Brisbane Roar vs Melbourne City Review

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!

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Melbourne Victory vs Melbourne City Review

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”
― Tweeted by Joey Barton (also Friedrich Nietzsche)

A debacle. I could very easily end the review of the match there. Quite happily I would pack all memories of this derby in the part of the brain that holds information never to be required again, such as the Melbourne Heart career of Vince Grella and anything learnt in a post-year 10 maths class.

Historically the Melbourne derby has been of incredible importance for our club. It was a real chance to show our mettle against a club with more resources and an increasingly ironic name in Melbourne Victory. These circumstances only amplified the usual euphoria associated with winning a cross-town derby and with the last derby resulting in a 4-0 win for the mighty Heart (and a brutally pleasant hangover for yours truly), this match had been looked forward to since the fixtures were released months ago.

Seeing the usual pre-derby faces at the pub and on the march to the ground beforehand brought back great memories of past successes and suddenly irrelevant full-back concerns evaporated in a sea of pre-match booze. This was the derby after all and no matter what the circumstance, if there was one thing Melbourne Heart could do, it was lift when faced with the other mob that we share this great city with.

Despite generally hating Etihad stadium, it was impossible to deny the great atmosphere produced by walking into a sold-out 45,000 seat stadium. The presence of several Manchester City supporters groups (and the occasional Gallagher brother lookalike) in the top tier only added to the atmosphere and it is something that we will hopefully continue to see at future matches. While the takeover has been unquestionably controversial, the way that both local and overseas-based Manchester City fans have embraced the club has been a big positive. They clearly love their club and the fact that the also share a city with a shouty attention-seeking Brother means that they know the importance of banding together for derby matches.

The first half started well enough with David Villa causing Melbourne Victory all kinds of problems as they struggled to deal with one of the most accomplished players in footballing history. Similarly, Damian Duff was finding plenty of space and was displaying the kind of drive that has already made him a hero among the fans.

With Villa and Duff causing most of the headaches for Victory, it was not surprising to see us take the lead. The surprise did come however, from the avenue from which the goal came. WE ACTUALLY SCORED FROM A SET-PIECE. A mere year after the set-piece bingo that featured so heavily during the Aloisi era, it was fantastic to see Robbie Wielaert knocking the ball in from a Mooy delivery. Despite falling off the chair I was precariously balanced on (a re-occurrence throughout the next 90 minutes), this goal brought about the aforementioned euphoria that only a derby goal can produce.

Annoyingly this lead only lasted ten minutes as Archie Thompson scored an incredibly offside goal for Melbourne Victory. It was not what we deserved and it was the kind of against the run of play goal that is incredibly demoralizing for both players and supporters. The fact that Thompson was closer to the stands then he was to the defensive line only added to the frustration. This frustration did not last long however.

Channelling his 2012-13 pre-season scoring form, full-back Jason Hoffman), was able to score to give us a 2-1 lead. This was his second goal in three matches (including the last match of the 13-14 season), giving him a better return then he had in his years as an out and out striker. Bafflingly, this goal once again came from a set piece and the expected future arrival of Jesus Kennedy will only increase our newly discovered threatening nature from set plays.

The half continued with chances for either side, however with only stoppage time remaining, it looked like the half was going to end with Melbourne City holding a slender, yet deserved, 2-1 lead. Just as fans were beginning to leave their seats to join the mammoth beer-queues, Victory scored a goal more sobering then the mid-strength beer about to be served. Redmayne made a reaction save from a Victory surge forward and Berisha was on hand to knock in the rebound to tie things up at 2-2. With only seconds to go until half time, conceding such a goal was devastating and really exposed the defensive problems that we unquestionably have.

Despite the disappointment of conceding so late in the half, being level at half time was not as concerning as it may have been. We’d controlled the play and for a change we’d been able to turn our possession into goals. While there were unquestionably holes in defence, the fact was that the first goal we’d conceded had been offside and the second had only come about due to the defence switching off late in the half. As such, there was a sense of optimism present, especially as Villa looked like he was on the verge of taking the game by the scruff of its neck.

In the second half though, with MCFC defenders spread akimbo across the field, it all fell apart as we once again conceded after a ludicrously short amount of time. I’d barely been able to balance myself back on top of my seat before Berisha was able to find way to much space and score his second goal of the night. In the space of two minutes of play, we’d managed to go from looking comfortable in the lead to being on the ropes and a goal down. Allowing goals to be conceded so close either side of half time shows a real lack of focus by the team and seemingly a lack of leadership on the field.

There is little point dwelling on the rest of the second half as, to be frank, it was pathetic. They scored two more goals after some soul-crushing defending and Damian Duff got booked for toppling over in the box. Honestly, the only positive in the second half was the fact that we only lost by three goals, ensuring that we still hold the record for a derby win.

To quote Harvey Dent, “the night is darkest before the dawn” and on Saturday the night was pretty damn dark. We can only put this result behind us and pray to all things sacred that we finally see the dawn this Friday vs. Adelaide United.

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Melbourne City vs Newcastle Jets Review

David Villa

After what is surely the longest off-season in World Football, finally the World Game was back at AAMI Park. While this was supposedly “Melbourne City’s exciting first ever home game”, taking on the Newcastle Jets, a lot of the familiar traits of Melbourne Heart were still present – missed chances, domination of possession and an indisputable universal hatred of Kevin Muscat.

A year ago, at a time that the excitement around the impending arrival of seemingly-exotic striker Michael Mifsud was at its peak, the idea that a player the calibre of David Villa would be lining up for the club seemed about as likely as Maycon getting called up to the Seleção . With that said, I don’t think anyone could have predicted the City Football Group takeover and the resultant drastic makeover that the Club has undergone in recent months.

Obviously the takeover has come at a cost, with much derision over changes in the home kit; crest and the name change still a sore-point for many fans. Taking that into mind, there is also no doubt that the club has never been more attractive to the casual fan with David Villa in particular helping many ‘euro-snobs’ overcome their phobia of supporting something local. With the membership tally soon expected to pass 10,000 and a record non-derby crowd of 15,717, there is no doubt that the club is beginning to make serious waves in Melbourne’s sporting landscape.

There are certainly some challenges associated with this new hype; such as the snaking unexpected beer queues previously never experienced outside of a derby match; the first half was highlighted by the clubs age-old inability to actually get the ball in the back of the net. Despite dominating the play and creating several glaring chances, Melbourne City couldn’t find a way onto the score sheet. David Williams was most at fault spurring a one on one chance from just inside the penalty area created by some poor Newcastle defending.

However, Newcastle generally defended very well, blocking and cutting out any half-chances that came Melbourne City’s way through some serious parking of the bus. As a result of the Jets defensive mindset, City never really felt threatened defensively, with all the frustrations revolving around the lack of a goal for the home side. David Villa (whose every touch seemed to excite both new and established fans) and Irish star Damien Duff continually attempted to break open the Newcastle defense through pure class, however the Newcastle defenders were able to relatively comfortably see off any half-openings that were created by the pair.

While the midfield trio of Murdocca, Paartalu and particularly Aaron Mooy did create some nice openings, a lack of creativity in midfield was an issue and one can’t help but feel there is a Robert Koren-shaped hole in the team at the moment. While it is still early days, there is a very strong possibility that Koren’s fitness could shape just how successful the club is on field this season.

With the first half ending scoreless, there was a greater feeling of urgency to find an opener in the second half. Unfortunately, this urgency seemed to come from Newcastle who finally began to open up and attack the City goal. Despite this, City still generally controlled the play and really should have taken the lead. Unexpectedly it was David Villa who missed the best of the chances, skying a shot from close range after a clever Patrick Kisnorbo knock-on from a Duff corner. Despite this miss, the crowd still found themselves rising as one, however it was not due to a goal, instead it was down to the unexpected appearance of Kevin Muscat.

Proving as popular as a plot point in a porno, Muscat’s comic-book-villain-like appearance on the big screen at AAMI Park united the fans as 15,799 people booed in unison. He seemed to enjoy the negative attention, but having been a flag-bearer for knee high-tackles; this doesn’t really come as a surprise. It was not long after this that Newcastle took the lead.

Joel Griffiths found himself with plenty of space on the Newcastle wing and sent in a cross that newly imported Ecuadorian striker Edson Montano was able to head in at Andrew Redmayne’s near post. This felt all too familiar and it felt that, once again, Melbourne City was going to go down in disappointing fashion after finding itself on the big stage.

At the cost of defending, which resulted in some glaring missed chances by Newcastle to double their lead, Melbourne City reacted to going down by employing all-out attack. David Villa, appearing at times in the first half to have just woken from a siesta, suddenly seemed incredibly motivated, taking on opponents every chance he got and displaying the passion of a player who’d supported Melbourne City his whole life.

Eventually, Villa’s class shone through and he found the breakthrough with an 87th minute drive from the edge of an extremely congested box. Notably, rather than celebrating his goal in front of 15,000 cheering fans, he sprinted into the goal, picked up the ball and with little more than a smile, sprinted the ball back to the centre circle, still desperate to find a winner. This showed an absolute desire to win, the kind required by a player of his CV, and will have no doubt rubbed off on the rest of the players who, Duff aside, have generally been starved of success.

Unfortunately, despite some late openings being created, 1-1 was the final result with City once again not getting all three points despite dominating the game. While a home draw against a seemingly poor team like Newcastle was disappointing, perhaps more important than the result was the fact that, despite all the change in the off-season, AAMI Park still felt like home. The crowd was buzzing with both new and old fans and despite not getting the win in the end; it feels safe to say that the future is in good hands. Bring on Saturday Night and the derby!

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