A-League: Diego Castro has opened the scoring for Perth with a clinical finish inside the box against Melbourne City.
IT was after a game against Perth that things started to go wrong for Melbourne City.
So it is somewhat apt that, after they exposed an Achilles heel earlier in the season, Glory last night killed off City’s campaign once and for all.
There is no escaping it: City’s elimination final exit is bitterly disappointing.
This is the third full season of the City Football Group’s stunning investment in Australian football.
In season one the men’s team made the semi-finals before being comprehensively beaten by Melbourne Victory, but that was a bit of a false fourth after it finished fifth on the table and then beat a stuttering Wellington in week one of the playoffs.
Last season the team was in the mix for top spot until the death, finished fourth, won a home final and then again lost in the semis.
This season you’d have expected another step forward.
Make no mistake the FFA Cup win was a big moment, but then to not even make the last four of the league is a backward step no matter how you look at it.
It’s not fair to expect City to romp it in every season just because it is backed by the same wealthy ownership that bankrolls Manchester City.
There’s a salary cap and other equalisation measures in place that make winning easier said than done.
But at the end of the day, City’s 2016-17 squad is the most expensively assembled in the league’s history and it does now have at its disposal the best training facilities in the country.
City’s seemingly inevitable rise to domination appeared on track when it dismantled Victory 4-1 at Etihad Stadium in Round 2, a performance many experienced pundits labelled as one of the best domestic performances ever seen in Australia.
But when Perth came to town six days later Goliath showed his vulnerabilities.
Glory sat back, stifled City’s space and nailed three goals on the counter, winning 3-2.
Teams copied the blueprint in the weeks thereafter, City struggled to cope and, even though it went on to win the Cup, then-coach John van’t Schip admitted his side had to find a way to counteract the counter-attacking tactics teams had been inspired to pursue by Perth.
It would ultimately create a crisis of confidence for the team as, first under van’t Schip and, then, under Michael Valkanis, City constantly tinkered with its game plan to turn possession dominance in to points.
Just six wins from Valkanis’ 15 games would suggest the magic formula was never found.
Now yet another off-season of soul-searching is about to commence in Bundoora.
Originally published as City not showing return on investment