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'Not quite at the races': Three things we learned - Sydney vs City

Updated: Apr 11, 2021

Melbourne City was able to rescue a point in its away clash with Sydney FC last night, with a 98th-minute Jamie Maclaren penalty ensuring that the team would come away with a minor reward for their performance.

Sydney dominated the first 60-odd minutes of the encounter, but City finally found its feet in part thanks to the introductions of Colakovski and Tilio to the game, finishing so strongly that it would end up dominating the shooting statistics and Expected Goals despite not getting going until the final half-hour.

Here’s what we learned from the result:

Photo: Melbourne City FC

Not at the races or a case of injuries mounting?

For the overwhelming majority of yesterday’s game, Sydney FC were simply the better team – City never felt like they were at the races to begin with.

Andrew Nabbout was the most obvious example of this, substituted barely five minutes after half-time in part due to injury and in part due to one of his most underwhelming displays in recent memory.

His performance raises the question though, was he having an off day or was his influence limited by the absence of Nathaniel Atkinson?

The aforementioned fullback has been at the forefront of City’s transformation in recent months, providing attacking runs on the outside for Nabbout to interplay with and create space either for himself or his defensive counterpart.

Whilst Ben Garuccio is a quality fullback that would start in the majority of A-League teams, Atkinson simply seems to provide those overlapping runs and interplay more often and to a higher quality, so here’s hoping that Nabbout can find success without his usual right-sided foil whilst Atkinson recovers from his hamstring tear.

What’s going on with JMac?

It’s almost a topic we don’t want to talk about, but at this point, it has to be brought up.

What the hell has happened to JMac’s one-on-one finishing?

A striker with the hunger and ruthlessness of Maclaren couldn’t ask for a better opportunity to reward his team with a goal, yet City’s #9 has had at least one significant one-on-one in each of his last three or four games, to no avail.

If there’s an upside to the issue, it’s that he’s continuing to come through for his team when it matters, scoring big goals in each of his last two games when City really needed someone to step up, but Maclaren will no doubt be seething after passing up so many straightforward chances.

Passing up another chance at 1st

Speaking of passing up on chances, City have now had the opportunity to move into first twice and failed to come away with the necessary result that would achieve that outcome.

Fortunately for City, Adelaide United also slipped up in their game last night, drawing 1-1 with the Western Sydney Wanderers, so City can still assume outright first position if it can win next Saturday’s Derby.

With all these missed chances, you’d hope it’s not a mentality issue starting to creep back into the City camp, as the team mightn’t have a better chance to claim an inaugural Premiers Plate if it can just rediscover some consistency in performances and results.

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