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If you only tuned into the two A-League games broadcast on free-to-air TV each week, you could almost be forgiven for thinking that the competition is in rude health.When Western Sydney’s on-loan Tunisian striker Amor Layouni skipped between Louis D’Arrigo and Craig Goodwin five minutes into stoppage time of the Wanderers’ exhilarating clash with Adelaide United at Coopers Stadium on Sunday afternoon, there was a sense of inevitability about what was to happen next.After coming on at half-time, the Swedish-born striker troubled the Reds at every turn, so it was no surprise to see him literally bunny-hop the ball over Goodwin’s attempted tackle, side-step Ben Warland and calmly stroke home the equaliser to make it 4-4 in a truly crazy game of football.Layouni was the stand-out in a game stacked with talent, as the likes of foreign stars Javi Lopez, Zach Clough and Hiroshi Ibusuki went head-to-head, with their equally well-travelled counterparts Morgan Schneiderlin, Romain Amalfitano and Wanderers debutant Layouni.The A-League is a much better standard of football than we ever give it credit for – a point amply illustrated by the equally impressive displays turned in by homegrown heroes Alexandar Popovic, Ryan Kitto, Brandon Borrello and Calem Nieuwenhof on the day.So why is it still such a struggle to market the A-League beyond the die-hards who turn out and tune in every week?Bruno Fornaroli’s goal in the Melbourne Derby on Saturday night is the sort of storyline the A-League should be pouncing on.
Once destined to become Melbourne City’s greatest-ever player – until the City Football Group chose to back the instantly forgettable Warren Joyce over the man who scored 48 league goals in just 70 games for them – Fornaroli celebrated wildly after scoring against his former club less than 40 seconds after the half-time break.Bruno Fornaroli. (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)And his goal was to prove crucial, after Josh Brilliante’s deflected long-range drive for Victory was matched by a blistering Mat Leckie response, which flashed past Paul Izzo at the near post.When the full-time whistle finally blew, Victory fans behind the goal celebrated their 3-2 win like they’d just won the league. In truth, all they’d done was move off the foot of the ladder.But it was another absorbing free-to-air fixture played out in front of a febrile atmosphere, and not for the first time in recent weeks, there was plenty to like about the broadcast coverage from Network 10 and Paramount+.Commentators calling the games in stadiums and not from a Sydney studio, proper pre-and-post-game panels, thoughtful sideline analysis? It’s almost as if it’s possible to cover the league professionally after all.If bringing the versatile Robbie Thomson back from France was one of Paramount’s smartest decisions, then signing the razor-sharp Daniel McBreen to a full-time contract isn’t far behind.
Archie Thompson has improved out of sight in Melbourne, while Max Burford has been terrific on the sidelines in Adelaide and enjoys a breezy rapport with former Reds legend Bruce Djite.Archie Thompson slams VAR for ruining the gameIn short, there’s plenty to like about the coverage we’ve been seeing recently – and both free-to-air games this weekend were hugely enjoyable.But we can’t pretend everything else is hunky-dory. The Paramount+ signal dropped out once again during Sydney FC’s 1-1 draw with Brisbane Roar, with the broadcaster later tweeting it was due “to a technical issue with a third-party provider”.Expansion clubs Western United and Macarthur continue to draw the lowest attendances in the league, while the Australian Professional Leagues’ ruinous grand final decision has only resulted in fans staying away from marquee fixtures like the Melbourne Derby.The league already relies heavily on catering to a select few clubs, with the likes of Sydney FC, Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City enjoying the lion’s share of free-to-air fixtures.The TV games have been fine. Unfortunately for the A-League, it’s everything else that needs drastic improvement.