A month after the two sides played out a scintillating 3-3 draw at AAMI Park in January, Melbourne City visited Western Sydney and piled on the misery as Wanderers coach as newly installed coach Mark Rudan tries to right the ship.
Attack is the best form of defence
Looking at the ladder coming into this matchup, City stood third on the ladder and the Wanderers a lowly ninth. Digging deeper into the ladder, it is evident what has made all the difference.
Surprisingly, City came into the match having conceded more goals than the struggling Wanderers this season, with City conceding 15 and the Wanderers 13. The difference in all around quality can be found in the final third.
City are a well-oiled machine up front, and many can argue they are yet to reach their full potential.
With a front third littered with Socceroos talent in Andrew Nabbout, Jamie Maclaren and Mathew Leckie to go along with Florin Berenguer’s creative brilliance and Marco Tilio’s impact off the bench, it is not surprising City had a league leading 21 goals coming into the match.
On the Wanderers side, a lot of talent is present, but without consistency in coaching, lineups or performance. The collective brilliance of Tomer Hemed, James Troisi, Dimi Petratos, Bernie Ibini, Remy Najjarine and Keijiro Ogawa had only produced eight goals in 10 games before hosting City.
The City defence is getting stronger with the reintroduction of Curtis Good, and the attack is starting to fire on all cylinders with three goals scored against the Wanderers.
Unfortunately for Western Sydney the attack is showing no signs of rapid improvement, even under new management, only scoring a fortuitous penalty, while they also succumbed to a superior City defensively after a competitive start.
The Wanderers are not a quick fix
Wanderers fans would have no doubt been excited after a positive start to life under Rudan. With a win against Perth and an encouraging second half against Western United, they would have hoped to make their presence felt when the champions visited.
The game started well for the Wanderers, who after 10 minutes owned 75 per cent of the ball, a lot of it in Melbourne City territory.
As City started working themselves into the game, cracks started showing in the Wanderers armour. This showed notably with a miscommunication between centre backs Mark Natta and Ziggy Gordon, who took each other out when going for a regulation clearance.
The errors kept coming, and they became costly. Natta and Steven Ugarkovic lost track of Mathew Leckie who expertly directed a header in the back of the net to open the scoring. The Wanderers then let Leckie roam free in the box during a corner, the Socceroo once again made them pay to double the scoring.
The alarms kept sounding off with Berenguer looking dangerous and being afford plenty of space, putting the ball in the back of the net twice, though one of his goals was scrapped off for offside. The Wanderers also gave away a penalty but were relieved to see Jamie Maclaren place his effort wide.
Western Sydney can attribute some of its struggles down to the absence of regulars John Koutroumbis, Jack Rodwell and Tomer Hemed but it is obvious that problems run deeper than that.
Mark Rudan has his work cut out for him if he is to steady the club and earn a contract extension past this season.
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Leckie fires as the champions continue building
Mathew Leckie began the season under heavy scrutiny as he replaced talisman Craig Noone on City’s left wing. After some early struggles, Leckie has started looking like the marquee City expected him to be.
After opening his account for the season against the Central Coast Mariners, Leckie picked up where he left off in Western Sydney in an unconventional way for the Socceroo.
Leckie’s confidence was evident, uncharacteristically finishing off two crosses with expert headed finishes to put his side two goals to the good.
Along with Leckie’s brilliance, City’s side is starting to settle. The defence is evidently more composed with Curtis Good at the back, and it will only get stronger with the eventual reintegration of Nuno Reis.
City climbed to the summit of the league after comfortably dispatching the Wanderers, a scary proposition when you consider they have not kept a clean sheet in their last seven A-League Men games.
They will be expecting to continue that strong form going forward with a key focus being improving their defensive record as they ramp up their championship defence.
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