Four A-League players see red in combative New Year's round
Rob Brooks wraps up a weekend of A-League action that was dominated by fiery encounters and red cards.
Talking point of the round
Four red cards stole the headlines across the league this weekend and, not surprisingly, each team to have a player sent off failed to pick up maximum points.
Central Coast Mariners defender Kalifa Cisse started the trend on Friday night when he dived in late on Sydney FC's Siem de Jong to be shown his second yellow card midway through the first half. It was a real rush of a blood from an experienced player who should know better, particularly with his struggling team leading the contest against one of the league's best teams.
The Sky Blues subsequently went on a goal-scoring spree in the second half, winning the game 5-2.
If there was any conjecture about Cisse's dismissal, the same can't be said of the red card shown to Wellington Phoenix midfielder Mandi on Saturday. The Spaniard was rightly given his marching orders after kicking Adelaide's Vince Lia, who was prone on the ground at the time.
It was the sort of reckless behaviour that can come about during a frustrating scoreless draw, but there really is no excuse, and Mandi is now facing three matches on the sidelines.
The most controversial decision of the weekend came on Sunday when Newcastle Jets maestro Ronald Vargas received a second yellow card for dissent after being whistled for a handball in the penalty box against Melbourne City.
The penalty was a harsh decision given Vargas' hand was directly in front of his body when it struck him from close range, so an incredulous response is to be expected in the heat of battle. Of course, without knowing exactly what was said, we cannot know if the send-off was justified, but it's worth noting that referee Kurt Ams pulled out the yellow card incredibly quickly -- seemingly before Vargas had given him a spray.
It was one of a number of strange decisions made by Ams, who waved away one or two other borderline penalty calls during the match. City went on to win 2-1.
And just when it seemed like we had witnessed enough controversy for the weekend, Daniel Bowles left Brisbane down to 10 men for the final half an hour of their clash with Perth Glory. It proved a particularly costly one for the home side, who saw a two-goal lead disintegrate, as Perth moved back to the top of league with a 4-2 victory.
Perth now sit three points clear of Sydney and Melbourne Victory on the A-League table, with the top three sides clearing out from the chasing pack, creating a six-point gap back to fourth-placed City.
Goal of the round
When Alex Brosque picked up the ball in a swift counter-attack before cheekily chipping Central Coast goalkeeper Ben Kennedy, there was only ever going to be one winner for this accolade.
It was a sublime piece of skill from the Sydney FC skipper, particularly when you consider the composure required to attempt something like that as the attack unfolded so quickly.
Save of the round
Lawrence Thomas produced a couple of top-drawer stops early on in the Victory's 2-1 win over Western Sydney Wanderers, and his save down low to deny Bruce Kamau in just the second minute of the match was probably the highlight.
Disappointment of the roundFollowing Melbourne's victory over Western Sydney, it was revealed that Wanderers defender Tarek Elrich had been the subject of a vile piece of abuse by an opposition supporter.
With incidents such as this, it's always important that the perpetrator not be given more public air-time than necessary. However, on this occasion, it's worth highlighting the issue in order to give due credit to Elrich -- who is genuinely and rightly one of the game's most loved personalities -- and also Melbourne Victory, who identified the culprit and swiftly removed their membership.
It goes without saying that this type of abuse has no place anywhere in society, including football. People who carry discriminatory or bigoted views are simply not welcome within this community.