Derby win a seminal moment for City

Feel that? That’s the shifting plates beneath the feet of the A-League.

Tim Cahill

Tim Cahill celebrates scoring a goal in Saturday's Melbourne derby Source: Getty Images

At the moment, it’s a tremor.  But the rumblings have been growing substantially over the off-season and the earthquake - the one we’ve been waiting for - might be about to come.

The headlines from Saturday night’s Melbourne derby were all about that opening goal from Tim Cahill. We’ll talk it about that in a moment, but for now, let’s talk about the team. It was anything but a one-man show.

This is an early call, but the 4-1 demolition job of Melbourne Victory shapes as a potentially defining moment in the history of this club.

They didn’t just defeat Victory: they hammered them. Played them off the park. It was brutal and merciless. So much so that Kevin Muscat was moved to apologise to his own fans, who made up the bulk of the 43,000 on hand.

City have always found an extra leg for the derby, even during their previous incarnation, but this seemed less about emotional highs and more about inert belief, with plenty of skill to go with it.

You get the feeling that the weight of expectation on this club is starting to resonate with its players. They realise their Abu Dhabi overlords are in it to win it. Lip service is no longer good enough.

Last year, City occasionally loomed as a title threat. Goals came at such a rate that it was hard not to be impressed - but their defence was always the problem. And so it proved at the pointy end of the season.

Losing Aaron Mooy - the league’s best player, and now arguably the best player in England outside the Premier League - could have been a killer blow. But the club continued to scale its gaze upwards.

Into his place has come a fantastic player in the form of Luke Brattan, who needs no introduction. And Fernando Brandan has lots to like about him as well - both scored against Victory.

Keeping Bruno Fornaroli was critical, obviously. The importance of his re-signing was impossible to quantify and sent out a powerful signal, not only to the rest of the competition but internally, too. The meandering days of Melbourne Heart really are a lifetime ago.

These are early days, but it’s possible that City might also have found an upgrade for Harry Novillo in the form of Nicolas Colazo. We need to see more of him, but when he gets on the ball, there’s undeniable class.

When The World Game broke the story of Colazo’s impending transfer last month, most City fans scratched their heads. They won’t be wondering about his tricky feet much longer.

Throw in the addition of Bruce Kamau, whose pace and explosive nature will surely see him in Europe before long - perhaps even the Socceroos - and City’s team looks even more dangerous than last year’s free-scoring machine. 

Then we get to Cahill. Where to start? Just don’t bother doubting him. That’s when he’ll break you.

We all know he talks the talk, sure, but he walks the walk. And that goal? What more can you say. Mercurial. It's already gone viral around the world; almost something that only he, among all A-League players, is capable of.

The most thrilling part about City’s front third is that it’s impossible for a defence to have all of their weapons shut down simultaneously.

Yes, they are not perfect defensively. Michael Jakobsen has settled in well but it’s a big ask for Josh Rose, almost 35, to hold down a regular spot ahead of Connor Chapman.

Manny Muscat is a solid A-League citizen - and as durable as they come - but Osama Malik is surely a better long-term option. He’s too good to be on the bench.

Maybe John van’t Schip wants Chapman and Malik to earn their spots, rather than gifting them out. If so, fair enough. It was City’s achilles heel last season and he should demand higher standards.

But let's not get bogged down in semantics just yet. It was a huge night for City, but one senses the best is yet to come.

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4 min read
Published 17 October 2016 at 1:21pm
By Sebastian Hassett