Stoppage-time heroes and back-heel magicians: The A-League players who were the difference in Round 23


What a great round of football; Round 23 delivered in spades.

There were 25 goals in six matches, no draws and none of the 12 teams kept a clean sheet.

In two out of the six games, the winning team trailed 2-0 and ended up winning the game 4-2.

Check out who made a difference.

Western Sydney Wanderers

Dylan Pierias changed the game for the Wanderers; the substitute scored the equaliser with an exquisite back heel from the former Western United player, with the assist provided by Nicolas Milanovic, in the 64th minute, just three minutes after Pierias came off the bench.

Brisbane Roar

Macklin Freke was the reason why Brisbane claimed all three points; the Roar goalkeeper saved a penalty from Marcus Antonsson in the 91st minute.

A ????????????????-???????????????????????? penalty save to keep @brisbaneroar in front! ????????

That is MASSIVE from Macklin Freke ????

Tune in on Paramount+ ????#WSWvBRI

— Isuzu UTE A-League (@aleaguemen) April 5, 2024

Ruben Zadkovich understood the significance of the save, saying: “It’s a top save and I’m very happy for him.”

The 25-year-old was philosophical post-match: “It keeps us alive in finals. I was confident. Happy to keep it out and get the win. It was big. Everyone knew the magnitude of this game.”

Western United

Matthew Grimaldi changed the whole complexion of the game when he came off the bench for the injured Daniel Penha.

The 20-year-old gave his team energy and scored their third goal which gave them a 3-2 lead in the 59th minute, one of four goals that Western scored within the space of 14 minutes!

Macarthur FC

Raphael Borges Rodrigues looked dangerous throughout the game for the Bulls; he created three chances and won a penalty that led to Valere Germain breaking the deadlock in the 17th minute.

The 20-year-old put it on a plate for Jed Drew in the 74th minute, only for Drew to miss a chance to score. Raphael had an opportunity to get the Bulls back into the game in the 77th minute only for Western United goalkeeper Thomas Heward-Belle to deny the youngster from scoring.

Central Coast Mariners

Mikael Doka was outstanding for the Mariners in key moments as the Brazilian played a part in both goals scored by his team; the first goal came from a pass by Doka to Storm Roux to Angel Torres, who broke the deadlock in the 61st minute. The second goal was sheer brilliance from the 24-year-old, which was scored in the 91st minute and gave the Mariners a 2-1 victory.

It’s the 91st minute. Scores locked at 1-1. With top spot on the line, Mikael Doka unleashes ???????????????? ????????

A goal worthy of winning any game – What a strike to send @CCMariners top of the table!#CCMvWEL #ALM

— Isuzu UTE A-League (@aleaguemen) April 6, 2024

The Brazilian gave an interesting insight: “I’m very happy for the boys. I want to bring a little more of that Brazilian flair. We really want to finish first.”

Wellington Phoenix

Oskar van Hattum gave energy to the Phoenix team.

The 21-year-old substitute provided the assist for a goal scored by Ben Old in the 78th minute with a pinpoint cross which made the score 1-1, just seven minutes after coming off the bench.

Melbourne Victory

Daniel Arzani produced a top-quality performance for Victory. The Socceroo created three chances and his general play was sublime; winning 13 out of 18 duels is pretty impressive as it showed he worked hard with and without the ball.

(Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

The 25-year-old was open and honest about the match: “I think we controlled the game with and without the ball tonight. We stepped up as a squad. To be honest Poppa’s tough, but he’s really fair.”

Melbourne City

Tolgay Arslan broke the deadlock in the fourth minute due to an error made by Ryan Teague. The German made the finish look easy.

The 33-year-old provided a chance for Jamie Maclaren to score in the 84th minute, which would’ve given City a 2-1 lead, only for Victory defender Damien Da Silva to score what proved to be the winning goal just two minutes later. Unfortunately, Arslan missed an opportunity to equalise in the 89th minute; it just wasn’t to be for City.

Newcastle Jets

Clayton Taylor scored the opening goal with the crucial assist provided by Apostolos Stamatelopoulos. The goal came in the 19th minute due to great control of the ball and an exquisite finish by the young prospect.

Clayton Taylor scores the opener for @NewcastleJetsFC against his old side! ????

The 20-year-old enjoyed that one ????

Tune in on Paramount+ and 10 BOLD ????#NEWvSYD #ALM

— Isuzu UTE A-League (@aleaguemen) April 7, 2024

The 20-year-old also cleared a header off the line from the Sky Blues centre-back Jack Rodwell and three minutes later Reno Piscopo gave the Jets a 2-0 lead, so it was effectively a two-goal turnaround for the Jets, thanks to Taylor.

Following that, the young prospect provided an assist for Stamatelopoulos in the 60th minute, giving the Jets what proved to be an unassailable two-goal lead.

Sydney FC

Anthony Caceres gave the Sky Blues a lifeline with an unbelievable back heel that resulted in a goal for Fabio Gomes, which made the deficit for his team one goal in the 45th minute.

The backheel assist ???? The first-time finish ???? A superbly worked goal from @SydneyFC! ????

The Sky Blues are down to 10 men but they’re not out of this one!

Tune in on Paramount+ and 10 BOLD ????#NEWvSYD #ALM

— Isuzu UTE A-League (@aleaguemen) April 7, 2024

Perth Glory

Adam Taggart scored a brace within the space of five minutes, which gave Perth Glory a two-goal lead in the 27th minute. The first goal was from a difficult angle and the second goal he scored was thanks to a pinpoint cross from Daniel Bennie, but Taggart still had plenty to do as he wheeled around onto his left foot and put the ball into the back of the net.

The Glory captain heaped praise on Bennie who played a part in both goals that he scored: “It’s been a fantastic season for the kid. He’s got a great mentality. Really proud of him.”

Individual accolades don’t mean much to the Socceroo as he stated: “I think that winning mentality isn’t there yet. I’m not questioning anyone’s effort. It’s just not good enough.”

Adelaide United

.@AdelaideUnited have gone from 2-0 down to 3-2 up – AND IT’S NOT EVEN HALF-TIME! ????????

Another brilliant assist from Nestory Irankunda, this time for @StefanMauk ???? What a half of football! ????

Tune in on Paramount+ ????#PERvADL

— Isuzu UTE A-League (@aleaguemen) April 7, 2024

Nestory Irankunda has clearly been working on his general play, as the young prospect provided an assist for the equaliser scored by Zach Clough in the 41st minute and added another assist in the first-half stoppage, which Stefan Mauk did well to finish.

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It gave the Reds a 3-2 lead at half-time after trailing 2-0 earlier in the game.

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