‘It's not enough to reach the final’ – history-maker Mombaerts demands more from City
Erick Mombaerts has delivered the best season in Melbourne City’s nine-year history but the Frenchman has no intention of basking in the glory of a record-setting season yet.
The 65-year-old tactician has revolutionised the Bundoora-based club during the 14 months since his appointment, turning a team that finished fifth in the 2018/19 campaign into genuine Hyundai A-League Championship contenders for the very first time.
A 2-0 triumph against Western United in Wednesday’s Semi-Final booked the Victorian club’s place in their first ever Grand Final but it is not only results that have improved over this disrupted campaign, the style of City’s play has been unrecognisable from last season.
Not only did they record their best ever league finish and their highest all-time points tally, but City went from being the seventh highest scoring team in 2018/19 to the joint leaders this year, alongside Premiers Sydney FC, but Mombaerts still believes they must overcome their title rivals on Sunday to have anything to celebrate from an historic campaign.
“I’m very happy that this situation happened with me,” Mombaerts said.
“We have done a very good season, it’s a first time to reach a final but now we have one more game to win.
“It’s not enough to reach the final. Now it’s very important to expect to win this.”
While City have built a reputation for high-intensity pressing and free-flowing football, their greatest strengths were not on display throughout their Semi-Final clash against state rivals Western United.
After a first-half where they relied on goalkeeper Tom Glover to keep them level, City scrapped their way over the finish line with Jamie Maclaren's penalty and Tomoki Imai's own goal putting an end to the competition newcomers’ fairytale debut campaign.
“In the first half, we didn’t play well enough,” Mombaerts admitted. “We had a lack of aggressiveness to regain the ball high.
“I want to congratulate Western United because they did well. They were well organised defensively. It was difficult to overcome and break their defensive block.
“In the second half, we just corrected a few things. We increased our level of aggressiveness, which was better, and we created some chances.
“In this kind of game, when you score first, you have a great chance to win and it happened like that.”
One demon that City have been battling to exorcise is the suggestion they cannot deliver on the big occasions.
A 2-0 victory against newly-crowned Premiers, Sydney FC, on August 1 showed their Championship credentials and they backed that performance up with a gritty Semi-Final effort, which bodes well in the long term according to Mombaerts.
“This season is fantastic,” he said. “We reached a cup final, we finished in the second position and we win the semi-final.
“We won a lot of games – but sometimes we lead easily and sometimes we let the opponents restart but [on Wednesday] we showed we were strong mentally.
“I think that helps maybe for the future. This season shows this team can do very well.”
Hyundai A-League Grand Final 2020
Sydney FC v Melbourne City
When: Sunday, August 30
Kick-off: 6.30pm AEST
Venue: Bankwest Stadium
Broadcast: ABC ME delayed at 8.25pm, FOX Sports 507
Stream: MyFootball Live App, Kayo Sports, ABC iView