City fans were treated to a resounding 4-2 win away from home over the Mariners, with a Jamie Maclaren hattrick serving as the headline act in the behind-closed-doors fixture.
The City boys conceded early when Jordan Murray slipped beyond Rostyn Griffiths and Curtis Good to finish past Tom Glover, but our lads were quick to reply, with JMac and Susaeta both netting within the first ten minutes of the game to ensure we entered the half-time break at 2-1.
Maclaren netted again just a handful of minutes into the second period, before closing the game out with a third in the 74thin response to Jordan Murray’s 69th-minute goal.
Here’s what we learned from the win:
An Aussie, an Englishman, a Spaniard, an Uruguayan and a Frenchman walk onto a pitch…
There’s no punchline though, because last night their attacking efficiency was no joke.
The quintet’s performance against Central Coast saw some of the best final third interplay that we’ve seen all year, with the crossing and incisive through-ball-playing producing a gluttony of scoring opportunities that could have seen us win the game by five, six or seven.
One of the more pleasing aspects of their collective output against the Mariners was Jamie Maclaren’s hattrick, with all three of his goals coming from open play, indicating that his quartet of supporting attackers may have rediscovered their ability to provide him with the quality service that a poaching striker such as himself naturally requires, given his limited involvement in the game otherwise.
If our diverse group of attacking players can replicate performances like last night’s more consistently throughout the remainder of the season then our chances of holding on to second spot suddenly look just about guaranteed.
Susaeta; better and better
Whilst Jamie Maclaren will have taken the match ball (and the maximum votes) home thanks to his second hattrick of the season, it was Markel Susaeta who arguably produced the game’s other standout performance.
The Spaniard arrived in Melbourne with a massive pedigree, arguably the biggest of any City signing since David Villa (Tim Cahill, perhaps?), and whilst his performances haven’t quite been disappointing, per sé, they haven’t exactly lived up to the hefty expectations that City fans can’t be really be blamed for having placed on him.
In City’s 4-2 win, the Spaniard’s performance laid bare the situation for exactly what it was; an Atletic Bilbao legend with 500+ appearances for the historic Spanish club against a god-awful Mariners defence which as been as leaky as a sieve all season.
His assist for Maclaren’s first of the game was textbook, as was his back-post header from Craig Noone’s cross just a few minutes later, but it was his line-breaking ball into the box for Nathaniel Atkinson (who would go on to set up JMac for his second as a result) that really caught the eye as a perfect exhibition of the Spaniard’s class.
Susaeta has the potential to establish himself as a superstar of the A-League and he’ll certainly be able to do that if he can continue to turn in class-above performances like last night.
The season that’s been
With just a handful of games remaining in the 2019/20 campaign, the aftermath of last night’s away win provided an opportunity for reflection on the season that’s been so far.
It really has been a crazy season that’s only gotten crazier in the last few weeks, with fans locked out of games and the season reportedly being condensed into three weeks, but when one casts their mind back to our opening-round Derby bore-draw, they can only really be quite proud of how our City boys have carried themselves throughout the 22 matches they’ve played so far.
With Wellington Phoenix, our nearest rival (four points behind but with two games in-hand), ineligible to play in the Asian Champions League – being from the Oceania Football Confederation – it is looking increasingly likely that City will be able to hang on to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in club history; an extraordinary achievement that all City fans should be proud of.
Sure, Sydney have been allowed to run away with the league entirely thanks to our typical City inconsistency, but if we are ultimately able to secure ACL qualification then Season 2019/20 can surely only be considered a resounding success, even despite our FFA Cup Final failure.