Absence of an international break costs Melbourne City

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Given all of the circumstances, the performance of Melbourne City and their young squad in Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Western United has to be applauded.

Missing six of their most important players to a combination of Socceroos duty and injuries, they performed admirably and were unlucky to come away from the game without at least a point.

Those missing aren’t just average players. Jamie Maclaren is a two-time golden boot winner, whilst Mathew Leckie, Connor Metcalfe and Marco Tilio are extremely important to the way City play.

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Add in Andrew Nabbout, who was missing with a niggle suffered at training, and Curtis Good, who is still struggling in his recovery from Covid-19.

It represents over 50 per cent of the starting 11. As such, you can understand coach Patrick Kisnorbo’s frustration with the fixtures.

“You talk about performance but we’ve got six Socceroos missing [including Curtis Good and Andrew Nabbout that are injured]. For me, and I said this to the players, it’s the best performance I’ve seen by a group,” Kisnorbo said post-match.

“We had some chances and I’m really proud of the group tonight. We had to make do with what we did, and the guys that came in were fantastic.”

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The 19-year-old Jordan Bos – usually a left-back – was tasked with playing as a left winger in only his second ever A-League Men’s appearance.

Scott Galloway – usually a right-back – was tasked with playing as a right winger.

Stefan Colakovski was playing in his natural position upfront, but it was only his third involvement so far the league this season.

When asked the reasoning behind this decisions, you could sense the frustration in his voice.

“If you want me to go and get an 14-year old from the NPL I’ll go and get them. [Bos and Galloway] is all we had. If I did have someone else, I probably would have changed that,” Kisnorbo said.

The second-year A-League Men’s head coach is known for not fully-utilising his bench during matches. Perhaps had these players featured more throughout the early stages of the season, there would have been fluidity come Saturday night.

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This is reflected in the statistics for the game. Western United had more shots (15-10), shots on target (6-3) and chances created (9-7). Perhaps most importantly in the modern era, their expected goals were more than triple that of Melbourne City (1.96 – 0.53).

All this is despite losing the possession battle 59% to 41%.

Regardless, it leads us to the following question.

Why are international windows still not acknowledged by the A-League Men in terms of a break of games. It happens in all major leagues throughout Europe.

At the start of this season it was announced that the international windows would be observed and play stopped in the domestic leagues. However, given the Covid-enforced postponements, this change has had to be abandoned.

It creates an unnecessary club versus country conundrum that is a detriment to the sport.

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Why should five positive Covid cases allow for a fixture postponement but losing four of your best players to international duty not be sufficient enough?

The issue must be rectified soon by those in charge of the Australian Professional Leagues.

It penalises the best teams whose players have impressed national team selectors.

Western United coach John Aloisi acknowledged the battle that City faced.

“Everyone talked about how many players they had out with national team duty.  We weren’t at our best but we had to dig in, and we did that and fought and defended quite well,” Aloisi said.

It’s touch and go whether the missing cohort will be able to play against Perth Glory next Sunday. For the benefit of the league and City fans, we sure hope so.

Feature Image Credit: Alen Delic 

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Dillon Izon
Dillon Izon
Marketing graduate at Monash University. Sports addicted, fan of Manchester United and Melbourne City. My gran “knows” Gareth Bale.

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