Melbourne City Y-League Head Coach Joe Palatsides has commended his side’s effort to defeat Adelaide United 4-3 on Monday and secure a Y-League Grand Final berth, but has cautioned that there are areas that still need to improve.
Despite leading 2-1 at half time thanks to goals from Braedyn Crowley and Ramy Najjarine, two converted penalties by Reds captain Charlie Deveraux meant that City trailed 3-2 with only 15 minutes to go in Monday’s game at the City Football Academy.
An own goal by Adelaide goalkeeper Cameron Cook in the 76th minute would tie the game up however, and Dylan Pierias would combine brilliantly with Gianluca Iannucci to grab City an 80th minute winner and secure City a berth in the Y-League Grand Final.
Being the only side in the Y-League’s Group A that had a mathematical chance of catching City coming into the contest, the Reds came out hard against City; employing a suffocating press that for stretches of the game had Adelaide completely dominating their City opponents, and Palatsides acknowledged his side struggled at times:
“[I told the boys] It wasn’t our best performance,” he said.
“To Adelaide’s credit, they pressed us very high and they had a lot of energy in their game and they made it really difficult for us.
“We probably didn’t handle it well.
“We wanted to keep playing [City’s possession based game], and on days when we execute well we can play through a lot of teams.
“But today we didn’t execute well.
“We talked about that post match, I gave them credit for trying to play how we wanted to play but if you don’t execute correctly you leave yourselves open and I think that we left ourselves open.
“In the end I think Adelaide could have got one or two goals from our mistakes, but having said that we probably missed a lot of easy chances as well.”
Despite this, Palatsides praised his sides spirit in coming from behind to grind out the win:
“There’s an attribute that coaches can’t really teach players,” he explained
“That’s the ability to turn games around and believe in yourself that much that you know that you’re not going to lose,
“I think that this bunch of kids have got that self-belief, that they know they’re never beaten, and that’s a great attribute to have as a football team and as football players.”
One player in particular that impressed in the win was Lucas Portelli, the big central defender making a number of key stops in defence and proving an effective catalyst for a number of City attacks through his pinpoint long passing, and Palatsides was effusive in his praise in the youngster:
“Lucas has been an exceptional player over the past year – not that he wasn’t before hand – but you never know how a young player is going to develop,” he explained.
“He’s been one of the players that we’ve earmarked and said that he could really grow this year and he has.
“He made a few mistakes today as well, which are probably a bit more evident when you’re in defence, but he was excellent.”
The win has booked City’s place in the Y-League Grand Final for the second straight year, City having defeated Sydney FC 3-2 in the 2016/17 season finale, and Palatsides allowed himself a rare moment of pride in reflecting on the achievement of his side:
“I think it’s a great achievement to get them in.” he said
“We talk about the development of footballers, and that’s our key goal, but at the end of the day you have to be able to win,
“These boys have ground out another grand final and that hopefully will be three titles in four years. [City having won the 2014/15 competition under the previous Y-League format]”
The success of City’s academy does of course primarily depend upon the quality of the player that it produces for the senior side.
One of the players that has made the jump this year is Daniel Arzani, who shocked many with his skill and dare when he had a match winning 40-minute cameo as a substitute against the Wellington Phoenix on Sunday.
Count Palatsides however, amongst the number that was in no way taken aback by what the 19-year-old was able to do:
“He doesn’t surprise me at all,” he said
“I’ve been advocating that he’s a good player and that he’s going to make a difference for a long time.
“I think he’s world class [at some of the things he does],
“Being able to play one-one-one, he’s as good as anyone in the world because he can just glide past players.
“He knows he has to work defensively and I think that’s what the boss [Senior Head Coach Warren Joyce] has been telling him about.
“But it doesn’t surprise me at all, we always knew this was going to happen and hopefully it continues on a regular basis, because that’s going to be the question asked of him week in and week out.”
“I mean, we’re really proud of all the bunch of boys we’ve got [In the City academy].
“We think if you played an A-League game with this youth team you’d compete pretty well."