The end of an era?
The return of mid-week football to AAMI Park saw a grand final rematch as Melbourne City faced champions Sydney FC.
In Alex Wilkinson’s 300th professional game, a Jamie Maclaren striking masterclass and outstanding City counter-press saw them the victors, despite late goals from Milos Ninkovic and Patrick Wood injecting life into Sydney’s front three.
The Sky Blues, coming off a quick turnaround, were unable to penetrate Tom Glover’s goal for most of the fixture and fans went home with renewed confidence in Patrick Kisnorbo’s leadership.
Who were the top performers?
1. Jamie Maclaren: 9
In Maclaren’s first attacking opportunity, off an Adrian Luna deflection, he fired into the bottom left corner, which opened City’s account.
His offensive positioning was splendid, gliding in behind the likes of Wilkinson for his opportunities and grabbed a second goal in a return to form.
2. Adrian Luna: 8.5
Luna showcased his South American flair as he moved the ball with ease and feinted the Sydney defenders. His footballing IQ was on show, as a well-curated passing move led to his strike in the 28th minute. Furthermore, he was a steady performer in each City attack, especially in a 62nd-minute chance that went gapingly wide.
3. Andrew Nabbout: 8
Despite suffering a six-week hamstring lay-off, he utilised his strength to play a brilliant through ball to Maclaren in the 11th minute. Being a consistent threat across the whole match, his driven cross to Maclaren in the 53rd minute found the back of the net for the latter’s second. An outstanding performance from one of Australia’s preeminent wingers
4. Craig Noone: 7.5
Noone continued his solid run of form, crossing effectively from the byline in the early phases of the fixture. His hard work was rewarded in the 28th minute, as a well weighted cross found the boot of Luna for City to score their second.
1. Milos Ninkovic: 8.5
Ninkovic changed the complexion of this fixture in its entirety. His mid-second-half substitution brought a tap-in goal from the Serbian, as he moved the ball with aplomb, displaying his exquisite vision. He and Patrick Wood shared goals and assists as he played the ball to Wood for a simple finish in the 89th minute. His immense quality was missing early in the fixture.
2. Patrick Wood: 8
The energised and eager 18-year-old starred in his bench performance, as his deflected cross in the 72nd minute found Ninkovic in the box – promising signs from an underrated youth striker. He was later afforded an easy tap-in from Ninkovic, which led to an action-packed final few minutes.
3. Paulo Retre: 7
Retre looked incredibly sharp in his link-up play with Luke Brattan in the early stages. He spurred on several attacks early in the second half as Sydney began to up the tempo, dropping deeper into City’s defensive half.
4. Alex Baumjohann: 6.5
One of stand outs of Sydney’s creative midfield, Baumjohann placed plenty of well-weighted set pieces into the box, despite the lack of finishing. Yet, like much of the Sydney midfield, he failed to compete with the fast-paced tempo of City’s attacks.