'Still number one': Three things we learned - Melbourne Derby
City boys are still number one.
Fans were treated to a show on and off the pitch last night as Melbourne City emerged victorious in front of a raucous 80% capacity Derby crowd at AAMI Park.
A slow start was overcome within a quarter of an hour, with referee Alireza Faghani awarding City a penalty upon VAR review, with Jamie Maclaren slotting it away coolly.
The City boys made sure to extend that buffer quickly, nabbing a second just a few minutes later when a well-worked corner routine resulted in a Cadete own goal.
Josh Brillante's first-half sending-off only tilted the balance further in our favour, and the boys comfortably saw out the remainder of the contest, securing another vital three points early in the campaign.
Here's what we learned from our performance:
Defensive surprise, but offence belies
Coming into this season, City fans had every reason to be critical of our backline following a leaky 2021/22 campaign and a defensively-disastrous preseason in the build-up to 2022/23.
Few would have expected, then, that City would find themselves with two clean sheets and just one goal conceded after an opening three games that included both Western United and Melbourne Victory.
Whilst contributors to this defensive solidity will be discussed in their own right, for now, it's important to recognise that it's this stinginess at the back that is more responsible for our current top-of-the-table position than our attack.
Though we've managed to score twice in each of our first two encounters, City only has one goalscorer: Jamie Maclaren. Of our six goals, two have been own-goals, two have been penalties, one was that Maclaren-deflected Nabbout rocket following a spilled corner against Brisbane, and the final one was Maclaren's nicking of the ball off Leo Lacroix and deft chip over Jamie Young in Round 1.
Aside from the latter, these types of goals aren't exactly what Patrick Kisnorbo would idealise Maclaren scoring, and none of these goal routes are the type that we can consistently rely upon to pick up three points each week.
It's been a great start to the new season across the park, and there are plenty of things that our attacking unit is doing right each week, but for now, the objective in our next match against Wellington at home will just be to assist a goal from open play.
Glover; keeping our slow starts unpunished
With City cruising through the majority of its 270 minutes played thus far, it can be easy to forget that, for a pivotal 20-30 total minutes against Western United and Victory, there was just one man keeping us in each contest.
As in the opening stanza in Round 1, the City boys were again on the back foot early in last night's Derby, with this mounting pressure no better exemplified than by Glover's save from Brillante's point-blank header which unbelievably didn't find the back of the net.
As with his early diving save against James Troisi, Glover managed to keep his teammates in the game early, allowing them to go on and score the goals that would make the contest a more comfortable affair thereafter.
Whilst part of the focus of this two-in-one talking point is City's defensive vulnerability in the opening 10-15 minutes of games thus far (Brisbane excepted), credit really does need to go to Glover's uptick in form this season.
Making 10 saves and conceding just one goal in three games, Glover ranks in the top three keepers for both save percentage (90.9%) and goals prevented (1.4).
2021/22 was an objectively poor season for the 24-year-old, but City fans would love nothing more than to see the shot-stopper return to the form that we all know he is capable of.
TalBossing their opportunities
It was Jordan Bos in particular who earned plaudits against probably the trickiest opposition winger that he has faced in his burgeoning career, but a talking point praising our young fullback wouldn't be complete without mentioning his positional counterpart, Callum Talbot.
Together, the 19- and 21-year-old have been rock solid on the left and right sides of our back four respectively, and it's pleasing to see the pair take their starting opportunities with both hands.
Discussing Bos's performance specifically, it took a while for the youngster to adapt to Nani's style of play, losing some early battles, but from around the moment of Brillante's sending-off, the contest between City's teenage fullback and Victory's Portuguese superstar became entirely one-sided.
It became quite ironic to watch Bos turn the tables on Nani particularly in the second half, not only beating the winger in his one-on-one defensive duels but also gliding past the league's marquee player on several occasions as it became the 35-year-old's turn to make tepid attempts at containing the youngster.
Though the severity of the injury sustained by Scott Jamieson in the warm-up is unknown, the path could be set for Bos to take advantage of some potential clear air and help his stock rise further over the coming weeks.