It has been described as the best game of the season and that’s all well and good. But what did we really learn from Friday’s top-of-the-table clash…Dario Vidosic nearing top form
Having endured a torturous 12 months before joining Wanderers this season, Dario Vidosic has had to make up plenty of ground on the competition this season. But after a fine showing against City you’d have thought Vidosic had reached the optimum standard already.
In what was a masterful display of subtle midfield craftsmanship, Vidosic enjoyed one of his best performances of the season and cut the City defence open at will. A superb release in the Wanderers half for Bridge’s first goal and a sumptuous lobbed ball in the build up to Bridge’s second were the highlights in a match which saw him set-up the first three goals.
The Wanderers want it more
It’s one of the most worn observations in football’s sprawling encyclopaedia of clichés – but brushing aside all corniness, there’s no argument over which side deserved the three points in a frenetic and gripping top of the table contest.
Despite a frenzied final fifteen minutes in which the side lost, regained and lost their concentration again at the death, this was a deafening statement of intent from a side who are now five points clear at the top after another win over a championship rival.
Tony Popovic had stressed the importance of attitude in big-game contests before the match and the boss’ words echoed through every facet of his side’s performance in the first 75 minutes: always first to the loose ball, nullifying City’s threat through their wingbacks and denying Harry Novillo and Bruno Fornaroli room to operate on the edge of the box.
Considering Melbourne City are a mesmerising attacking side at their best and possess an attacking triangle at their peak of their powers, a faultless defensive performance was required and although the side conceded three goals this wasn’t a true indicator of the defensive quality on show.
But it was a humble but astute tactical scheme from Popovic after the half-time break that ultimately decided the outcome of the game. Knowing City would need to press harder for the equaliser, the Wanderers were happy to concede the majority of possession and remain compact around their own box. With both City wingbacks throwing caution to the wind, the Wanderers were poised perfectly to exploit van’t Schip’s side on the break – not once but thrice.
The young flyer has been a first time regular at stages this season and he looked a man eager to shake off the disappointment of the Olyroo’s AFC U23 Championship group-stage exit.
Sotirio more than justified Popovic’s faith and played a key role in preventing City any rhythm down the left hand side as well as getting forward to make supportive runs in behind the opposition’s wingbacks.
But the most pleasing aspect of Sotirio’s return to Hyundai A-League action was his exemplary defensive performance which saw him make a team-high three tackles in his own half, highlighting what a diligent player the forward is when losing possession.
It’s part of the reason why Popovic has entrusted Sotirio with so many starts this season and why the boss has been rewarded in nurturing the youngster into Hyundai A-League football.
It provides the manager without quite the selection dilemma now.
Bridge is in some of his best form of his career
It was yet another Mark Bridge master class at Wanderland as the Wanderers icon shouldered the responsibility of leading the line with a classic brace.
Popa praised his leading striker after Bridge scored his seventh and eighth goals of the season. He is very much indispensable to the Wanderers cause.