'Fixed a hole, scored a goal': Three things we learned: City vs Adelaide - ALW
The City girls have completed a season clean-sweep over Adelaide United, picking up another three points after downing the Reds 1-0 in the second fixture of yesterday's double-header.
Rhianna Pollicina broke the deadlock with a strike early in the second half, and a resolute defensive performance and dominance of the attacking opportunities ensured that Adelaide never really had a chance to get back into the contest.
With a difficult few weeks ahead for our City girls, the team needs to continue learning and improving from its performances as it challenges Western United for the Premiers' Plate, so here were some of the major lessons to emerge from yesterday's display.
It may not have been reflected in the scoreline, but this was another step in the right direction for Dario Vidosic's side since its post-New Year drop-off, with the team mostly letting itself down only with its poor finishing.
The City girls proved far more capable of entering the opposition penalty area and then creating shooting opportunities from this territorial dominance, recording a number of high-quality shots that should have threatened the Adelaide goal more than they did.
Importantly, this was also Rhianna Pollicina's best game in a while. The midfielder was looking like her old self again as she pulled the strings in attacking transition and also got on the end of a number of these promising moments herself.
To continue a hallmark of the 2023 Melbourne City, our girls in blue were again defensively resolute and never really looked troubled on their way to a comfortable clean sheet.
Whilst fans might still wish to be more convinced before we head into a season-defining pair of away fixtures against Sydney FC and Western United, the team has done enough to ensure that we'll at least challenge for the three points in either matchup.
Ekic’s loss offset by formation change
Whilst we've often cited the departure of Maria Rojas as the biggest reason for our drop-off, the season-ending injury to Emina Ekic is another big contributing factor, but that issue seems to have been resolved in recent weeks.
In lieu of a standout left wing replacement for Ekic, Julia Grosso has been fantastic in the left wing-back role created by our switch to a three-back formation, and was rewarded for her dangerous performance yesterday with an assist (and a big chance at a maiden City goal). As an athletic individual with the pace to burst in behind opposition defenders and the stamina to make lung-busting recovery runs, the role perfectly suits Grosso, as does it complement the skillset of her right-sided counterpart Kaitlin Torpey.
In addition, the change to a three-back system has also worked to reintroduce Emma Checker back into the fold following a leaky first couple of fixtures in which she featured in a defensive partnership prior to the formation change. By moving to three central defenders, the strong campaigns of Naomi Chinnama and Katie Bowen have been rewarded without sacrificing the leadership presence of our team captain, and amongst the defensive trio there is a good mix of proactive/reactive defensive qualities and ball-playing abilities.
With the Ekic hole now apparently filled, and the Rojas hole slowly filling, all that needs to be done is to work on finishing.
Lesser of two evils; ALW suffers from playing second in double-headers
Those who remained in attendance at AAMI Park for the ALW fixture yesterday might have been just as disappointed at the apparent lack of care from the majority of City fans for our high-flying and engaging women's side yesterday, but there was also a lesson learned about double-header scheduling.
The contrast between the excited energy of a much larger ALM crowd that had just witnessed a heart-stopping 3-3 draw and the smattering of ALW fans left behind afterward only emphasised the dreary atmosphere that remained inside what felt like an even more cavernous AAMI Park.
It was the first time in a while that the women have played second in a double-header, an experiment that some had long-touted, but which, as evidenced yesterday, doesn’t work. At least if playing first, atmosphere builds throughout the game as the early attendees for the ALM game begin to take their seats, generally in the second half. Those in attendance during this period at least have a chance to be attracted by the brand of football and individual brilliance of the players they're seeing, which might encourage them to attend future ALW fixtures.
Whilst the latest discourse amongst ALW pundits has been the eradication of double-headers altogether, we can at least point to yesterday's offering as an example of what works on these long footballing afternoons and what doesn't.