'All to play for': Three things we learned - Semi-Final First Leg
Our Finals fate now rests on Sunday afternoon's second leg against Adelaide United as the City boys secured a 0-0 draw at Coopers Stadium last night.
Our boys in blue mustered several good chances, which fans would have hoped to see at least one of being put away, but some good stops by Joe Gauci ensured that the Reds were able to keep a clean sheet at home.
Here's what we were able to take away from that first leg in preparation for this weekend's rematch:
We showed enough to approach Sunday with optimism
Coming into the tie, City's unconvincing recent form and Adelaide's run of six consecutive wins - paired with our poor history at Coopers - had fans fearful of a demoralising defeat on the road.
Whilst we didn't come away with the scoreboard advantage heading into Sunday's rematch, City fans can at least take some heart from the lively showing from their boys, with Patrick Kisnorbo's men looking the better side for most of the encounter.
Jamie Maclaren saw a pair of big chances, Connor Metcalfe and Mathew Leckie forced a pair of brilliant saves from Gauci, and Andrew Nabbout even hit the upright in the second half, those culminating in a domination of the xG scoreline, but unfortunately, not the one that matters.
Our back four really came to play
Much was made of Adelaide's attacking prowess coming into the clash, with pundits frothing over Craig Goodwin throughout the week and in the pre-match coverage, yet the Reds were blunted at home by a resolute City defence.
Carl Jenkinson was assigned the task of keeping Goodwin quiet, which he achieved at the expense of having a more offensively impactful game, but it was the other three who were particularly impressive.
The return of Curtis Good to the lineup saw him put in a dominant performance at centre-back, frequently employing surprising bursts of speed to outpace attackers to loose balls.
When paired with Nuno Reis, it is clear that the duo is City's best central defensive pairing, working in tandem well in high-pressure defensive situations. The Portuguese defender was on-point with most of his long-range passing too.
As for the sometimes unfairly maligned Scott Jamieson, the City skipper showed the kind of grit and unwillingness to lose a contest that has otherwise endeared him to fans. The left-back was arguably the best of our back four last night and will continue to keep Jordan Bos out of a starting role as long as he continues to perform to this level.
Overall, it's very much 'Advantage City' from here
Fans and players alike should take confidence from the first leg performance, but there are also a number of other factors that are looking like playing into City's hands coming into Sunday.
Aside from the obvious advantage of playing the second leg in front of a home crowd, the City boys will also be better rested than their Adelaide counterparts, who will be playing their third game in a week. Additionally, we've heard that City will have already returned to Melbourne after taking a private chartered flight home from Adelaide yesterday, further aiding the speed of their recovery and preparation for the next contest.
Finally, with Florin Berenguer not having travelled for the first leg, it can only be assumed that this was to ensure he was fully fit to play a part in Sunday's return fixture, hopefully to decisive effect.