In a stunning return to play for the City boys, the group have knocked off Premiers Sydney FC with a clinical 2-0 win that will have a fair case as our best performance of the season.
The lads were unstoppable from start to finish, peppering the Sydney goal face in the first half before finally being rewarded for their efforts in the 57th minute when Craig Noone capitalised on a disastrous miscontrol by Paulo Retre to slot home into an empty net.
The boys didn’t take their foot off the throttle either, with Jamie Maclaren producing one of the individual goals of the season to put City two goals ahead, with the team then able to professionally see out the remainder of the 90.
Here’s what we learned from our successful return to play:
Throwing our name in the hat
Whilst fans would do well to keep the lid firmly sealed tight, tonight’s win is massive; its importance both to the race for second spot and to the overall landscape of the league heading into Finals can’t be understated.
Frustratingly, we’ve shown we can play to this immense standard several times this season and have come up with our fair share of hugely important wins, only to go and put a rubbish performance together the next week that undoes all of our good work.
We’ve now convincingly beaten Sydney, dominated Perth (well, in the opening half of that crazy pre-lockdown match, anyway) and were at least highly competitive in our most recent clash with Wellington Phoenix when we met in New Zealand, with the Nix not exactly brilliant themselves since the league’s resumption.
The key here, as it seemingly always is with strong City sides, is ensuring that we can perform to tonight’s level CONSISTENTLY.
We’ve certainly heard that word before, haven’t we?
Three at the back CAN work
Here’s a reminder that until tonight, Melbourne City had kept just five clean sheets and undesirably possessed one of the worst defensive records of the top six (the worst by-far if you swap Adelaide for WU, who look set to join the six).
Those stats only serve to highlight just how impressive our defensive performance tonight was, shutting out the team with the most goals scored and the highest goal-conversion rate in the league.
For the majority of the game, our defensive structure held firm and our three domineering central defenders proved to be a near-impenetrable barrier ahead of Tom Glover who was barely called into action, with only a very small handful of nervewracking exceptions.
Vulnerability at the set-piece remained a minor issue (there was a close call in the 22nd minute which resulted in an unmarked shot straight at Glover) but the boys were fairly dominant in the air otherwise.
Richard Windbichler was also solid in his return from injury.
Something’s off at Sydney – and challengers should be smelling blood
Before the COVID-enforced break, the 2019/20 season looked like it was well and truly wrapped up, with Sydney leaps and bounds ahead of every other team in the league.
Since the return to play, there have been few teams poorer than the Sky Blues and the chasing pack of teams should give themselves every chance to be able to knock them off come Finals time if they don’t get their act together.
Sure, this is Talking City, not Talking Sydney, but there’s certainly been a stark difference in the attacking potency of the current Premiers since the season’s resumption, with Adam Le Fondre and Milos Ninkovic just about unsighted for a third consecutive game, and Anthony Caceres and Luke Brattan once again left to pick up the slack.
We’ll remind you again that we as City fans shouldn’t be getting too far ahead of ourselves just yet, especially with important fixtures against Finals hopefuls Adelaide and Western United coming up, but there certainly appears to be an opening for City to establish itself as a serious contender if we can keep this form up.