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It's been a big week in football

by Sebastian Hassett on Nov 09, 2011

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How good is the A-League going right now?

For the record, that's a comment as much as a question. I think it's powering along.

Here's an example. Five minutes into the second half of last Sunday's match between Sydney FC and Gold Coast United, I turned to my colleague Mike Cockerill and said the remaining 40 minutes could define Sydney's season. After all, they were trailing 2-0 to a team most believe will struggle to feature come the end of the season.

By the end of the match we were both left furiously re-writing our stories before deadline as a last-second penalty to the home side capped a remarkable comeback by the Sky Blues, their third in as many weeks, twice of which have resulted in stirring victories. It was hard not to get caught up in the emotion as Sydney continued to bury their demons from last season.

But this was only one match; the other four all had something noteworthy as well. In fact, no game produced less than two goals. Matches involving Sydney and Melbourne Victory produced a combined total of nine goals. A pretty decent return for everyone who loves attacking football.

The controversies in both matches have easily been the biggest talking points since, especially the red cards handed out at Etihad Stadium. There was no question Ante Covic deserved a straight red for his challenge but Matthew Foschini was very stiff to pick up a red. It was a bold tackle, but short of being reckless or dangerous. I thought it a yellow and feel the club's decision to appeal via the Match Review Panel was justified. To dismiss it as 'frivolous', even if the rules allow for them to do so, was demeaning to an entire club.

Melbourne have been cooked a few times by off-field committees, most notably when Ney Fabiano was hit for spitting, despite clear vision of the incident proving it was an accident. Relations between themselves and the A-League remain frostier than most clubs.

That said, referees' boss Mark Shield has been on the front foot this week to explain the actions of his men in the middle and I think he's been very fair-minded. I think we'll see better decisions, and better explanations of the processes, in the months ahead.

There's plenty to look forward to at many clubs. I was perhaps a little hasty in dismissing Newcastle in last week's column, especially now they count Francis Jeffers and Michael Bridges on their books. With Jeremy Brockie in career-best form, Ryan Griffiths looking sharp and Labinot Haliti and Marko Jesic still in reserve, they've suddenly got real attacking riches. Away performances will still define their season, however.

I'll be at Gosford on Saturday night for the Mariners' clash with the Victory, and without much warning - as is always their way - the Mariners have snuck up yet again. Consecutive wins have them poised nicely and a win over Melbourne would really get Bluetongue Stadium rocking.

Crucially, however, they need to have strong numbers turn up in the stands. This is a marquee fixture for the Mariners, even if Harry Kewell is away on international duty. They've always drawn big crowds against the Victory and with the visitors also missing both Foschini and Covic, the opportunity presents itself.

The Mariners must put their foot down, grab some wins and inspire new members. Graham Arnold's side deserve to be watched, especially with Mustafa Amini coming back into the fray.