Losing to Adelaide at home was a tough pill to swallow. Having a lead early only to once again give it away (to an admittedly very impressive Adelaide side) was disappointing to say the least. It was even more disappointing considering the large crowd that was in attendance to see what could turn out to be the final match of David Villa’s Melbourne City career. Villa’s performance in that match summed up that of the team; it was flat, tired and disjointed, yet it was interspersed with moments of brilliance.
Fast forward a week and the season, while not as disastrous as certain quarters of the media have made out, was to a degree hanging on an away match vs. last year’s champions at their home ground. While this would usually be a daunting prospect, the fact is that Brisbane simply haven’t looked themselves since beating WSW in the final of last year’s competition. Their start to the season had been poor and they are showing signs that a lot of last year’s success had to do with Ivan Franjic and the sack of emotional unpredictability that is Besart Berisha.
Furthermore, Brisbane is a team that Melbourne City/ Heart have always had a degree of success playing against, certainly at least while JVS has been in the dugout. You can cast your eye back to 2011 when Ange Postecoglou was coached off the park and Heart broke Brisbane’s impressive home unbeaten record. Alternatively, you could look to last years ‘Kisnorbo Classic’ when the great man made a match saving tackle on Berisha to guarantee us the three points and ensure that our own mini-revival continued.
With these facts in mind, perhaps then it was confidence that led to JVS abandoning his usual suave suit and instead rocking the ‘young mother at Highpoint’ look of tracksuit pants and jacket. The team certainly looked more confident and from the get go they looked more in tune with each other then they had in the opening four matches of the season. The forwards and the midfield finally looked to be in sync and one can’t help but think that David Villa’s presence, despite his undoubtable skill, may have been playing havoc with the decision making of the players.
Of the forwards, Mate Dugandžić in particular looked to be up for the occasion. Starting in his preferred position of left Wing for the first time this season, he terrorized the Brisbane defence whose bizarre positioning provided acres of space for both Dugandžić and striker David Williams. Damien Duff wasn’t afforded as much space, yet still made several clever runs and consistently dropped deep to help out the midfield. This in turn allowed the midfield to help out the fullbacks. Often cited as the weakest point in the team (although I think Hoffman has greatly improved), by having the midfield double up on the Brisbane wingers, the fullbacks were able to minimize their impact (particularly that of the undeniably talented Broich).
Anyway, quickly abandoning tactical analysis (which is done better in other places by people who actually know what they’re talking about), it wasn’t long after kick off that David Williams created a brilliant opening goal through pure tenacity. Williams forced a tackle on a besieged Brisbane defender, resulting in a clever 1-2 with Dugandžić. Williams was then able to finish with uncharacteristic calmness on his left foot, leaving the Brisbane Keeper Jamie Young red-faced for the first of several occasions on the night.
The score remained just 1-0 for only a few minutes, as ex-Brisbane midfielder Paartalu lived up to his great hair by playing a brilliant long pass to the fantastic Dugandžić. The first touch of Dugandžić set himself up and he finished powerfully past Young to put City up 2-0. While the keeper probably should have done better, the power behind the shot ensured it was always going to be difficult to save.
Despite holding a 2-0 lead, Brisbane will still creating some decent chances, particularly through the impressive Luke Brattan. Andrew Redmayne ensured the result stayed at 2-0 going into half time however with some fantastic saves and by confidently controlling his area. He has unquestionably struggled this season and his performance in this match should give him confidence moving forward this season.
The second half started in much the same way as the first. Brisbane continued to fire in shots from long range and City continued to push for a third on the counter attack. Unfortunately Brisbane got lucky. Just as the three points began to look in the bag, a miss-hit shot from Matt Mckay hit the head of Borello to put Brisbane right back in the match in the 67th minute.
Given this season’s trend of throwing away matches from winning positions, a 2-1 score was ominous. Brisbane smelt blood and began to attack in waves. To their credit, the Melbourne City defenders dealt with these attacks and Kisnorbo and Wielaert showed great desperation to hold the lead. Then Aaron Mooy happened.
Already having one the matches of the season, Mooy turned his man in the middle of the park and played a brilliant pass to the substitute James Brown. Brown then played an inch perfect pass to another young substitute in Marc Marino. He made no mistake and finished past a by now thunderstruck Jamie Young to score his first A-League goal and put City up 3-0.
Given how much has been harped on about our new ability to spend big on established players (despite the existence of a pretty well enforced salary cap), it’s worth noting that we had three current youth team players play in this match. Marc Marino, Paulo Retre and Jacob Melling (who may want to re-think his neck beard) all performed strongly and slotted into the team with ease. Alongside the sadly absent Stefan Mauk and Ben Garuccio the future certainly looks bright and it is good to see that we are not completely abandoning our youth setup.
The final whistle brought about our first win, hopefully one that can be used as a springboard for the rest of the season. You could see the passion on the face of the players and it is no doubt a huge weight off their shoulders given last year’s horrific start to the season. Brisbane’s players also were passionate after the final whistle, but not in the most ideal way. Goal Keeper Jamie Young and full back Shane Stefanutto got in an argument that apparently led to blows. While this isn’t a good look for the club, Jamie Young would have been relieved to have finally got his hands to something, even if it was Stefanutto’s throat as opposed to one of our goals.
To say the least, it was a positive day for the club but re-reading the above, I feel I didn’t give enough praise to one player. Aaron Mooy played the kind of game that makes you want to get his face tattooed on your chest. It may have just been the bald head, but his touch, passing and shooting conjured up well deserved Bresciano comparisons. He has been our most consistent player this season and his performance in this match has only further justified his recent call-up to the Socceroos. We will miss him while he is representing our country, but I have no doubt he will do us proud.
Bring on Central Coast!