Melbourne City’s Youth were unable to secure back-to-back Y-League Titles last Saturday, going down 3-1 to the Western Sydney Wanderers in the 2017/18 Y-League Grand Final at McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle.
Opening the scoring through a Denis Genreau penalty in the 54th minute, City were unable to prevent the Wanders equalizing through Lachlan Scott in the 70th minute, with the game then heading into extra time when the two sides were unable to be separated at the conclusion of 90 minutes.
It was in the extra periods that the Wanderers would overrun City; taking the lead in the 101st minute through Marc Tokich and putting the cherry on the sundae in the 111th minute through substitute John Roberts.
It was a game that, with the exception of two periods at the beginning of each half, City were unable to ever really establish themselves in, with the Wanderers maintaining the clear ascendancy for much of the contest.
Looking back on his sides efforts, City Y-League Head Coach and Head of Academy Joe Palatsides admitted that it wasn’t his sides best performance:
“It wasn’t what we were expecting, we didn’t play our best,” he said
“We look at it, and we were expecting our boys to bring the momentum of the early season and I think part of it is that we’d just lost a bit of that momentum towards the end of the year.
“We were a bit sluggish, I thought we started off alright, but we didn’t appear to be as sharp as what we wanted to be.
“We thought we’d dominate the possession, but to West Sydney’s credit they pressured us quite well and then we just probably, work rate wise, our boys didn’t look to be our normal selves.
“We didn’t keep the ball like we usually do, that’s a big part of our game and that’s probably the most disappointing aspect of it, that we probably rushed a few passes and didn’t show the same composure.”
Despite the disappointing defeat, there were bright spots for City - especially the play of goalkeeper James Delianov.
The young custodian turned in a performance for the ages during the Grand Final, producing a number of world class saves and often at times being the only thing between City and a three or four goal deficit.
Palatsides agreed with that assessment, heaping praise on the play of Delianov as well as a few others that impressed:
“I though James [Delianov] was exceptional,” he said
“We all know he’s a very good young goalkeeper and on the big stage good players perform well, and I think James performed exceptionally well.
“I texted him after the game and said "really well done on the way you played," because I did think he kept us in it for quite a bit.
“I thought Deny’s [Denis Genreau’s] work rate was exceptional also, and Ruey [Ruon Tongyik] I thought was very, very stable at the back as well.”
The Grand Final loss was City’s third defeat in the row, with back-to-back defeats at the hands of the Perth Glory and Melbourne Victory in the regular season's final rounds marking City’s preparations for the contest.
It was a far cry from the form that City demonstrated early in the season, where they went six games undefeated and looked like almost unbackable favourites for the Y-League crown.
Palatsides admits that City’s late season form left a lot to be desired, and looks to several factors to clarify the form slump:
“That was for various reasons,” Palatsides explained
“We played quite a number of different players; we played all the contracted players and I think we played three of four academy players underneath them.
“Everyone got a run, which is something that we’ve been doing for five years now.
“Everyone plays in the Y-League and it’s good to give them experience and give them more to develop them individually and develop them as a team to try and get better.
“The priority is the senior team getting the right preparation, and boys were used to both prepare and play with the senior team.
“That’s always going to be a bit of a handicap, but we still want to make sure we perform well, and we did the simple things wrong.”
Despite the loss, Palatsides doesn’t think of the Grand Final as a failure, explaining that there are a lot of lessons that his young players can take from the game:
“At the end of the day we got to the Grand Final, we lost it in extra time, we could have won it in the 95th minute when he hit the post,” he said
“It could have been a lot different and there are going to be great moments that we can look back on and say we could have done a few things better.
“But if they all improve from this game and learn from this game then we’ve got the result we desired from it at the end of the day.