The City boys have been held to a 2-2 draw at home by Wellington Phoenix, but the team are still just a win away from securing the Premier’s Plate following other results around the league.
City fielded a heavily-rotated squad in an unfamiliar system and were punished with a poor first-half showing that saw a cheap penalty conceded, with the boys returning to the rooms at half-time one goal down.
Kisnorbo rang the changes heading into the second period, immediately bringing on Noone and Griffiths, and City rediscovered its mojo, netting an equaliser through Naoki Tsubaki before Jamie Maclaren produced a stunning free-kick to give his side the late lead.
Unfortunately, a late turnover close to goal afforded the Phoenix one last opportunity, which was duly taken by Tomer Hemed, who ensured the game would finish 2-2.
Here’s what we learned from the encounter:
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
Look, PK tried something, it didn’t work, and we dropped two points as a result. No big deal overall, especially when results around the league ensure that we still have the same opportunity to win the Premier’s Plate next Saturday as we would have had with a win.
However, the decision to change City’s system didn’t really make a whole lot of sense in the first place, especially when the boys had been on a four-game winning streak and high on confidence.
The false nine experiment didn’t pay off at all, with the players appearing confused and unsure of where they should look to progress the ball, especially in the final third.
The move away from a more conventional 4-3-3 especially didn’t make sense when it’s been known for a while that Stefan Colakovski has been training as a centre-forward, whilst the majority of Naoki Tsubaki’s appearances over his senior career have come as a winger.
City’s usual system could have been maintained, but our half-time deficit and subsequent draw were the results of our experiment away from it.
The injury toll is getting concerning
With Rostyn Griffiths succumbing to injury within half an hour of being substituted on for Curtis Good at half-time, which in itself was a suspicious change, Melbourne City may now be down to one healthy senior centre-back in Nuno Reis.
Though there’s been no announcement from the club, Good’s removal from the game seems bizarre if not injury-related, especially considering City were trailing at the time.
Injuries to both players would likely see City lining up against the Mariners in our potential title-winning match with Kerrin Stokes returning to A-League action, given he still appears further ahead in the pecking order than Alec Mills.
With Andrew Nabbout and Nathaniel Atkinson also seemingly ruled out for the season, and with further players to lose thanks to Australia’s World Cup Qualifiers, City’s depth is about to be tested like never before.
Tilio has earned our trust as a bona fide starter
If there HAS been a bright side to the season-ending injuries of Nabbout and Atkinson, it’s that their respective replacements have taken their games to new levels when they’ve been given the chance.
Whilst Scott Galloway’s improvement has been dramatic, it’s the way that Marco Tilio has really taken to life as a starting A-League winger that has caught our eye, with the youngster pretty much proving that we can depend on him as our starting wide attacker going forward.
The 19-year-old has one goal and four assists this season, just one less of each than Andrew Nabbout despite playing just 40% of the on-pitch minutes of his more senior counterpart.
This raises an interesting talking point in itself, of course; with Nabbout’s contract expiring at the end of his injury-riddled season and Tilio proving himself to be just as, if not more, effective at right-wing, would you place your faith in Tilio as a regular starter next season or would you renew Nabbout’s contract?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments sections of our socials.