Melbourne City have gone top of the A-League Men table with a dominant 3-0 victory over Western Sydney Wanderers.
The game made a relatively timid start with the Wanderers maintaing majority of the ball, albiet in their defensive half, with Melbourne City content to sit in a mid block and capatalise on the home sides mistakes in build-up, which remained relatively rare.
The away side opened the scoring in the 35th minute through a lapse in concentration from Steven Ugarkovic, which saw a lob from Aiden O’Neill after a corner for City finding the head of Leckie, who had skipped clear of the Wanderers midfielder.
Leckie made it two for himself and his side in the 42nd minute, making a darting near post run from a header to finish and double his sides advantage heading into halftime.
After a missed penalty from Jamie Maclaren in the 60th minute, City secured a 3-0 advantage just three minutes later, with Florin Berenguer cutting inside and unleashing a stunning strike to find the top right corner.
The Wanderers clawed a goal back in the 79th minute through a Dimitri Petratos penalty, but it proved irrelevant to the final result, with Western Sydney now sitting 9th on the table.
WANDERERS LAPSES IN CONCENTRATION PROVE COSTLY AGAIN
It was two set pieces that saw the Wanderers trailing at the break, with both coming from defensive mistakes and lapses in concentration.
For the opener, a cross was cleared with an inocious lob back in from Aiden O’Neill finding the head of Matthew Leckie, who finished with aplomb.
Steven Ugarkovic had glanced across his shoulder towards the touchline, and Leckie took advantage, stepping across the Wanderers midfielder to free himself – a simple lapse in concentration.
For the second goal, Tomás Mejías spent the 10 seconds prior to the corner seemingly telling Ziggy Gordon to attack the front post, and had been alerted to a dangerous run either by the coaching staff beforehand or at earlier stages during the game.
Gordon held his position but didn’t manage to mark his zone properly, with Matthew Leckie again escaping from Steven Ugarkovic to finish.
It alerts to the lack of trust amidst the backline and defensive structures of set pieces, which needs to change under Rudan to establish a better form of belief in the system, and particuarly the marking of zones off set pieces and players being accountable for their player, which form the basic fundementals of defending in football.
MELBOURNE CITY DEFENCE TRUMPS WSW BUILD-UP
Melbourne City opted for a difference to their usual approach out of possession, choosing to sit slightly deeper in a mid block rather than attacking the game with their heavy metal football.
The away side allowed the Wanderers to hold the ball for the first half, relying on mistakes in their opponents build-up for their chance reation.
After a more open match in the first ten minutes which saw the Wanderers on top, they struggled to break down City’s smart structure.
Troisi operated as the floating attacking midfielder with Western Sydney’s wingers both playing inside to create a narrow four, but it left the fullbacks unable to progress the ball in build-up, which simplieied the ease of City’s defensive structure.
With no options being supplied wide for easy, vetical passes from the fullbacks, City clogged the halfspaces and central space, which made it boarderline impossible for the two central midfielders to progress the ball centrally.
This led to consistent side to side play for the Wanderers, and the lack of confidence in their progression led to a poorer buildup, with more mistakes and chances conceeded.
Meanwhile, the lack of target and threat up front provided by Dimitri Petratos also meant long balls were unsustainable and would likely be gifting possession to City, with the attacking midfielder not able to provide an aerial precense or threaten with runs in behind.
The build-up structure is something that will need to be reviewed for the upcoming matches, with City able to cruise to victory in their mid block, with the Wanderers unable to penetrate for large stages of the match on the ball.
PETRATOS EXPERIEMENT AS 9 FAILS
With Tomer hemed out of the side, Dimitri Petratos was tasked with filling the void up front, interestingly playing as a straight striker rather than a false nine.
Petratos occupied the last line of defence, rarely dropping into the space in front of him to utilise his first touch passing range.
He played in a role which seemed more suited to Tomer Hemed, who would be able to use his aerial precense to provide the Wanderers with a more direct option in build-up and progression play.
The one time Leckie did look to come off the two centre-backs and exploit the space, but he remained as the focal point, not drifting wide to support with runs into the channels.
The positioning saw him remain relatively peripherial until his move to a deeper role, and his lack of pace and aerial prowess meant he provided little to his side while leading the line.
Western Sydney Wanderers 1 (Petratos 80m)
Melbourne City 3 (Leckie 36m, 43m, Berenguer 64m)