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Melbourne City FC
Melbourne City FC
|46'||R. D. Laet|
|42'||N. L. Brattan|
We hoped we would be treated to a Melbourne derby for the purists. Instead, we were offered a game only fit for insomniacs.
If you had offered 1 point to Warren Joyce before the game he might have taken it. Alas, based on the circumstances of the match, this draw just heaps more pressure on Joyce.
His team did nothing with their numerical advantage for 80 per cent of the game and ironically City looked better when they were up against 11.
Indeed it started promisingly for City. They switched-up their usual game plan and played more directly to Jamie Maclaren at times to try to use his pace to get in behind the Victory centrebacks.
And spectacularly it worked after 15 minutes. A long, low, direct ball down the right bamboozled Georg Niedermeier, who had the worst game of his life tonight, and Maclaren forced a penalty and a second yellow out of the German with his predatory instincts.
With the penalty dispatched and Niedermeier off, it looked for a little while like it would be easy for City. Maclaren was a constant threat, Spurs loanee Shayon Harrison looked deadly down the right and Kearyn Baccus sidefooted a good chance just wide.
But as the half progressed City nestled more and more into their plan A, and the weight of possession didn’t materialise into any meaningful chances outside of building the midfield and defensive possession stats.
Victory threw all their energy, grit (and luck) into the opening stanza of the second half, bringing on Ola Toivonen to complement Kosta Barbarouses – and it paid off almost instantly.
A penalty shout for handball on Curtis Good was a mere twinkle in the eye of the VAR before Keisuke Honda could play in Barbarouses to bury his (and Victory’s) one and only shot inside Eugene Galekovic on his near post. And that was that.
Victory had one shot, one on target and one goal: all with 10 men for the vast majority of the game.
The resulting 40 minutes after the Victory equaliser was a precession of uninspiring City possession football. They created some chances – Luke Brattan thundered an unlikely chance into the crossbar and Dari Vidosic fluffed a great chance seconds after coming on – but they were half chances and City also only managed to put 1 of their 13 chances on target.
City ended the game with 60 per cent possession, but time and time again their balls into the final third were gobbled-up by the Victory back four – who improved as the night progressed – or skied needlessly out from City’s poor crossers from wide.
The game ended 1-1, and will have left an unsavoury taste in everyone’s mouth. Neither Joyce or Kevin Muscat could be pleased, and few of the 32,000 at Marvel Stadium will have enjoyed that they saw.
As the game concluded, with Victory’s 10 players out on their feet and City devoid of ideas, few fans will have walked away with any hope, other than the hope to forget.
Man of the match is almost impossible to pick. No one in the City team really put in a full shift. Jamie Maclaren was good when City was and picked up the goal so I’ll award it to him. But he was far from perfect.
Thomas Deng put in a tireless shift for Victory and improved as the game did, Raul Baena hassled and harried City all night, and Honda set-up Victory’s goal and, before coming off, was trodden on by all 11 City opponents. But Maclaren deserves it by a whisker.
Melbourne Victory 1
Melbourne City 1
It’s Melbourne derby time in Round 20 of the A-League, when Melbourne Victory take on Melbourne City at Marvel Stadium at 7:50pm (AEST). Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match.
It’s been a disappointing week for both teams, and both teams are desperate for three points.
City manager Warren Joyce has spent the week in the gun, with rumours swirling of a potential sacking after his side’s appalling display against Newcastle.
With the Jets resting several key players before their midweek Champions League tie, City were expected to canter to a win.
Instead they were listless, purposeless and a perfect illustration of how not to play possession football.
Indeed City have played a clueless possession game for most of the season, but the Newcastle result seems to have finally forced management to recognise Joyce’s tactical flaws.
City’s expectations this season were to finish top three and clinch a Champions League spot. That seems incredibly unlikely now as, on form, City will limp into the finals as the 6th best team.
Tonight’s game may be Joyce’s last roll of the dice. Hopefully for neutrals and fans alike he approaches this game with more tempo and purpose.
Jamie Maclaren and Shayon Harrison came into the side in the transfer window to add bite to City’s attacking third, but neither figured in the Newcastle game besides Maclaren’s fortuitous tap-in goal.
Harrison looked lost running between the lines, and their makeshift formation isolated Harrison Delbridge at rightback, which the Jets exposed for an hour before Joyce made a change.
An outsider’s perspective of Joyce’s career with City is that he is the architect of his own failure by constantly tinkering, intentionally alienating key players lacking in creativity in the final third.
Victory are facing their own downturn in form problems, losing touch recently with runaway league leaders Perth.
After losing to Perth and then only taking a point from the Phoenix last week, Victory needs three tonight to stabilise the ship.
Kevin Muscat won’t want his Victory to be seen as a one-man team, but Keisuke Honda’s significance to his team is reinforced at every turn.
Honda was the only Victory player on the scoresheet last week, coming off the bench to bury a penalty as part of his long-standing return to fitness.
Before the Honda injury Victory was in hot form, taking 2.25 points from each game their Japanese star started in. Since then, they have taken 1.6 points per game.
That difference seems small on face value, but it is manifest in the nine-point gap that has opened between Victory and Perth at the top.
Victory has missed multiple key players in recent weeks through injury, including top striker Ola Toivonen and water carrier Carl Valeri – but the tide of ill fortune may be turning for Victory.
Toivonen has been selected to return for this game as well as playmaker Terry Antonis, who missed the Wellington game suspended.
If Toivonen and Honda can put even 30 minutes together on the park, to go with 90 from James Troisi, Antonis and recent destroyer Elvis Kamsoba, they should have enough class to get a comfortable three points.
But derbies can take odd turns. City’s Round 1 derby win still haunts Victory, as does their late equaliser in December.
Despite this, it will take another cataclysmic twist of fate for City to get a result in this game.
City really needs to dig deep this week. If they have any real character as a club it will need to be displayed in this game from the first minute. Sadly, after watching the Newcastle game last week, I wonder if they do.
Melbourne Victory 2 – Melbourne City 0