Melbourne Victory’s dazzling demolition of Wanderers perhaps wasn’t a huge surprise However, Melbourne City were somewhat of an unknown, so I was intrigued to see how they would set up in the opening round of Hyundai A-League Season 2014/15. And boy did they impress.
Having been bundled out of the Westfield FFA Cup by Sydney FC in Ballarat two months ago, City looked vastly more at home in the hipster haven of Paddington.
Well-organised, physical and excellent in transition, City controlled the game in the centre of the park and used width to test the Sky Blues at Allianz.
Clearly coach John van’t Schip, like Kevin Muscat, has made good use of the long off-season.
And this was a City side missing key midfielder Robbie Koren and dangerous striker David Williams, yet they barely missed a beat.
That beat ramped up when the greatest ever signing for the league – David Villa – jogged onto the pitch in the first few minutes of the second half (to a rapturous applause from most Sky Blue fans; a respectful touch).
New signing Erik Paartalu as the deep-lying six slotted back into the Hyundai A-League seamlessly (Ange take note) as City’s controlling midfielder.
In front of him Mass Murdocca – another former Roar championship winner who looked frighteningly fit - and Aaron Mooy showed guile and an enormous work-rate.
Up front in a 4-3-3, the attack was lead by Damien Duff on the wing, who worked tirelessly, was dangerous getting in behind and set up Villa’s sublime finish. Duff was exhausted by the 70th minute but kept going till the end for an impressive debut in Australia.
Centrally Mate Dugandzic and winger James Brown also played their part while down back marshalling Melbourne’s newly branded club was skipper Patrick Kisnorbo (a star on and off the pitch).
You could argue City deserved all three points against an under-strength Sky Blues. More importantly though, van’t Schip’s City can only get better once Koren and Co return and Villa starts the remaining nine games of his 10-game stint.
Likewise, Victory can only get better as the season moves on and Socceroo Mark Milligan returns to the fold.
What I loved about Victory’s display aside - from the obvious – was Muscat’s post match quotes on using every minute in the off-season wisely.
And you could see it just from their set pieces – four brilliantly worked passages of play that bamboozled the Wanderers.
It is a long off-season but as Muscat rightly says, make use of every second you have.
Every coach should listen and learn from that quote.
The Melbourne Derby is round three. Both sides will be ticking along nicely by then.
Whatever you do, wherever you are do not miss it.
Villa versus Berisha is enough to sell out Etihad. However, the game itself will be an unbelievable showcase for the Hyundai A-League from two sides destined for big things in season 10.
Both Melbourne clubs have made a clear statement of intent after round one.