The pressure is ramping up across the Hyundai A-League, but these players stood tall for their clubs during Round 20.
There were crucial goals, saves and decisive moments offered by each, and we’ve crunched the numbers from an intriguing round of action to identify the strongest performers.
Thanks to Opta data, here is every club’s best player from Round 20.
Adelaide United – Paul Izzo
For once, the numbers have omitted Craig Goodwin from top spot, and his regular position as Adelaide’s best statistical performer has been usurped by Paul Izzo.
The Reds gloveman made two crucial saves to help Adelaide to a credible 0-0 stalemate against Newcastle Jets on Sunday afternoon.
Izzo also made 32 passes, the second most of any goalkeeper (behind Lawrence Thomas with 35).
Brisbane Roar – Alex Lopez
It’s been a tricky debut campaign in Australia for the Spanish maestro.
But Alex Lopez may look upon his stunning display in Roar’s 5-3 win over Central Coast Mariners as a turning point.
In it, the midfielder conducted an enterprising Brisbane performance, the highlight of which was a remarkable volley which should rank among the strongest goal of the season contenders.
Lopez added a second to become the only player from Round 20 to score a brace, while also creating a scoring chance and unleashing four shots.
Central Coast Mariners – Connor Pain
Pain has been a shining light for Mike Mulvey’s struggling Central Coast side this season, and he was once again a bundle of optimism in the Mariners’ 5-3 loss to Brisbane on Friday.
He got the Mariners on the board with a lovely looping header – one of four shots in total the attacker made to accompany the three scoring chances he created.
Melbourne City – Scott Jamieson
Jamieson always offers attacking impetus for a Melbourne City side that can struggle for penetration, and this was the case in Saturday’s derby draw.
The left back created a joint round-high three scoring chances and was one of just four players to make 80+ pass attempts (81).
Melbourne Victory – Kosta Barbarouses
Barbarouses grabbed the all-important goal to help 10-man Melbourne Victory come from behind in the Melbourne derby.
It was his side’s solitary shot on goal, but the Kiwi made it count.
The attacker also contested 14 duels on the night, highlighting the fight on display from Kevin Muscat’s men.
Newcastle Jets – Nigel Boogaard
Newcastle’s captain was a colossus against Adelaide.
Boogaard made seven clearances, completed 52/59 passes and won three out of four aerial duels contested.
Perth Glory – Chris Ikonomidis
Ikonomidis slotted his eighth goal of the season in Perth Glory’s 1-1 draw with Western Sydney Wanderers.
And despite an off-night for Tony Popovic’s side the attacker kept the opposition defence busy.
He rifled a round-high three shots on target at Vedran Janjetovic’s goal, and won 9/17 duels contested.
Sydney FC – Andrew Redmayne
Redmayne has been a quiet standout for Sydney FC this season.
And while there were no penalty heroics needed in the Sky Blues’ 1-0 triumph over Wellington Phoenix, the gloveman was required to keep Steve Corica’s side on course.
Redmayne made three saves against the Phoenix, the most of any goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet this round.
Wellington Phoenix – Filip Kurto
The trajectory of Wellington’s season could well have been different had Filip Kurto not been involved.
Phoenix’s Polish giant was once again immense for Mark Rudan’s side despite their 1-0 defeat to Sydney FC.
Kurto made three saves for the round – including a fine stop to deny Reza Ghoochannejhad.
Western Sydney Wanderers – Tarek Elrich
It may be a wretched season for the Wanderers but Tarek Elrich proves week after week why he’s a silver lining.
The veteran defender has at times been the glue holding Markus Babbel’s side together, and his late equaliser against Glory was deserved reward for the stoicism on display this campaign.
Elrich also made 65 passes and five tackle attempts to spoil Tony Popovic’s Western Sydney homecoming.