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Top five players to watch out for in A-League semi-finals

Published at :May 9, 2024 at 4:45 PM
Modified at :May 9, 2024 at 4:45 PM
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JN Balraj

The A-League semi-finals start tomorrow!

The semi-finals of the A-League will take fans on a rollercoaster ride as Oceania’s four giants try to outsmart each other in two-legged ties. The stakes are high this term for Central Coast Mariners who have won the league and now face a strong Sydney FC side managed by Ufuk Talay. Wellington Phoenix, on the other hand, face a tough task against Melbourne Victory, who on paper will start the clash as underdogs.

The league stage saw a toe-to-toe tussle between the Mariners and the Phoenix till the business end and any team could have finished on top as they were separated by two points at the finish line. The same drama is expected to unfold when these teams will take on each other in a mouth-watering clash for the fans.

As the Oceania giants prepare to battle, we look at five players who hold the power of determining the fortunes of these ties.

5. Joshua Nisbet (Central Coast Mariners)

Central Coast Mariners just edged past rivals Wellington Phoenix to win the A-League league title, and 24-year old Josh Nisbet with his relentless pressing and intelligent playmaking throughout the season can pat himself. He has proven to be an important asset for Mark Jackson and will surely play a part against Sydney FC in the semi-final.

Joshua has been deployed in various positions, mostly as the left midfielder or winger but he has switched to central positions and has also been a part of the defensive line. The groovy, on the pitch, youngster has played every minute in the season and has registered two goals along with nine assists to his name.

4. Alex Paulsen (Wellington Phoenix)

This list features only one player from Giancarlo Italiano’s team, and he’s not Kosta Barbarouses. A 21-year old goalkeeper on the fourth position might raise many eyebrows on this inclusion but a regular follower of the A-League cannot deny his valiant efforts to keep the Phoenix in the title race till the very end. 

Three out of five penalties saved, 100% successful run outs and only two goals conceded from outside the box. These numbers speak for his importance and show how difficult it is to beat him. Paulsen’s immense confidence on the ball with an 88% passing accuracy statistically has all a coach asks from a modern day goalie.

3. Jacob Farrel (Central Coast Mariners)

Still 21, Jacob Farrel has dominated the left flank, both offensively and defensively, for Central Coast Mariners with his sumptuous dribbling. But most importantly, his partnership with Josh Nisbet and Angel Torres has played a part in Mariner’s success across the A-League season.

Jacob has five goal contributions in 22 appearances, but the numbers don’t show the complete picture. The youngster has made six ball recoveries every game and won every seven out of 10 duels which highlights his completeness as a full-back. Despite his tender age, Farrel has never committed any error under high press and shows immaculate maturity on the pitch.

2. Bruno Fornaroli (Melbourne Victory)

22 games played, 18 goals to his name and three assists. The leader in attack for Melbourne Victory is just a couple of goals away from the coveted golden boot. His eye for goal has helped the Melbourne commanders to overcome big teams in the league. Notably, Fornaroli single handedly won games against Adelaide United and Perth Glory to fetch his side a top-six finish. 

However, the striker has also missed 14 big chances this season and has a goal conversion rate of 20%. But it’s only a mere stat to highlight where he needs to do better to give his team a chance in the semi-final against Wellington Phoenix. 

1. Joe Lolley (Sydney FC)

Only if Joe Lolley was supported a bit more by Robert Mak, the season could have been a completely different one for Sydney FC. The right winger from the city of Opera House has arguably been the best player in the league this term. Joe took control himself in the attacking third, finding the net 12 times and assisting seven times this season.

The English forward has a plethora of experience to play in pressure situations, and will be an asset for the manager. He also hit the net in the eliminator against Mcarthur and is roaring to go in the upcoming semis. Joe will surely be an head-ache for Mark Jackson and his defence.

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