Melbourne City FC Head Coach John van’t Schip lauded his side’s mental strength after battling through a testing fixture schedule to record a 2-1 win over Adelaide United on Friday night.
A superb brace from captain Bruno Fornaroli helped City to a well-deserved win over the reigning A-League champions at AAMI Park , a mere four days after the Club secured its place in the FFA Cup Final with a 2-0 win in the Melbourne Derby.
Add in a difficult contest at home to Perth Glory last Friday, and one may have expected to witness a degree of lethargy within a squad striding out to play its third match in the space of a week.
But the Head Coach praised the performance and attitude of his players, who carried the momentum from a rousing FFA Cup Semi Final win.
“The stress and fatigue was there but the mind-set was very strong,” he said. “That’s what we said from the start. We had to go full again and not go into the game saying we’ve played two games and approach it in a different way.
“We approached it the way we did on Tuesday and we played some very good fooball in the first 30 minutes. We lost a bit of momentum in the game and Adelaide came more and more into the game.
“Overall I think the boys; you couldn’t see they were having their third game in seven days. They were outstanding in their work rate and helping each other and pressing. It’s a big compliment for the whole team.
Given City’s busy schedule, rotation was always going to be on the cards.
The absence of Michael Jakobsen – who has been a key figure in the heart of defence – and Socceroos striker Tim Cahill forced van’t Schip to tinker with his preferred 3-4-3 formation for the first time this A-League season.
It paved the way for Connor Chapman and Osama Malik to return the starting line-up against Adelaide, who performed well in the centre of a four-man defence despite having limited first-team opportunities this season.
“We knew that Michael was not going to play and looking at Connor and Osama we thought it was a good opportunity to start with a four and see how it works,” van’t Schip said. “We’ve been training and playing with a four during pre-season; it’s not new for them, and they knew what they had to do.
“It gave them a bit more security and it certainly worked well in the first half and also the second half. They didn’t create much, they were dangerous with one cross and a few set pieces.”
van’t Schip believes the healthy competition for places within the squad will help the team move from strength to strength as the campaign progresses.
“We have competition for all spots and this evening some players came in, who hadn’t played for a few weeks, and played 90 minutes.
“Connor and Osama did well, Pauly [Retre] did well. Brucey [Kamau] came back from a week not playing and he did well as well. It was a good sign that we showed we are a squad.
“We have players that can step in. Anthony [Caceres] played and was not playing, he had to come in and did well too. It’s not always we drop players because they didn’t perform well. Sometimes we want freshness or we’re playing a different style and we need that player.
With a welcome rest ahead of City’s next league fixture against Brisbane Roar, van’t Schip expects his side to be fit and raring to go ahead of the trip to Suncorp Stadium
“I expect everybody to be available. It was too quick tonight [the short turnaround]. A lot of players were running on their last legs this evening and we have to see how they pull up tomorrow, and then see on Sunday and Monday with a few training sessions before we go to Brisbane.