Coach Patrick Kisnorbo has delighted in Melbourne City’s ability to handle a late injury-enforced reshuffle to beat Western United 2-1 in their grand final rematch A-League season opener.
City celebrated Scott Jamieson’s 300th game in style despite the captain being forced into centre-back, after regular central defenders Nuno Reis (hamstring) and Curtis Good (knock) withdrew.
Playmaker Florin Berenguer (hamstring) was also sidelined.
“We had to make a few changes last-minute but it was great adaption from the team,” Kisnorbo told reporters.
“They showed great character, great fight and I was happy with the performance tonight.
“There’s never a dull moment as a football coach. Unfortunately, we had a couple of hiccups.
“Last minute change and end of the day, we put Jamo back and I thought the adaption was fantastic from the collective.
“Nothing really changed, the character, for me, was really good and the players deserve the credit for tonight.”
In the 13th minute, Maclaren tapped home but after a VAR referral, referee Shaun Evans controversially struck out the goal, ruling Valon Berisha had gone into Ben Garuccio’s back in the lead-up.
But ultimately, City’s victory came courtesy of two uncharacteristic errors from star United defender Leo Lacroix.
The Swiss centre-back and Tomoki Imai combined for a calamitous own goal in the 38th minute, while Jamie Maclaren pinched the ball off a dawdling Lacroix for City’s second in the 59th.
Maclaren doubled City’s lead 14 minutes into the second half when he caught Lacroix dawdling on a pass, nipped the ball away and coolly scored.
“Maybe he (Lacroix) wasn’t at his best tonight but it’s one performance,” Aloisi said.
“I don’t know what to put it down to but it’s unlike Leo.
“So let’s hope that Leo is better in the next game and if he is we know that with a good Leo Lacroix we’re a very good side.
“We weren’t at our best tonight.
“We felt that we were second best overall.”
Imai was substituted off with a popped AC joint at halftime and will require scans, while new City signing, defender Thomas Lam, was forced off in the 65th.
United substitute Nicolas Milanovic scored a consolation goal in the 92nd minute but City were otherwise dominant.
City’s press was exceptional while new signing Berisha and Socceroos winger Mat Leckie, with national team boss Graham Arnold watching on from the stands, looked a class above.
The Kosovo international also won plenty of admirers with his post-match interview.
“I wanted to win, I wanted that revenge for the team,” Berisha told Paramount Plus.
“Because they were talking about it, all the team and I said ‘f****** hell, this is a big game for us and I want to win it’.”
A typically low-key Kisnorbo said Berisha had “done OK” on debut and believed there was plenty more to come from his star signing.