City lacks polish in heavy loss to Sydney
WARREN Joyce was right - Melbourne City can match up well against Sydney FC.
The "City blues" had plenty of bright moments against the "Sky Blues" at AAMI Park on Saturday night and landed several heavy blows on the champions.
But as is always the case with Sydney, Graham Arnold's men absorb the blows and then smash potential challengers down to size.
If this was a grand final preview, which it could be, the May 6 showdown at Allianz Stadium will be entertaining.
But no one would bet against Sydney making it back-to-back titles in the imperious form it is in.
Melbourne led the shot count (14-8) and shaded the possession share.
But on the scoreboard Sydney smashed City 4-0, with a brace from golden boot leader Bobo and singles to Milos Ninkovic and Adrian Mierzejewski.
If this were a game of poker, Joyce led with his Daniel Arzani card in the first 15 minutes, leaving everyone at the table impressed.
But then Arnold casually lent in to the table and raised Joyce his triple threat of Bobo, Milos Ninkovic and Adrian Mierzejewski.
It took about 15 minutes for Sydney to get going.
But when it did City just couldn't go with them, with former City left back Michael Zullo another central figure for the winners, laying off three assists in the romp.
The night wasn't without positives for the hosts, with Bruno Fornaroli making a long-awaited return.
Some 166 days after breaking his ankle in the FFA Cup, the Uruguayan striker came on to rapturous applause in the 64th minute as Joyce threw caution to the wind by taking off defender Manny Muscat.
Joyce agreed City didn't play as badly as the scoreline suggested.
"Not in the first half, I thought we played some good football," Joyce said.
"We were good value and maybe should have been goals up.
"But as a team they make consistent decisions and we were just sloppy for the first goal.
"We talked about how we would deal with those situations and we just didn't deal with it. We switched off and gave them a goal and then right on halftime gave them another goal.
"But I thought we played a lot of good football. It was quite an open game. We were very attack-minded.
"We created numerous chances, just didn't take them and that's the difference, clinical finishing."
Bobo now has 20 goals in 20 games. His first came from the penalty spot in the 32nd minute, his second came from a header off a Zullo cross barely a minute after Fornaroli came on.
Ninkovic's 43rd-minute strike with the outside of his boot was sublime. The team movement for the Mierzejewski fourth in the 79th was equally breathtaking.
After 20 games it leaves Sydney with a better record than last season's record-breaking campaign.
And while third-placed City's quest to catch second-placed Newcastle remains alive, there are going to have to be vast improvements made to match Sydney come finals given the defeat was its heaviest at home in history.
But after announcing the signing of Oliver Bozanic yesterday, it is clear Joyce won't give up without playing a few more cards.