Clive Palmer's antics on the Gold Coast cast a rather large shadow over the A-League this week. The billionaire owner hand-picked an untried 17-year-old as team captain, suspended the coach for making light of the decision and labelled the competition "a joke" and football "a hopeless game" in an interview with the Courier Mail. On the pitch, last-placed Gold Coast lost to a desperate Melbourne Heart, while Perth continued their fine form with victory over Newcastle. There were wins at the top of the table for Central Coast and Brisbane, and Sydney claimed three points in Adelaide.
Brisbane Roar edge the Central Coast Mariners in this category. Though their scoreline was not as impressive, their free-flowing attack is returning to its best - a worrying sign for the rest of the league heading toward the finals. A brace from Harry Kewell helped the Melbourne Victory remain in the contest, but Brisbane's movement in midfield alone was worth the three points. Ange Postecoglou will like what he is seeing from his side over recent weeks as they strive to defend their championship.
The youthful squad at Gold Coast United deserve better than the negative publicity they received this week, and perhaps a win on Friday evening would have salvaged the situation to a degree. Unfortunately, it was not to be as a lone strike from Eli Babalj did the damage for Melbourne Heart. There was certainly endeavour from the Gold Coast players at AAMI Park, but when you're bottom of the pile you need the club to rally around you. Mitch Cooper, the teenage debutant skipper, and the rest of the team regrettably received the opposite over the past seven days.
For influence on the result - and much-needed result it was - Matt Thompson from the Heart was supreme this week. The versatile Thompson set-up Eli Babalj's winner with an intelligent touch at the back post, but it was the midfielder's all-round dynamism and leadership that kept the three points in Melbourne. Thompson had been missing - along with fellow midfielder Fred - through injury, but his return was a welcome one as the Heart moved back into fifth place with their first win in nine outings.
Usually one of the most reliable strikers in the A-League, Sergio van Dijk was left to rue a gilt-edged chance for Adelaide against Sydney. In a match where clear-cut chances were at a premium, Van Dijk made a hash of two chances from close range. After receiving the ball from Dario Vidosic, the Dutchman had his initial strike blocked by Ivan Necevski before the follow-up clattered into the post with an empty net begging. The miss could prove costly for the Reds as the season appears to be getting away from the ninth-placed side.
Ange Postecoglou has his charges playing some delightful football once again, with slick interchanges and lightning switches of play returning to the Brisbane Roar. The side seemed to have lost all rhythm after their record-breaking feat earlier this season, but three successive wins against some of the best teams in the competition sees Brisbane sitting in outright second and as the only genuine challenger to the Central Coast Mariners. It appears too late for the Roar to make a run for the Premiers Plate, but another grand final berth seems increasingly likely.
Mike Mulvey has been thrust into the fire at Gold Coast United. Mulvey has been appointed as Miron Bleiberg's replacement following the week's drama and the new boss will simply be hoping to steady the ship for the final six games of the season. His tenure started with a loss away from home, but it will be his ability to create motivation within the squad in the wake of Clive Palmer's behaviour that will make all the difference. Mulvey's position is not an enviable one, and if another poor result is posted on Wednesday against the Mariners, the situation could become worse still.
GOAL OF THE WEEK
The second-half strike from Tomas Rogic in the Mariners' win over Wellington was a thing of beauty as the young playmaker curled an effort with his left foot into the net from the edge of the penalty area. Could the youngster be a dark horse for Holger Osieck's next Socceroos squad to be announced this week?
SAVE OF THE WEEK
Ivan Necevski made plenty of fine saves to deny Adelaide, including his effort to smother the shot of Dario Vidosic in the second half, but it was his quick release to allow Mitchell Mallia to score the winner at the other end that helps earn him the title.