City show FFA Cup final was an aberration
If a Melbourne City fan watched this game in isolation, they would have thought the mantra about returning to their attacking roots was hogwash.
In the context of the match and the week, it was the kind of performance that can define a season.
Four days on from an FFA Cup mauling away to Adelaide United and playing with a man less, courageous City snatched a late winner away to impressive Western United, via their man of the moment.
Jamie Maclaren, who opened the scoring on 32 minutes, decided it with the finish of an in-form striker - a cleanly hit volley five minutes from injury time to secure a 2-1 win in an enthralling clash at GMHBA Stadium.
City, pinned back and heavy-legged after the Cup clash, had stopper Harrison Delbridge sent off via a second yellow card after bowling over Besart Berisha in the box.
Berisha, who had an offer on the table from City but chose Western United, converted the penalty and the home side had all the momentum.
City's performance gave every indication that the FFA Cup final was an aberration.
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FOREGOING FLAIR FOR FIGHT
City coach Erick Mombaerts was recruited to bring back the style and flair to City that went missing in the past two years. But they showed they're also up for the fight.
City's celebrations at the final whistle showed what the win meant - they huddled and hugged in celebration.
What is evident with this City team is that the players respect Mombaerts and are clearly playing for him.
"For me very very important (win). Three days ago we lost this final and I expect a big reaction with our players," Mombaerts said.
"I'm very happy to see the character of our team today. We (came) to win and show the character. For the future and to win with 10 men it's also very good for team building."
VICTORIA'S SECOND TEAM
While Melbourne Victory is the state's undisputed A-League No.1 at the moment, with the expansion club and City now vying for beneath.
The 7042 crowd was disappointing considering the derby occasion, albeit affected by the kick-off time and weather.
The contest deserved a bigger crowd and United's foundation fans would be proud of their team's effort, for they deserved at least a point from the contest.
"Quite disappointed. we need to be smarter in terms of controlling the game, the opponent, with the one man advantage," United coach Mark Rudan said.
"It's something we need to review, it's the second week in a row we've come out of the blocks slowly. It wasn't a good start and we weren't in gear."
Mombaerts resisted the temptation to make mass changes, bringing Rostyn Griffiths and Denis Genreau in from Wednesday night.
Genreau, who's benefited from his stint at Dutch club PEC Zwolle where he made 12 appearances in all competitions, played a clever dink to Maclaren for the opener.
Smarting from a rare goalless outing in the FFA Cup, Maclaren looked on and cleverly chested it down before driving it home with his left.
His winner was sublime, taking his tally to 10 goals in seven games for City and 14 in nine games inclusive of Socceroos.
Far from being out off the contest, United gave as good as they got in the first half.
United took control in the second and Scott McDonald, who continues to excel in a non-traditional role just behind Besart Berisha, found himself in a great position but shot across the face after a superb build up involving Alessandro Diamanti.
The Italian was finding dangerous pockets of space and his vision and precision left-foot passing that left City's defence pinned back and scrambling.
A sloppy touch from substitute Connor Metcalfe gifting Berisha a chance and his sharp turn cleverly sucked in a sliding Delbridge, who received his marching orders.
Berisha converted, but City did not give up hope.
WESTERN UNITED 1 (Berisha PEN 66)
MELBOURNE CITY 2 (Maclaren 32, 85)
Crowd: 7042 at GMHBA Stadium
Referee: Adam Kearsey
Red cards: Delbridge 64
Davutovic's match of the match: Jamie Maclaren (Melbourne City)
He was isolated for much of the match, but his consistently disciplined runs continually gave City an outlet out of trouble. His two goals won them the game.