As they say, football is a funny game.
Such a tightly contested rivalry historically always meant that this game was going to be challenging, with Adelaide entering the game with historical superiority, whilst City began with the stronger squad of the two sides.
Whilst City sat in cruise control two goals to the good in the opening two thirds of the game, a late comeback and defensive blunder ultimately prevented us from walking away with three points.
So was it two points lost, or one point gained? Here are three things we learned during Round 2 of the 2021-22 season away against Adelaide United:
That Front Three
After an underwhelming opening game of the season, a front three of Leckie, Nabbout and Maclaren were again named in the starting squad. After an early period of dominance from the Reds, Melbourne City began to tighten the screws as they entered a long period of dominance.
Leckie and Nabbout were both busy, with the latter increasing intensity as he played with a point to prove, spurred on by some choice words from the home crowd. Maclaren, too, made some excellent runs and found himself in good positions, opening his account for the season at the 28th-minute mark. Nabbout was also rewarded for his hard work as he found the back of the net in the 61st minute, bending the ball with the outside of his boot from well outside the box.
Whilst it will take more time for the intensity and understanding to click, we can take away the positives and see, when we are fit and firing, just how potent, dangerous and fruitful these players will be for us.
Who Needs a Midfield?
To counteract Adelaide’s dominance in midfield, City decided to go direct with some incredible switches of play and diagonals to our forward three. Balls from Good, Metcalfe and Nuno Reis caused Adelaide headaches, ultimately leading to the first goal with a brilliant pass out from Metcalfe to Nabbout, ultimately finding Maclaren in front of goal for a tap in.
This tactic may prove to be fruitful throughout the season, allowing us to exploit our pace and creativity out wide and providing opportunities for the midfield to get in the box and apply pressure to the opposition. The creativity demonstrated from these more defensive-minded players show just how important every player is in delivering our style and certainly gives us an added advantage when we step onto the pitch.
Strength in Numbers
Consistency of squad brings with it a winning culture and it was no surprise to see an unchanged lineup from last week.
Keen observers noted, however, that some key players were missing from the bench, with the club confirming they had been left in Melbourne to play a friendly.
As we turn our attention to Wednesday night's FFA Clash away at Hume and welcome Western United to our 2nd home game of the season on Saturday night, it was not surprising to see a youthful bench named for the clash at Coopers as we managed the first of three games in a week.
With City aiming to set their sights on greater successes this season, the old adage of ‘strength in numbers’ rings true. No doubt, if we are to attain success over the course of the season, we will rely heavily on the entire squad with strong rotations, both in-game and in regard to short/long-term management to ensure we are able to maintain a competitive edge sustainably over the months to come.
Having said this, the choice to leave a player of Atkinson’s calibre out may have ultimately undermined us. Having the opportunity to bring him on may have given us the composure we needed to see out the game in the dying stages.
Whilst it is not time for panic stations, both games played out this season have ultimately seen us being unable to maintain dominance for the full 90 minutes. We will be relying on our bench in the coming weeks and months to allow this to happen – no doubt, leaving Atkinson at home in Melbourne may have proven to be the wrong decision on the night.
We go again.
We now turn our gaze to the midweek clash against Hume City, where no doubt we will see some fresh faces and the opportunity for some players to make a case for first-team football leading into the busy summer set of fixtures. With key players such as Atkinson and Griffiths likely starting, a different looking forward line and with our new import Pucciarelli potentially getting some minutes, it is shaping up to be an interesting 90 minutes of football ahead on Wednesday night as we aim to move past the Round of 16 at ABD Stadium, Wednesday 1st December.