A-League Finals: Up for grabs

I was at AAMI Park last Friday night, and I saw an irresistibly good team that I believe will win this season’s Grand Final.

Melbourne City is a club that this season rose from a history of mediocrity, scoring more goals than any A-League team had ever done before. For once the club recruited well in the pre-season. Bruno Fornaroli could be the best import the A-League has seen and easily won the Golden Boot with his 23 goals – four more than the previous highest tally. Thomas Sorensen and Alex Wilkinson turned out to be great acquisitions in defence, helping to secure City several clean sheets in the second half of the season. Aaron Mooy might have played the best individual season seen in the A-League, kick-starting his side’s run with an unbelievable run of goals and assists before Christmas. He’s continued in a similar vein of form this year, and finished the regular season with 11 goals and an astonishing 21 assists.

When you compare all of that with the disappointment of last season’s champions, Melbourne Victory, which finished sixth, and the second best team from last season, Sydney FC, which collected 16 points fewer in this campaign, City stands out as having set a new benchmark for the competition.

But they haven’t.

For Melbourne City, the 2015/16 regular season is a new benchmark. There’s no doubt about that. It has been by far and away the best and most consistent year that Heart or City has managed. In another season, they might have been the runaway premiers.

City’s opponents last Friday night are the champions in waiting.

Adelaide United’s 2-0 win on City’s turf was so convincing, and deservedly clinched them the Premiership. Their defence was so solid that City barely managed any decent chances. The most prolific and excitingly attacking side in the A-League’s history were completely nullified by the Reds’ defence for the whole game. After a bad start to his tenure, Adelaide manager Guillermo Amor reprogrammed his squad, which had been undeniably impressive under Josep Gombau the two seasons prior, and turned them into a defensive machine.
In the 20 matches after Round Seven, Adelaide conceded just 10 goals. 10! Five of those were against the hapless Central Coast, which is bizarre, but also doesn’t matter because the Mariners aren’t going to bother them in the finals.

There was plenty on the line in last Friday’s clash, and Adelaide handled it immensely well. I’ve never doubted their quality, but that performance showed me that Amor has instilled the belief and mental toughness in his team to win two finals and finally secure an A-League Championship for Adelaide.

Suncorp Stadium, Friday 15/04, 1930: Brisbane Roar vs Melbourne Victory
The winner of this match plays in Adelaide on semi-final weekend. Last Saturday, Brisbane went to Melbourne knowing that a win would give them the Premier’s Plate. Unfortunately for the Roar, Kevin Muscat fired his troops up for the game and neither side could find a way to goal. As a result, Brisbane and its fans won’t be happy when the Victory pay them a visit tonight. Besart Berisha’s two-game ban for kicking out at Wellington’s Andrew Durante in Round 26 was reduced during the week, so he’s free to take on his former club. Victory also welcomes back into its squad a handful of its best players for the occasion.

Expect a fiery match, with Victory and especially Berisha to be right in it until the final whistle. Upsets in elimination finals don’t come about too often, however, so I’ll say that Brisbane will win it in extra time.

AAMI Park, Sunday 17/04, 1700: Melbourne City vs Perth Glory
City get their time to shine, with the chance to face Western Sydney in a semi-final awaiting. As I mentioned earlier, it’s been City’s best ever season by some distance, but if they lose this elimination final it will all be a waste. Who knows how many of their stars they will be able to retain in the off-season? Most who cover the game extensively think that Aaron Mooy will accept one of the many offers he will get from overseas clubs in the coming months, making City a weaker side next season. Perth has favourable form at AAMI Park in recent seasons, but it’s hard to ignore the 5-1 loss they suffered the last time these teams met at this venue. Glory’s shocking 4-0 defeat in Sydney last weekend was a disturbing surrender of any chance they had at hosting a final this weekend, and had to hurt the squad’s morale.

With that considered, as well as the fact that Glory will have had to fly back to Perth after the Sydney debacle, and then across to Melbourne by the time the final kicks off on Sunday, I can’t see them beating City.

About Tom Riordan

Tom Riordan is in his second year of a Bachelor of Journalism at Swinburne University. He loves all sports, and plays for Brunswick Cricket Club. He supports the Western Bulldogs and can be found on weekends among half a dozen others in Q38 on the top level of the MCC.

Comments

  1. If Victory can somehow pinch a win tonight, P.Heart will feel increased pressure to perform on Sunday lest they (again) be cast as failures. Regardless of tonight’s result, the Victory need to rebuild for next season.

  2. Dave Brown says

    I like your prediction, Tom. Seriously hoping 2016 doesn’t become the year of minor premierships only for Adelaide teams (though could be worse of course)

  3. On the ball Tom. Great insight.This is the GF you tipped.
    What a fantastic Finals Series.
    What a shame it has garnered no publicity.

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