Perth Glory provided a blueprint for how to stop Melbourne City on Friday night, while reminding the Hyundai A-League that they should be considered title contenders.
Following last week’s 4-1 triumph in the Melbourne derby, it felt like some were ready to hand the title to City already but Glory underlined the folly of such thoughts at AAMI Park.
With Andy Keogh scoring a hat-trick, Glory prevailed 3-2 in a feisty encounter and the visitors generally impressed in a compact 4-4-2 formation that provided them with plenty of counterattacking opportunities.
City were scintillating at Etihad Stadium in Round 2 as they ripped Melbourne Victory apart, but questions remain about the mentality of John van ‘t Schip’s side.
For City to claim their maiden piece of Hyundai A-League silverware, they will need to win more games similar to Friday night than last week’s derby.
Throughout the Dutch coach’s time in Australia, his teams have often struggled to handle the weight of expectations.
In the club’s history – including the Melbourne Heart era – they have only won once the week after winning the derby.
In those six games, City have lost three times and drawn twice.
Rather than crowds of 40,000-plus, City are likely to play the majority of their games in front of less than 10,000 around the A-League – a crowd of 8,076 turned up in the rain on Friday night.
Opposition sides are also more likely to sit back and attempt to frustrate City with the amount of firepower at Van ‘t Schip’s disposal.
Consistency has often been considered a problem for City and this result won’t help that perception.
Meanwhile, Perth continued their unbeaten start to the 2016/17 season, making it seven points in three matches and continuing their reputation under coach Kenny Lowe as tough competitors and a well-drilled outfit.
With Rostyn Griffiths and Brandon Wilson screening Glory’s back four, the visitors frustrated City for long periods of the match.
The hosts regularly played into Perth’s trap – particularly in the first half – and that allowed Glory to spring forward with Chris Harold, Keogh, Diego Castro and Nebojsa Marinkovic exploiting the space behind City’s midfield.
For all the pre-season headlines focusing on Bruno Fornaroli and Tim Cahill, it could be that City’s other marquee Nicolas Colazo – who was absent against Glory through injury – will be their most vital player this season.
The Argentine midfielder was at the centre of most of City’s best moves versus Victory, with his crosses from the left a particular weapon, and the men in white were much less dangerous without him.
Although City had a number of chances in the second half, Glory were good value for their win as Keogh failed to convert one-on-one opportunities either side of the interval.
Van ‘t Schip will also be concerned by how his team conceded their first two goals from set-pieces.
Keogh got on the end of a wonderfully worked free-kick in the seventh minute to open the scoring, while he nodded home in the 49th minute after City failed to clear a corner.
Then with five minutes remaining, Josh Rose had two chances to clear the ball with his head and instead coughed up possession to Keogh, and the latter chipped Dean Bouzanis to clinch victory.
The win took Glory to the top of the table with another four games to come in Round 3 and having recruited impressively in pre-season, Lowe’s men deserve plenty of respect this term.