Plan A or the highway for stubborn Melbourne City

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In what is shaping up to have been a possible grand final preview, Western United were able to hang on for a point against Melbourne City on Saturday – a point that many will argue they didn’t deserve based on the balance of play.

Despite leading 2-0 after 30 minutes, it was all Melbourne City from there. Yet, in an all-too-familiar sight for City fans, the defending champions were unable to claim all three points.

Not since the Melbourne Heart days have fans been so upset with good performances, a credit to the job that Eric Mombaerts and now Patrick Kisnorbo have done in changing the fortunes of the former A-league Men cellar dwellers.

But what comes with that is pressure to maintain results.

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City’s playing style has captivated the league over the past two-and-a-half seasons, but it seems as though some teams have begun to adopt the perfect tactics to steal a result.

John Aloisi and Western United seem to have found the answer.

Two of City’s three losses this season have been to the green and black. Their only two games this season in which they have been unable to score have been against that same side.

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In the first half of Saturday evening’s encounter, the pace of Dylan Pierias was causing Melbourne captain Scott Jamieson nightmares. It eventually led to the second goal as Lachlan Wales fed a ball down the line, which Pierias used his speed to chase down.

He was able to easily cut inside Jamieson and find an open Rene Krhin by the penalty spot, who stoked the ball home past Sutton.

There was very little defensive cover for the 33-year-old and he was left isolated against the young speedster numerous times throughout the match.

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There were no adjustments made as Pierias continued to wreak havoc on the counter-attack in the second half.

It is a sign of the reluctance from Kisnorbo and his coaching staff to make changes to the style that has suited them so well over the past few years.

However, given the starting 11 was unchanged from Wednesday’s clash against Macarthur, it begs the question why Kisnorbo is so reluctant to make changes.

“Sometimes things don’t fall your way. They got one set piece and then caught us too high and scored. You don’t want that to happen but sometimes it does,” Kisnorbo said post-match.

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“After the second goal, we dominated completely. It was great to see the intent and intent to press for 90 minutes knowing that we played 2 days ago. “

Given the way that Western were able to consistently hit City on the counter, it would have been reasonable to assume that substitutions would have given the away side renewed hope of an equaliser.

Whether it was bringing on fresh legs for Jamieson, or taking off a tiring Andrew Nabbout, City fans could only sing so loudly for local hero Stefan Colakovski to make an entrance.

In fact, screams from fans directed at Kisnorbo to make a substitution could be clearly heard from within the media box.

“Sometimes as a coach you feel things, and I didn’t feel that we needed to change anything,” Kisnorbo said in relation to not making any substitutions.

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“All the players were running out the game and maybe someone comes on, but I felt like today there was no need for a change. You go by instinct and my instinct was to keep the starting 11 players on the pitch.”

In the past three games that the club have dropped points in, they have clearly won the statistical categories of both shots and possession.

It shows that teams are adapting to how they like to play. Diagonal balls from the centre-backs to create overlaps out wide, and their inverted full-backs are just two of the signature features of the club’s attacking style.

Whilst ultimately quality players will get them over the line throughout the season, it is a pattern that the coaching staff will want to fix before the finals series.

However, it’s important not to undermine the success of the club this season.

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They sit top of the table and Saturday’s performance was another step towards winning their second premiership in succession.

“The way we played you have to look at the chances and the performance. We played the best football – second half especially – that we have this year,” Kisnorbo said.

Whilst it may have been a great performance in the second half, it can be argued that changes – especially amidst a heavy schedule of nine games in five weeks – could have provided the spark they needed to push for all three points.

Meanwhile, Western United head coach John Aloisi was pleased with the resilience his side showed in holding on for a draw.

“It was a brilliant first half,” Aloisi remarked.

“Another team would have buckled and lost the game under those circumstances and we didn’t. It was a game that we could have ended up losing.

“It’s a positive point for us because we haven’t lost to them this season.

“[City] had a lot of the ball but weren’t creating any clear cut chances.”

It leaves both sides equal at the top of the table with on 33 points, but with the green and black boasting two games in hand.

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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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