28/02/2024
Marco Tilio could have plenty to say come Friday night. (Photo: Melbourne City FC)

There’s everything to play for between Melbourne City and Sydney FC when they meet for the second leg of their semi-final clash at AAMI Park on Friday night.

For City, victory would take them one step closer to capitalising on a season of dominance that saw them lift their third successive Premiers’ Plate.

While Steve Corica’s Sky Blues have the chance to well and truly put a rollercoaster season behind them and surge into an unlikely grand final appearance from fifth on the ladder. 

So, is City’s Rado Vidosic, who’s potentially two games away from a maiden A-League Men championship as head coach, feeling the pressure?

If he is, he’s not letting on.

“I don’t feel any pressure… maybe there’s gonna be a little more butterflies before the game,” Vidosic said.

“When you trust your players the way I trust my players then it’s much easier to deal with the last 24 hours or 48 leading into the game.

“Everywhere I look I see experienced players, I see players who are dedicated to be successful.”

But that’s not to say they weren’t without their flaws in last Friday’s first leg, which finished all square at 1-1. 

Vidosic knows this. 

“We didn’t keep the ball the way we would like it, a few players made a few uncharacteristic errors, we didn’t move the ball quickly,” he reflected. 

“And then at certain points of the game, we were not aggressive to force Sydney to make some mistakes. We did that occasionally, but not consistently.

“There was no consistency in our defensive organisation and that’s the one area we would like to improve, obviously they do have excellent players and they can punish you with the blink of an eye, we really need to be alert.

“I think we got a couple of good behaviours in that game, and we need just a little bit more consistency.”

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One area of concern for City was Sydney’s disallowed goals. 

Adam La Fondre found space for an eighth-minute tap-in, and likewise, Rhyan Grant seemed far too open when he put the ball in the back of the net from point-blank range in the 71st minute. Fortunately for City, both goals were disallowed due to an offside in the build-up.

But Grant’s disallowed goal in particular caught the eye of Vidosic. 

“That’s one area that we talked about. Although we had seven or eight players inside the penalty box, they had three players unmarked, that was not good enough from us,” Vidosic said.

“We’ve been talking about space doesn’t score goals, men score goals.

“We need to be much tighter, we must mark opponents inside the penalty box, which we failed. Players are aware of that. We’ve done that reasonably well throughout the season.

“We spoke about all of these little things and hopefully we can get them right (on Friday).”

Vidosic’s men also failed to score a goal from open play in last week’s encounter – their goal coming courtesy of a bullet Valon Berisha free kick and acute Matt Leckie header – although he expects their fortunes to change on their home deck.

“We created some half chances, we did not create chances as good as Sydney created – they had little bit better chances than us,” he said.

“I think we controlled the game much better second-half, we had more than 70 per cent of the ball, we starved them from the ball and possession. If we do that tomorrow then we will definitely create more chances.

“Leckie has now played full 90 minutes, so he’s better for it. Jamie (Maclaren’s) gonna have a little bit better service. Our wingers will have home advantage.

“So I think we’re gonna create more chances tomorrow, it’s just up to us to finish them off and score the goal.”

City can also expect to be buoyed by the return of midfielder Aiden O’Neill, who missed the first leg of the clash due to back spasms. 

“He trained the whole week, so he is putting his hand up,” Vidosic said. 

“We missed him last week so hopefully there won’t be any problems with his back today and he’ll wake up without any concerns, then we’ll consider if he can start or at least come off the bench in the second half.”

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