In what might be a season-defining loss for our City boys, we’ve fallen to a 1-0 defeat away to the rising Wellington Phoenix, who arguably represented a benchmark clash that would have proven our worth.
In what was a shaky start for either side, big scoring opportunities seemed aplenty in the game’s opening 45 minutes, though neither outfit were able to find the back of the net until the second half, when Gary Hooper teed up David Ball in the middle for a comfortable finish past Tom Glover.
As a result, Perth now appear in prime position – with two games in-hand – to overtake us in second place when we have our Bye next week, with Wellington and Adelaide looking equally likely to surpass City when they face Western United and Western Sydney Wanderers in Round 20.
Here’s what we learned from last night’s loss:
Flash in the pan Frenchy?
One week Florin Berenguer’s the man of the match, scoring one goal and assisting another, and playing with never-before-seen confidence which bred an aggressive, forward-looking style of play which we’d been craving from the Frenchman.
The next week he’s substituted at the 67th minute after an unimpactful showing in an important game which we went on to lose.
Berenguer’s passing in the final third was beyond wasteful; it was hair-pullingly frustrating beyond belief, primarily because our expectations of his capabilities had been so dramatically reevaluated following his MotM performance in the Derby.
The key thing to note here is that the subheading above isn’t a statement, it’s a question.
Berenguer has demonstrated the potential to reach the heights of his single-handed Victory-slaying, and we can only hope that he returns to that type of form soon.
Where we truly belong
City haven’t won consecutive games since Rounds 4 and 5 of this season… and that was 14 rounds ago. Incredibly, we’ve been clinging onto a top-two finish all that time, but not only does that prospect seem increasingly unlikely, it also seems undeserved.
In a season where Sydney have been the outright top dog with hardly a genuine challenger in sight, City have enjoyed the spotlight of second place whilst every other team battled mediocrity.
Now that Perth and Wellington have emerged as genuine, quality teams within the competition however, and with City faltering and achieving new levels of ‘consistently inconsistent’ – a phrase which has been used for just about every post-match I’ve written thus far – it may finally be the case that we never truly deserved to be in ACL qualification in the first place, and are about to start languishing in the positions where we truly belong.
The difference between City’s pressing in the first and second half was night and day, which was very disappointing to witness as a fan because it had seemed to be so effective in creating turnovers and scoring opportunities in the opening 45.
Wellington keeper Marinovic was quite literally spraying his passes left, right and centre, putting the ball out of play on either flank or occasionally mishitting his clearances straight to the oncoming City attackers in the middle of the field, who were even once met with an open net to aim for with not a whole lot of direct pressure on the shot.
All four of our attacking players (Maclaren, Susaeta, Luna and Noone) work hard to make the press work, with Luna, in particular, being recently singled out for his defensive work-rate.
It all seemed to fall away in the second half, however, with the City frontline seemingly – anecdotally anyway – less inclined to keep the pressure up or at least doing it to a less effective degree.