Mombaerts reveals masterplan behind maiden Melbourne Derby triumph
Erick Mombaerts admits he tore up his playbook to hatch a plan that finally earned Melbourne City the Derby bragging rights against Melbourne Victory.
The French tactician has become renowned during his time in the Hyundai A-League for his high press and possession-based approach to dominating matches – but that was not the case at AAMI Park on Friday.
Mombaerts’ compatriot Florin Berenguer starred for City in the 2-1 win – scoring his first goal since arriving down under in October 2018 and providing an assist with a back heel pass for Jamie Maclaren to finish a stunning move, before the Socceroos striker was substituted a minute later with a sore hamstring.
While City usually set the tone by controlling the tempo of their games, Mombaerts revealed he plotted to surrender possession and let Victory keep the ball in order to finally claim his first Derby triumph at the third attempt.
“It was our plan,” Mombaerts said. “We had experience with Victory that their play is based when we lose the ball.
“When we lose the ball, they have fast players to play counter-attack and we didn’t want to expose us in this phase.
“That’s why we adapted a different game plan as usual.”
He added: “As you know we have an offensive style of play but sometimes you need to be strong defensively and [on Friday] it was this case.
“We were strong defensively. It’s also a good reaction of our players after the last game.”
City went down 3-1 against Adelaide United last week and Mombaerts admitted that match – along with the fact that he was yet to deliver a Derby win – was playing on his mind.
Berenguer stepped up to deliver the stand-out display from his 27 matches in Australian football, but it was his work off the ball that really caught Mombaerts' eye.
“[Berenguer] was very good, especially defensively because I ask him first to concentrate on this,” Mombaerts added.
“Obviously he helped a lot with his diagonal runs.
“He was good but I want to congratulate all of our players because our midfielder [Josh] Brillante, [Adrian] Luna and Florin were also very good.”
“The two goals we scored were beautiful but the second goal was perfect.”
He added: “[Berenguer’s] attitude is very good. He works very hard to improve.
“Because I am French maybe the communication is easier for him. Also we changed his position, he is more a midfielder. This is better for him.
“I want to congratulate him because he worked very hard. He was more involved offensively and he increased his aggressiveness so I think he has become a very good player.”
Opposition head coach Carlos Salvachua admits Victory made it too easy for City to notch the decisive goals in the loss, which leaves his side five points of the pace in the chase for the Hyundai A-League Finals Series.
The Spanish coach believes Victory need to win six or seven of their nine remaining matches to stand a chance of saving their season – a cause which was not helped when substitute Robbie Kruse limped off with a hamstring injury.
“We have to wait [on Kruse],” Salvachua said. “He doesn’t feel good and the problem is in the hamstring. He went out and made it more difficult finishing the game with 10 players.
“[Kruse] is a big player for us, an important player for us.”
Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne City
Saturday, 15 February 2020
Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 5pm AEDT, 7pm local
Melbourne Victory are on a bye