City have failed yet another test of our now non-existent title credentials by giving up a 1-0 lead to ultimately lose to a Sydney team who played more than an hour of the match with just ten men on the field after Ryan Grant’s first-half red card.
One of the few bright spots from the disappointing performance, Connor Metcalfe netted his second goal of the season following a Craig Noone cross at the culmination of a short corner routine.
It all fell apart from there however, with Sydney scoring just minutes after Ryan Grant’s sending off. Though a questionable refereeing decision was involved in the lead-up to the goal, City failed to clear from a free kick which was floated into the box, with Adam Le Fondre eventually slotting it home.
It couldn’t have been anyone else but ex-Victory player Kosta Barbarouses who’d go on to score the winner for Sydney, capitalising on some slack City defending from yet another free kick, cutting in past Scott Galloway and placing his shot just inside the far post.
Another missed opportunity. Another disappointing result. Another unbelievable – though totally City-esque – loss.
Here’s what we learned:
Our defence of Noone is over
Throughout the early weeks of the league season we were happy to defend the Englishman’s sudden drop-off in form. He wasn’t breaking games open like he was in the Cup. He wasn’t scoring the bangers. He wasn’t working in perfect harmony with Jamie Maclaren as he had been. But “he’ll come good, he’ll come good” was the common response we gave.
Whilst our statistical deepdive into Noone’s performances showed that he’d actually been our most prominent creator throughout the opening eight or nine rounds, we’ve finally come to the conclusion that there’s no reason that Lachie Wales or Ramy Najjarine couldn’t do any better with the amount of crossing and shooting opportunities he gets.
His misses in particular have been absolutely astonishing this season for a player of his supposed quality. Tonight’s absolute ‘pass-into-the-back-of-the-net’ sitter certainly wasn’t his first huge miss at a crucial stage of the match, and our patience for him has truly run out.
Bring in Wales. Bring in Najjarine. Move Atkinson or Luna onto the wing. We don’t care what the solution is and if it turns out that they’re no better then bring him right back in and see if the time on the bench has done him any good.
Beating the mentality monsters
Well, if we’re to use the actual Klopp quote, we need to beat our “f***ing bunch of mentality monsters” as Liverpool did against Southampton. Different match circumstances, but the quote is still applicable. Here’s another quote for you:
Rostyn Griffiths: “We’re this close to being a top-top side . . . the mentality’s not there.”
There’s a mental barrier that City sides haven’t been able to break through for years. We’ve seen it several times this year already and we’ve seen it countless times in the past. There’s a reason we haven’t become that top-top team yet and it’s something that’s not an issue for Sydney, who’ve mastered the ‘winners mentality’ over the past few Championship-winning seasons, as evidenced by Steve Corica walking into the change rooms at half-time and telling his side, “Keep going. We’re going to win this game.”
Perhaps it’s the same optimistic cliché every coach gives their losing side, but perhaps not, because it was the same under Graham Arnold. We, as rival fans, always called it arrogance, but this mentality is instilled in the culture of Sydney Football Club and they have the silverware – and the nine-point lead – to show for it now.
And on the topic of that nine-point lead…
Anything but second is a failed season
As has been pointed out, once Sydney regained first spot a while back we were never really in serious title race contention. We’re the club that is – and sorry to revert back to this phrase so often – consistently inconsistent, whilst Sydney are just about always quality, full stop.
The race is over, but not because of Sydney’s lead. It’s over because we’re so inconsistent and can’t string together decent runs of winning form for long enough to capitalise whenever Sydney drop point – and they WILL drop points.
After our FFA Cup Final humiliation in which we walked away without the trophy we’d come to expect would almost certainly end up ours, the pass mark for this season must surely be Asian Champions League qualification. That means placing top two, and with the sheer disparity in quality between Sydney and the rest of the teams (particularly with Victory and Perth underperforming), there is absolutely no excuse for us not to fight to the very end to be ‘best of the rest’ and secure second spot.