This was the third Melbourne derby of the season, played at AAMI Park on the night of 7th February 2020. Melbourne City scored in both halves, defeating Melbourne Victory 2-1. Florin Berenguer was instrumental in City’s first derby win since 2018, as he was involved in both the goals. It was Berenguer’s first ever goal in the Hyundai A-League. However, in the 78th minute City’s goalkeeper Thomas Glover gifted Victory a late goal and a chance to get back in the game. But still City came out on top and delivered their boss Erick Mombaerts his first ever Melbourne Derby win.
City started in their usual 4-1-4-1 formation, with Rostyn Griffiths and Nathaniel Atkinson coming in for centre-backs Harrison Delbridge and Jack Hendry who were out through suspension and injury, respectively. Adrian Luna returned from injury to replace Connor Metcalfe, who sat this one out because of a knee injury. While between the goals, Glover took the place of Dean Bouzanis, who missed the match because of personal reasons. Scott Jamieson, the captain also returned from suspension to take Scott Galloway’s place in the starting line-up.
Melbourne Victory’s coach Carlos Salvachua made a few changes to the line-up and formation for this fixture. He switched to a 3-4-3 and started Tim Hoogland in the middle of the back three. Attackers Marco Rojas and Robbie Kruse started the match on the bench.
City’s high press & man-man marking
From the start, City pressed Victory high-up the pitch. They man-marked and stayed tight to their opponents. As you can see here, Jamie Maclaren, who formerly played for Hibernian in the SPFL, is starting the press for City and, using his cover shadow to cover Tim Hoogland. Hence, he didn’t let Victory build from the back. Craig Noone is pressing James Donachie and using his cover shadow to cover the left side of the pitch while, Markel Susaeta is pressing Benjamin Carrigan and using his cover shadow to cover the right side. City forced Victory to take more risks and play long balls to their wing-backs.
As you can see here, Maclaren has positioned himself in between Donachie and Carrigan. Hence, he is not allowing the Victory centre-backs to play the pass to each other. Hoogland then moved to the midfield to give an extra passing option to the centre-backs. After that, Luna closed him down. This pressing system by City was passing-lane and option-oriented. City’s wingers are using cover shadow to the close passing lanes of the Victory centre-backs to their wing-backs. Rest of the centre-backs’ passing options were cut out by the City midfielders. Therefore, Victory’s only option was to play long balls to their attackers.
As you can see here, Scott Jamieson has moved into the midfield right next to Josh Brillante. Thus, both of them are forming a double-pivot. In City’s build-up phases Scott Jamieson operated in the central areas, moving up and down the pitch. The idea behind this move was to overload the central areas and force Victory to play narrow. This leaves Noone in a 1 v 1 situation against their right-wingback. Noone could receive the ball out wide and take on their isolated wing-back. So, Berenguer drifted to the left-flank to create a numerical advantage against their right-wing back. Meanwhile, Atkinson was operating out wide on the right flank in a traditional right full-back position.
This is a principle similar to what Pep Guardiola has applied at Manchester City. As you can see here, City are trying to use Glover to build from the back in a 2-3-5 formation. This time both Atkinson & Jamieson have moved into the central areas. It allowed the central midfielders and wingers to attack without compromising their team’s defensive structure. Thus, there will be five defenders and five attackers, who the opposition will find it difficult to counter-attack against and, get sufficient numbers to go against the five defenders already present there. City’s players showed fluidity in their positional rotations. Victory could not determine who to mark and, City exploited the spaces in between the lines and always found an open player there.
Maclaren has been the leading goal-scorer in the league which has helped City maintain the second position in the table. The tactics deployed by Mombaerts has brought the best out of him. He is a traditional centre-forward who likes to make incisive runs in between the defenders and exploit the space behind the opponent’s defence line. In the above example, we can see Maclaren making a diagonal run between the centre-back and the left centre-back. Thus, because of this dummy run, he could take out Hoogland with him. So, it created space for Luna to pass the ball to Berenguer, who finished in style to score the first goal of the game.
Victory was pushing very hard for an equaliser but City was able to double their lead in the 71st minute. As we can see above, Berenguer plays a through ball into the path of Maclaren, who’s making a diagonal run. Later, Noone and Maclaren combined with each other, while Berenguer made a late run into the box and received the ball near the sideline from Maclaren. Later, Maclaren scored his 14th goal of the season after Berenguer played a perfect back heel pass into his path. Throughout the match, his impressive off the ball movement helped in stretching the opposition’s defence. His well-timed runs in between and from behind the defence helped in creating space for his teammates to operate in between the lines.
Overloading the wide areas
After scoring the first goal City got comfortable. They sat back and defended in their own half. Thus, Salvachua changed the formation to a 3-3-4 with, Adama Traore and Roux operating as left and right centre midfielders respectively and the two wingers touching the sidelines. With the help of their wide centre midfielders and wingers, Victory could stretch the field and create a numerical superiority in the wide areas. They overloaded the flanks to draw the City players over, which created space in the centre. The centre-backs were allowed plenty of time on the ball in their own half. Their priority was to play lateral passes to their wing-backs, who would then deliver crosses into the box. The Victory players attempted 18 crosses out of which only 8 were accurate.
As you can see here, Traore and Elvis Kamsoba are operating as right and left central midfielders. The 3-3-4 formation puts Victory’s attackers in a 4 v 4 situation against the opposition defenders. Victory overloaded the wide areas with the aim of penetrating the opposition. It was an intentional tactical ploy set by Salvachua. Hence, they could dominate possession. This forced City to over-commit more players on one side and leave the opposite flank exposed. As a result, Victory could create dangerous 1 v 1 and even 2 v 1 situations by switching the ball to the exposed flank.
City’s stern defence
Halfway through the second half, City switched to a 4-4-2 formation and defended with a low block. City gave a lot of space and time to opposition defenders. Thus, allowing them to move out of their defence line and bring the ball up. However, they could not link-up with their midfielders because of City’s tight man-marking. So, the last resort for them was to play long diagonal balls to their wingers, who were hugging the sideline. The wingers would then deliver crosses into the box looking for Ola Toivonen. But, even when the wingers received the ball under pressure, City full-backs pressed and forced them to pass the ball back. Toivonen had the least number of actions (41) for Victory amongst the players who started the match. He hardly got the ball in the final-third and his lack of movement in build-up play, forced the defenders to go long.
After scoring early in the game, Melbourne City had a simple game plan to stop Melbourne Victory from playing their natural game. They allowed Victory’s centre backs to keep the ball. In the time being, they covered and man-marked their passing options, forced them to take risks. Therefore, on turnovers City hit them on the counter by using the pace and quality of their attackers.
Up to the 71st minute, City were winning 1-0. Melbourne Victory pushed very hard for an equaliser. So, up stepped Maclaren who scored his 14th goal of the campaign and, doubled the score to give City a firm lead. He combined well with Noone and Berenguer in the Victory’s box which eventually opened up their defence. Yet, City held on to their lead despite a few nervous moments late in the game and came out on top to get a crucial win, claiming all three points.