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'Contenders and Pretenders': 3 things we learned - W-League Melbourne Derby

Josh Gribling

Lachlan Wight

The Melbourne Derby’s been decided by yet another late winner following Yukari Kinga’s 89th-minute finish from Steph Catley’s incisive cutback from the wing, putting Melbourne City to the top of the W-League table after five rounds.

A game that had all the makings of ending up as a 0-0 stalemate, Emily van Egmond’s missed penalty aside, here’s what we learned from the first W-League Melbourne Derby of 2019/20:

Identifying the contenders and pretenders

Last night’s Derby win served mostly to prove that Victory simply aren’t good enough to contest for this year’s title race. The game was as lopsided as they come, with every telling stat going the way of City:

Shots: 13 to 1.

Possession: 67% to 33%.

Pass accuracy: 84% to 69%.

Corners: 7 to 0.

Completed crosses: 26 to 8.

Meanwhile, Brisbane Roar have also suffered a slow start to their campaign despite their gluttony of Matildas players. In a league where only four teams qualify for the finals, Brisbane will be desperate to get consecutive wins on the board and keep in touch with the top four.

It seems, however, that this year there are three clear standouts, with the resurgent (and currently undefeated) Western Sydney Wanderers and perennial title contenders Sydney FC presently occupying second and third place on the table.

Whilst City and Sydney have their world-class squads which have now been playing together for a few years, it remains to be seen whether the Wanderers can maintain their impressive early season form to keep up with the ‘big dogs’.

Forward first

It hasn’t necessarily been a recurring feature of our performances so far, but our transition of the ball from the backline to midfield was immensely frustrating last night.

The best teams in any sport are near-autonomous in their decision-making. A pass is received and the player instantly knows where the ball should go next. Hesitation and second-guessing under pressure kill this instantly and it certainly killed momentum in our attacking phases last night.

Too often our central defenders elected against committing early to the more incisive passing option of Catley or Carpenter high on the wing – bypassing the majority of the Victory front-half defensive setup – but instead passed to one of our retreating central midfielders in a crowded midfield where the ball could far more easily be turned over by the pressing Victory attackers and midfielders.

Our wingers are our most creative attacking outlet this season, so Catley and Carpenter need to be utilised quickly from turnovers deep in our defensive half so as to maximise their efficacy in wide areas.

Need to take our chances – YET AGAIN

We’ve surely covered this to death since the beginning of the W-League season, but our attackers continue to pass up very scoreable opportunities which could have seen us win last night’s Derby by three or four goals.

As pleasing as it was to see the team push until the final whistle to score the winner, we can’t continue to rely on late goals to get the results, as we’ve needed twice this season already.

We’re yet to put a team to the sword, as we should be very capable of, and our attackers are probably the most underperforming line collectively thus far.

Taking chances early allows us to control the game and forces teams to open up whilst chasing an equaliser, affording City more space to break into and hopefully score a second.

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