Melbourne City isolate themselves at the top


Melbourne City are unbeatable.

There, I’ve said it. I’ll eat my hat if Sydney FC beat them in the grand final, and you’ll all laugh at me, and everyone can preach about the unpredictability of football, especially in front of what seems like inevitably empty stands. Maybe this would be true if City were any normal team, playing on any normal plane of existence. They don’t seem to be. 

This game was never about Western Sydney, as much as they wanted it to be. It looked like it could have been. They broke every record for their club, proving that investment in a mix of youth and overseas talent pays off. Had they been playing any other team, the narrative would have been theirs. They weren’t. Melbourne City controlled the game from start to finish.

City have been perhaps playing within themselves throughout the year. It seems almost comical now that they dropped points against Newcastle. At the time I wrote how frustrating they were, that they were continuing a pattern of last season where they were so good but chose not to be. Why were they so constrained by their system? They were kidding themselves with the 3 at the back. Just attack. Be creative. Why is Kyah Simon still playing?

Well, fuck me, they proved me wrong this season. For a club that was undefeated in their very first season, their ability to suddenly have all of us wax lyrical about the merits of their long-term planning is rather impressive.

The game went kind of as we had all expected. The Wanderers came into the game with a clear plan – defend deep and narrow and hope that City’s high line would leave them exposed to the double threat of Hamilton and Vine. Unfortunately, that left Ellie Carpenter with more space than a self-isolating grandma, and as you can imagine, giving someone with the calibre of Ellie Carpenter that much space generally doesn’t go that well.

The first goal went as you’d imagine, in those circumstances – a Carpenter run down the wing, a pinpoint cross and an Emslie tap in. The second goal followed in similar circumstances. This time Emslie was the one left with ridiculous amounts of space to place a lofted ball on Kyah Simon’s head. That one was a brilliant goal, to be fair. Now that they were 2-0 up within 20 minutes the game looked a foregone conclusion.

A third goal in the first half was just salt in the wound. Stott pounced on a rare miscalculation from Wanderers keeper to make it 3-0. By half time, it could have been more. Wanderers desperately needed the break to figure out what on earth they were going to do to try to save their season.

The first ten minutes was an exercise in this theme of the game being entirely City’s to control. The women from Western Sydney came out hard. They had obviously been pumped up in the change rooms and it showed. What did they have to lose now? Go on, girls, play for pride, try and create something, because it’s your season. You’ve got the ability and stranger things have happened. Go on, you good things. Go on.

They did create a glimmer of hope. The ever-brilliant Hamilton, their best player, created an opening for Courtnee Vine. A good finish meant that suddenly the margin had reduced to two goals. City were looking a bit slow. Could this be the moment?

Of course not. City had chosen to slack off and City could choose to rise again. They did, 5 minutes later, through a brilliant goal from Kyah Simon. She found her way into the box, swivelled past the defence, and placed the ball in the bottom corner. It was brilliant and it defined the way that City went about things. The second they were threatened they could find another gear. They did it all season, through all of those one goal wins, and they did it again now.

In the circumstances, to add an own goal from Nevin into the mix was just cruel.

At 5-1 the Wanderers were just playing for pride. Honestly, they can be incredibly proud of their season. The club invested in facilities and in some quality young Australian players. They pared this with some of the best of the NWSL and it showed – they got results. However, up against the juggernaut that is this City outfit, they were always going to struggle. They can walk away with their heads held high. They never gave up.

The world is going through strange times right now. We’re all a bit uncertain about the future. In these circumstances, it’s quite nice to have something reassuring, something that we can rely on. It’s relaxing. That thing we can rely on is Melbourne City Dub being Really Fucking Good.

Let’s hope Rado gets a better coughing technique so that the final doesn’t get cancelled. 

By Taryn Heddo

Featured image by By The White Line

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