Irankunda’s brilliance, Sydney suffocate Mariners, ‘blackout’ prevented as NEP save the day


Let’s recap yet another tumultuous week in Australian football that, thankfully, also gave us some enjoyment.

Here are your A-League talking points.

Irankunda puts on a show to keep Reds alive

Whichever club you support, it would have been difficult to watch teenage sensation Nestory Irankunda’s brilliant hat-trick on Friday night without cracking a smile.

The 18-year-old will soon set off on an overseas adventure that, hopefully, results in him becoming a star at one of the biggest football clubs on the planet. Until then, we’ve still got a few weeks left to enjoy his superlative talent.

Hosting a desperate Western United outfit, the Reds were on the board after Irankunda got a touch of luck as Zach Clough mishit a shot but then drilled the opening goal. Completing his hat-trick with two goals right after the restart to sink John Aloisi’s side, he showcased the speed, positional awareness and finishing ability that caught the attention of Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich and convinced them to pay a seven-figure fee for his services.

Irankunda celebrates after completing his hat-trick (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

Soak it all in, because this player is destined for some pretty special things in this game. The Socceroos have struggled offensively for years – if Irankunda can continue his upward trajectory he may just become the attacking game-breaker the national team has been lacking since Tim Cahill’s retirement.

Talay press suffocates Mariners

Let’s give Ufuk Talay some credit for what he’s done since coming into the top job at Allianz Stadium. It’s always challenging to take over midseason – and Talay inherited a squad that clearly was not maximising its potential under his former teammate Steve Corica.

Since Corica departed the Sky Blues have clearly emphasised the importance of pressing their opponents, executing it perfectly against the Mariners on Saturday as they bounced back with a 2-0 victory.

It’s said another former Sydney FC player, David Zdrilic, got in Talay’s ear and is the brains behind the press – if that’s the case, a good manager is open to advice and implementing it so the former midfielder still deserves credit. Clearly, Talay has whipped the side into shape as they look much fitter than they did under Corica, and it’s looking likely that despite the disastrous start to their campaign, the Sky Blues will play finals football.

Drawing a significant amount of blood from Storm Roux, I thought Joe Lolley was somewhat fortunate to get away with a booking. The Englishman is far from a dirty player, but does he make a deliberate action with his elbow?

Another APL embarrassment as production company goes under

The collapse of the company contracted by the APL to produce broadcasts for A-League Men and Women games, Randwick-based Global Advance, caused chaos last week. In a season where the APL have continually shown an inability to competently run the league it’s yet another blow to their already diminished reputation.

Global Advance were a start-up production company, presumably chosen by the administration because of their reduced bargaining power for commercial terms. That call has come back to bite the APL in a big way. It’s been reported that Global Advance even had the gall to ask for advance payments when they knew they were on the verge of going under.

In a big win for every stakeholder, production industry veterans NEP stepped in at the last minute – almost literally – to save the day and ensure fans across the country could, you know, actually watch the weekend’s action – including the final round of the women’s regular season. Given NEP’s commitments covering other football codes, as well as the expedited nature of the negotiations, I can’t imagine APL managed to secure a good value deal but at least the round was not blacked out.

NEP have only signed on for the balance of 2023-24, however. A long-term deal needs to be ironed out quickly to avoid further embarrassment. I can only imagine what the suits over at Paramount are thinking as they watch this circus unfold. Just another week in the A-League.

Quick hits

-Wellington sealed another important win, downing Brisbane 1-0 at Sky Stadium. The premiership race is far from over but the Nix are back in pole and should be able to hold on from here.

-Still no resolution to the Newcastle Jets’ comical ownership situation, or updates on Canberra expansion. Who’s surprised, though?

-Back-to-back wins for the Wanderers who put in a good performance on Monday afternoon at Campbelltown Stadium. As Vince Rugari put it on Twitter, it’s hard to know what to make of this Marko Rudan-led Western Sydney side. Can they still be a threat in the finals?

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