Intensity key to Melbourne City’s victory in grand final rematch

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It was a fiery affair at AAMI Park in the 2022/23 A-League Men season opener, with seven cards being given, but ultimately it was last season’s premiers who took the three points due to their physical presence and high-intensity pressing.

Western United admittedly had an interesting 10 opening minutes, but once Melbourne City fired up and got going, the game never looked in doubt.

Even with the absences of starting centre-backs Curtis Good and Nuno Reis, Melbourne was able to hold a clean sheet right up until the 92nd minute when Western United was able to get a consolation goal.

That said, it was not their defensive line that was instrumental in maintaining a clean sheet for so long.

Instead, it was their ability to defend from the front with the Socceroo-capped front three of Jamei Maclaren, Andrew Nabbout and Mathew Leckie showing the way.

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This was exemplified by Melbourne City’s second goal, which was a brilliant piece of pressing by four-time golden boot winner Maclaren which saw him pick-pocket Leo Lacroix after a poor back pass from Nikolai Topor-Stanley.

When asked whether Maclaren gets enough respect for that part of his game, Patrick Kisnorbo was quick to applaud his striker and his skills out of possession.

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“We do. We value what he does off the ball,” Kisnorbo said.

“We’ve been really focusing on stuff like that [pressing] for the last couple of years. It’s just not tonight, you know? We always try and play on the front foot.

“They showed great character, great fight, and I was happy with the performance tonight.”

It wasn’t just the pressing that was intense for Melbourne City. With three yellow cards being given to their players it was obvious that Kisnorbo had let his team know that he wanted them to get stuck in to try and get under the skin of the reigning champions.

This plan of attack ultimately worked, considering it only took until the 29th minute for tempers to flare after a coming together between Nabbout and Connor Pain.

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Western United manager John Aloisi was quick to point out the differences in intensity levels during the match.

“We started the game really well,” he said.

“We created a clear chance that we weren’t able to put away, and then they got a lift when Leo got caught dribbling the ball in an area that normally he wouldn’t.

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“Then after that they got on top of us, we felt that they were winning the battle in terms of every second ball, you know, they would then go and try and hit the diags and then they’ll get the second ball from there and then they play in our own half, so we found that a little bit difficult.”

Kisnorbo will want to see more of the same from the boys against Brisbane Roar next week, as this will provide great momentum leading onto the Victory clash that is looming large. A win against an admittedly strong looking Melbourne Victory squad is really going to set the tone for the 2022/23 ALM season.

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As a first kick-about in a long season, Kisnorbo will surely be happy with the positive result, and when City has their full-strength starting 11 ready to go, they are going to look like the biggest threat to Western United’s chances of going back-to-back.

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Caydn Foley
Football Fanatic. Journalism student hoping to make this a career. Covering Melbourne City for the 22/23 A-Leagues season.

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