City have pulled off a spectacular Derby win in front of a home AAMI Park crowd for the first time in just over four years, putting a significant dent in Victory’s finals hopes with an impressive 2-1 win over the crosstown rival.
Florin Berenguer opened the scoring early on with a well-placed finish past Lawrence Thomas for his first-ever City goal, a moment which drew frenzied celebrations from the City faithful.
The Frenchman was again involved later on, providing the assist for our second with a mouth-watering backheel into the path of Jamie Maclaren to finish into the back of the net.
A goalkeeping howler from Tom Glover allowed Victory back into the game late on, but the City lads dug in to hold onto their 2-1 lead for a crucial win which keeps us in second place for another week.
Here’s what we learned:
Frenchy comes to the forefront
Florin Berenguer has been berated by fans since his arrival at the club at the beginning of last season and despite his injuries and being played out of position by Warren Joyce, the criticism has probably been very much warranted.
With zero goals to his name, the Frenchman almost certainly seemed destined to become yet another failed marquee/VISA signing, but last night’s performance deservedly thrust Berenguer into the spotlight, earning ‘Man of the Match’ plaudits for his crucial goal and assist.
The attacking midfielder played with a level of confidence we hadn’t seen since his FFA Cup showing against Brisbane Strikers, with the Frenchman playing with an aggressive, ‘head-up’ style that was crucial to our progression of the ball into dangerous areas in the final third.
His linkup play throughout was similarly exceptional, as exemplified by his peach of an assist for Jamie Maclaren’s decisive goal in the second half.
All we can hope is that these types of performances become the norm for Berenguer, who has the potential to become a star player for City as we head towards finals.
Build a wall and get over it
Forget the howler that gifted Victory their only goal of the game… Tom Glover has a big, recurring issue, and it’s his communication with his teammates whilst trying to construct an effective wall during set-pieces.
It’s a shortcoming which has cost him dearly before, most notably conceding a free-kick goal in the group stage of the recent Olympic qualifiers thanks to a truly bewildering wall placement which surely can’t have been positioned where it was by design.
Watching from the stands as Glover barked his orders to the wall, there was a clear disfunction between our young goalkeeper and Scott Jamieson and Markel Susaeta in particular, with both senior players arguing with Glover from their positions in the wall almost up until the very moment the ball was struck.
The bottom line is that Glover’s communication in those moments, where his teammates can hardly hear him and where he needs to give succinct instructions to position his wall effectively, needs to be a lot better, but it might be something he picks up the longer he stays at the club, earning the respect and confidence of his teammates over time as they all get used to one another.
The one cliché to rule them all
If you listened to Thursday night’s Talking City podcast, you heard the voices of four panelists who were so pessimistic about the impending result of last night’s game that we constantly seemed to avoid discussion about it.
The narrative and form lines seemed to suggest that a Victory win was almost a certainty and that our presence on the night would merely exist to serve as opposition whilst the crosstown rival played themselves back into form, hellbent on a late finals run.
What unfolded was quite possibly our most important win this season. Whilst we hang on to second place for another week, Victory languishes in ninth place on the table above only Central Coast and Newcastle (truly a sight to behold), whilst being five points behind sixth-placed Western United who also have a game in-hand.
What will undoubtedly frustrate City fans is that in a similarly important match just a month and a half ago, we came into our second Derby of the season as red-hot favourites to win and completely lost the faith of fans after producing an abysmal performance which culminated in a 2-1 defeat to the Victory.
At this stage, predictions are just about useless when it comes to us. Our best is apparently good enough to beat just about anyone and our worst – as we’ve seen multiple times this season – is so horrid and incoherent that we may as well have not turned up on the day.
It’s consistent inconsistency… and it’s doing our f***ing heads in.