As we near the midpoint of season nine the following XI did their best to ensure their team started 2014 in the best possible way.
Player of the Week: Stein Huysegems
The Belgian striker has found his scoring boots for the Phoenix, netting his third match winner in as many weeks. Huysegems scored a brace against the Wanderers to help orchestrate arguably the upset of the season. The ‘Nix No. 10 did it all himself to put his side in front and banked the result late on with a clever back-heel finish. After going the first 10 rounds without a win, the Kiwi side now have the top six very much in their sights.
Danny Vukovic: Many football pundits have spruiked Danny Vukovic as the form ‘keeper of the competition this season and he was at his best again to help Perth take maximum points from the Jets. Vukovic was called upon to make eight saves from shots on target on his way to keeping his fifth cleansheet of the season. Among them was his controversial clearance off the line to deny Kew Jaliens which help ensure Glory nicked all three points.
Ivan Franjic: The Socceroos defender has been a model of consistency for the Roar this season and put in another solid shift at the back to see the league leaders past title challengers Victory. Franjic was part of a Roar backline which has the equal-best defence in the league and loves to provide an option in attack. He was a constant threat down the right-flank against Kevin Muscat’s men and surely a World Cup spot beckons if he maintains his current form.
Manny Muscat: Muscat has been Mr Fix-it for the Phoenix this season, deployed across the Wellington backline to plug holes in their defence. On the back of signing a new two-year deal to remain with the New Zealand club, Muscat helped restrict an attacking Wanderers outfit to a solitary goal on their home patch. The Maltese international has been pivotal in the Phoenix’s recent revival and his pairing with Durante continues to pay dividends as they banked another three points.
Jack Clisby: Since being elevated to the senior side to help cover a depleted Glory backline, Jack Clisby has shown he has what it takes to make it in the Hyundai A-League. The 21-year-old got through a mountain of work against the Jets who were chasing the game. The former Sorrento junior held firm to help propel the Jets and earn his side an invaluable three points.
Aziz Behich: It’s pretty rare that the Mariners are kept scoreless at home and few people gave the Heart a chance in Gosford. However Behich held up his end of the bargain, helping to ensure Heart kept a rare cleansheet in John van’t Schip’s first game back in charge. On loan from Bursapor in Turkey, Behich was ever-reliable at the back and made some good choices on the ball as the Red and White dominated possession but couldn’t find a critical goal.
Steven Lustica: The Adelaide United midfielder is a no-nonsense type of footballer and an underrated talent in a Reds side that are gradually getting reward for their new style of football. The former Roar player joined the Reds at the start of the season on a free transfer from Hajduk Split and has embraced the short-passing game Gombau has brought to Coopers Stadium. The 22-year-old was again purposeful against the Sky Blues with his distribution and stood up in the face of several injuries.
Liam Miller: The Irishman was highly influential and involved in all three goals to ensure the Roar extended their lead at the league’s summit. Miller netted the opener, set-up the second and had a hand in the third as Brisbane moved seven points clear at the top. The former Manchester United player has scored a couple of crucial goals of late and slammed the ball into the bottom left corner of the net on 28 minutes. His link up play with McKay provided the second and no-look through ball helped finish a clinical performance from Brisbane.
Harry Kewell: After enduring a difficult start to the season with injury Harry Kewell is starting to recapture match fitness and his performance against the Mariners suggests the 35-year-old still has plenty to offer. The former Liverpool and Leeds star’s combination with Maltese international Michael Mifsud proved troublesome for Central Coast throughout the contest. Only some lacklustre finishing prevented Heart’s first win of the season but if Kewell continues to play like he did on the weekend three points are surely not far away.
Ranko Despotovic: The Serbian striker was on the scoresheet again as a 10-man Sydney FC fought back to grab a valuable point in Adelaide. Despotovic got on the end of a Richard Garcia cross and tucked the ball home under heavy pressure to open the scoring inside the opening 10 minutes. With Alessandro Del Piero struggling to return to full fitness much of the creative work up front has fallen to the journeyman and his four goals would indicate he looks to have been an astute mid-season signing.
Thomas Broich: The German import was at his mercurial best at AAMI Park, mesmerising the Victory defence with his fleet-footedness and link up play. In the absence of frontman Besart Berisha, Broich has adapted seamlessly to playing further up front. He unselfishly set up Miller for the games’ opener and had a hand in the third when he again teed up Miller as Roar notched their eighth goal in two games.