'The seven stages of grief': Three things we learned - Melbourne Derby
City fans were subjected to many of the seven stages of grief earlier this afternoon as they witnessed a respectable performance from Dario Vidosic's side go entirely unrewarded in a 2-0 Melbourne Derby loss.
It was shock, denial and anger - a comprehensive sense of outrage - that many would have felt as Emma Checker, playing her 50th game for City, was penalised for being struck by the ball, at best in her shoulder blade and at worst the back of her shoulder, inside the Victory penalty area. These feelings were only exacerbated by the blatant handball missed by the referee in the preceding passage of play, and again by Melina Ayres' subsequent conversion from the spot.
Next, a downright depression set in as the Victory fortuitously found the back of the net again, with Paige Zois slamming a shot from outside the box through a sea of bodies in either shade of Melbourne's footballing blues. This emotion would have almost certainly embedded itself over the remainder of the match as City, for all of its attacking might and persistence to create opportunities, simply couldn't breach the wall of Casey Dumont.
By the game's closing stages, it was time to accept that the Victory would be claiming bragging rights regardless of either side's performances, but that there is still much hope to be drawn from what was a solid performance from the City girls.
Here's what we learned from this afternoon's emotional turbulence:
In it for a minute
It was short-lived anyway, but whatever opportunity was presented by the shock defeats of Sydney FC and Western United earlier in the long weekend has been promptly passed up by our City girls.
The team is now five points off of either side, with Sydney enjoying a game in hand over us and Western having played one game more. The Premier's Plate will ultimately be lifted by one of these two teams.
It was a race we were in for barely a minute, but we might as well be stuck on the starting line.
You can lead (even your best) horses to water, but you can't make them drink...
Poor finishing in big games is hardly a new lesson learned, but today's wastefulness in front of goal has been the first instance of this since the return of superstar forwards Holly McNamara and Cote Rojas.
With 11 shots on target from 23 in total, our issue wasn't even testing the keeper but taking her out of the equation entirely. With 11 saves made, Casey Dumont may as well have scored Victory's two goals herself with the impact that she had on the game.
Frustratingly for my contention, City's season stats don't even back up the claim that the lack of a clinical edge in front of goal is costing us as much as I, and many other fans, feel; we rank second in the league for shots-per-goal and have even scored almost three more than we'd have been expected to based on Expected Goals data. I'd attribute this contradiction to the fact that we've been good at putting goals past the league's weaker defences, as we did last week when we scored four goals from just two more shots on target than today against Newcastle Jets.
In tighter contests where missed opportunities are being punished up the other end, as against Sydney FC and Western United, our finishing simply hasn't been good enough, and if we've got an eye on causing an upset come Finals time, then that will need to improve rapidly.
Bossin' the Men's, Grossin' the Dub
To finish on a positive, plaudits need to go to Julia Grosso who is swiftly becoming the Jordan Bos of our Women's outfit.
Like her younger counterpart, Grosso is providing a creative spark on the dribble that is unexpected from a player in her defensive position. Grosso completed more dribbles (5/6) than anyone on the park, took two shots and created one scoring opportunity for a teammate.
Also similar to Bos, Grosso is consistently one of few players who can hold her head high regardless of the team's performance or result, with the 23-year-old rarely dropping below that 6.5-7/10-level display that you'd hope to see all players put in at minimum. She defends well individually and is always willing to try and make things happen with her athleticism and creative endeavour.
It can be easy to sit in the despair of a Derby loss where such a significant opportunity has been passed up, so it's worth celebrating an individual who had been a big part of putting us into that position in the first place.