Why Hernandez is key for Melbourne Victory
‘Tis with a sweet feeling of vindication that these words are so eloquently put to page. Sweatily pouring over the scribbling of my last column, I paused to reflect on the first and only salient point made and smiled.
Clearly, Melbourne Victory’s coach, Mehmet Durakovic, read my observation at the time and has determined it to be truth.
That is to play Carlos Hernandez deeper and let him have the ball.
This weekend’s result against Wellington Phoenix demonstrated the importance of giving the ball to Carlos at every opportunity available. His vision and range of passing was integral to nearly every Victory attack.
Hernandez wanted the ball at his feet. He hovered in front of the back four, demanding the ball, eager to pull the strings on yet another forward thrust. It was telling that Hernandez was spotted shouting angrily at Matthew Foschini and Lee Broxham throughout the match for opting to pass the ball back to Covic, rather than use Hernandez as an outlet.
Hernandez controlled the match, playing Archie Thompson and Harry Kewell in behind the Wellington defense on numerous occasions with superb passes. His ability, with a flick of his hips, to find a modicum of space and thread the ball to a teammate is outstanding.
As significant as that was, it was just as significant that any semblance of creative spark was quickly extinguished when Hernandez was subbed off.
While I could sit here and espouse rhetorically on how good I think the former Johnny Warren Medalist is, another player that caught my eye, for a very different reason, was Billy Celeski.
The knee injury in 2009 had seemed to curtail the growth of the promising Celeski. His recovery and subsequent return has left a large portion of the Victory faithful, myself included, feeling as if his best was behind him.
For Celeski, this season has been one of renewed promise with a tinge of inconsistency. His performance against Wellington highlighted his importance to the Victory side. Not so much for his creative efforts, but for the shielding presence he provided for Hernandez.
So what was it that Celeski did exactly? Sure, there were some neat turns, some short, crisp passing, some ordinary tackling but these aren’t the things I’m thinking of. Celeski ran. And ran and ran and ran.
Now the football purists won’t see this as something worth talking about. The “we need to produce footballers not athletes” mantra will be chanted till John Kosmina gets another coaching job. Oh.
Celeski’s running on Sunday was as vital to Victory’s win, as Carlos’ passing was. It wasn’t simply running for the sake of it, it was running to close down the opposition and provide Hernandez with room to sneak into. It was running into space to receive the ball, often from the Costa Rican, and then more running, once he’d passed the ball again.
Pass and move, I believe it’s called.
In tandem, Hernandez and Celeski worked and worked well. One created space for the other but in very different ways; Hernandez with a little shimmy, Celeski with an intelligent run.
The trick for Durakovic and his staff now is to find a replacement to do what Celeski can, for what is proves to be a fascinating Melbourne derby.
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