Melbourne City finds some semblance of familiarity: winning A-League Men games.

There’s a level of comfort that can be taken from the familiar, the safety blanket of things going according to some grand cosmic plan in an otherwise sea of chaos. Melbourne City, for instance, win games of football. It’s what they’ve been doing for a while now and on Tuesday afternoon, they did it again: downing the Central Coast Mariners 1-0 at AAMI Park thanks to a first-half goal from Jamie Maclaran. 

Not surprising, really. City is top of the A-League Men and has only lost one time this season. The Mariners have now lost to City eleven straight times when the two sides have locked horns at AAMI Park, and have now gone 27 games without a win in the state of Victoria. The three points also mean that City has won more games in 2022, 19, than any other calendar year in club history. Basically, if you’re a student of history you wouldn’t have been shocked in the slightest at the result. 

Though obviously affected by the sweltering conditions that the game took place in – the Bureau of Meteorology, who remain the authority on these matters despite their disastrous attempts at rebranding, saying was 37 degrees at the time of kickoff – City were the better of the sides across the opening 45 at AAMI Park, creating enough shots inside the penalty area and/or that made Danny Vukovic work to suggest that they would have been good value for a greater margin than their 1-0 halftime lead. 

The Mariners, to their credit, did shade the balance of play in the second half and at times maybe hinted at finding a way back in, but this nominal shift in the dynamic wasn’t accompanied by a deluge of chances that would have left observers with the sense that coach Nick Montgomery’s side was wronged by the result. Michael Ruhs had the best chance of these comeback attempts in the 74th minute, an opportunity that Montogmery said he had to score, only to be denied by Tom Glover. Indeed, in the end, it’s impossible to know how much of the Mariners’ control was down to City being content to sit back with their lead and absorb pressure in the overbearing heat. 

“It was the old cliche, a game of two halves,” said Montgomery. “First half, they were better than us. In the second half, we were the better team. We created some good opportunities. They sat back but look, the conditions in the first half.”

Yet given what has transpired across the past three weeks in Australian football, that something actually happened that was could be perceived as being in accordance with some vague sort of cosmic plan felt like we’d swing all the way from routine back to originality. Even on a more localised level, City themselves were confronting a bit of uncertainty unrelated to sales of grand final hosting rights or violent pitch invasions in the Melbourne derby; the loss of coach Patrick Kisnorbo and a defeat to Sydney FC in their first game back from the World Cup raising perhaps an eyebrow or two. 

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Reminders of the broader chaos were plain to see as well. As a result of a Football Australia sanction for the behaviour of the host’s supporters in the Melbourne Derby, both active ends were tarped off and closed, while the City contingent that would normally fill them was barred from attending entirely. The numbers of police and security patrolling the venue were swelled and all tickets for the fixture were assigned an individual seat – which made attempting to relocate into the shade a more complicated task for those poor souls that found themselves under the harsh glare of the sun in the east grandstand. 

Yet even in the face of the rancour and chaos gripping Australian football, Melbourne City’s A-League Men side remains one of the competition’s best. Now guided by interim coach Rado Vidosic, they are now four points clear atop the table with a game in hand over second-placed Western Sydney Wanderers and their goal difference of +10 is five better than the next-best Mariners. They’re also continuing to pump out high-quality young players from their academy, with left-back Jordy Bos the latest prospect to roll off the production line at the City Football Academy. 

That the 20-year-old is even starting for the defending premiers should give some indication as to the talent he already possesses, let alone his potential. You don’t keep your long-time captain on the bench unless your coach and football department has significant belief in what a youngster can do now and what they can accomplish in the future. And that’s to say nothing of keeping him in despite a potential void in leadership left by the sudden departure of coach Patrick Kisnorbo. 

It was Bos’ bending ball down the left flank that gave Richard van der Venne scope to shrug off the attention of Dan Hall and square the ball for Maclaren’s 39th-minute opener for City; the Dutch-parented youngster combining with City’s Dutch import to help their side take the lead in a game they had been in handy control of to that point but failed to take by the scruff on the neck. 

Credit on the strike, of course, must be given to the play of Richard van der Venne, whose dispatching one of the competition’s better central defenders in Hall was much more difficult than he made it look, as well as Jamie Maclaren, whose ability to be in the right place at the right time will continue to put him in positions to score those relatively simple efforts. van der Venne’s subsequent efforts to win Maclaren a penalty in first-half stoppage time, again at the expense, went unrewarded by his leading man, who was denied his sixth penalty of the season by a strong Danny Vukovic save. 

Whereas many young wingbacks that make the breakthrough at ALM will do so almost entirely based on their ability to run, Bos displays a level of comfort on the ball and defensive aptitude that helps provide a level of differentiation from those other prospects. 

The former is helped by City’s use of inverted fullbacks during periods of possession, and there is still work to be done on the latter, Samuel Silvera sending the left-back to the shops with a bit of fancy footwork late in the first half. But a strong tackle laid on Jason Cummings in the 15th minute, followed by a positive run forward that kickstarted a move that ended in a Marco Tilio shot helped to demonstrate multiple facets of Bos’ game that earmark him as a talent for the future. 

“We rate him very, very highly and he’s a fantastic talent,” Vidosic said post-game. 

“I think he was excellent today. He’s got so many qualities – you need many more hands to count them. 

“The future is very bright for him – he’s one of the shining lights of the A-League.

“Absolutely (he’s a future Socceroo). Absolutely. I don’t think that they can go wrong if they select him for the next lot of games and they need to have a good look at him. 

“Not only is he a good defender but he’s also very, very good going forward. He’s dynamic, he’s skilful, he’s left-footed, he’s big, strong powerful so everything that you need in a modern footballer, I think he’s got it.”

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Header Image: Melbourne City / Aleksandar Kostadinoski

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