sydney FC)

Scoring his first goal in the A-League Men since 2016 and finishing with a 100 per cent tackle rate, James Donachie could not be left out of the team of the week for Round 1. Sydney did go on to lose the match, but it was still a very notable performance from the former Melbourne Victory defender.

LB: Ivan Vujica (Macarthur FC)

Fresh from an Australia Cup victory, the former Western United full-back has continued his rejuvenation with a rock-solid performance in Brisbane. He was only beaten once in a duel and tackled well. A strong contribution to the Bulls’ clean sheet, he kept Riku Danzaki quiet on his A-League Men return.

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Midfielders

CM: Joshua Brillante (Melbourne Victory)

The Victory captain led by example in the Big Blue with a mammoth performance in the middle. He registered four shots on the night, including the 83rd minute winner. He also had the most completed tackles of any player in the match, and is a worthy starter in this side.

CM: Jay O’Shea (Brisbane Roar)

At 34 years of age, the Irish midfielder is showing no signs of slowing down as he enters his fourth season in Australia. O’Shea created four chances on Saturday and finished the game with 49 completed passes – ranked first in the match. Although his side didn’t find the back of the net, he was unlucky to end off without an assist.

CM: Valon Berisha (Melbourne City)

It is going to take something special for Valon to be considered the best Berisha to have played in the A-League Men, but the 29-year-old did himself no disservice in his debut against Western United. Playing out the full 90 minutes, Berisha passed at 88 per cent accuracy and was only dispossessed once. He will be a key cog for the premiers this season in their pursuit to fill the loss of Connor Metcalfe. All in all, it was a fantastic debut both on and off the pitch.

Attackers

RW: Chris Ikonomidis (Melbourne Victory)

Despite starting the match on the bench, Ikonomidis is a deserved member of this team after 30 minutes of magic in Saturday night’s Big Blue. After an indifferent 21/22 season, the million-dollar marquee man has sent out a warning to the rest of the competition, looking extremely dangerous with a goal and an assist in Victory’s 3-2 win.

ST: Nick D’Agostino (Melbourne Victory)

The prospective Socceroos’ striker picked things up where he left off last season with another top performance. D’Agostino headed in an early equaliser to bring his side back in the game, and looked dangerous throughout the night. He scored 10 goals last season and would be looking to go even bigger in 2022/23 with silver service all around him – this is a good start to that goal.

LW: Mathew Leckie (Melbourne City)

The explosive Socceroo did not stop all night on Friday. He had three shots on target, seven from seven tackles won, and equaled Risdon for 16 successful duels. There was no goal or assist for the marquee man, but an absolutely crucial performance saw him as one of the strongest contributors to helping City break its Western United hoodoo and beat them for the first time since January 2021.

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