Ross McCormack’s penalty cancelled out Josh Sotirio’s opener as Melbourne City drew 1-1 with Josep Gombau’s Western Sydney Wanderers at AAMI Park on Sunday.
The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was again in the thick of the action, but on this occasion the technology seemed to make the right call and in much better time than has been seen this season.
It awarded City a spot kick after whistler Jonathan Barreiro initially missed Raul Llorente’s trip on Osama Malik in the area. It took approximately two minutes to make the call.
McCormack duly obliged, equalising Sotirio’s 19th-minute strike. Oriol Riera caught Malik in possession and the ball found its way into the box and the feet of recalled winger Sotirio.
City enjoyed the lion’s share of opportunities elsewhere but could not find a way to breach Western Sydney’s defence once more. Vedran Janjetovic – on more than one occasion – was the hero.
Gombau takes charge
Tactically, the switch from Tony Popovic to Gombau is a giant leap. The former was happy to concede possession and feast on defensive mistakes.
Gombau, as we know from his time at Adelaide United and in the national team setup at various levels, is all about holding the ball and dicating the play.
Given the haste and suddenness of Gombau’s takeover, it was always going to take some time to embed his own style and it is clear after just one game there is still lots of progressing to do.
The Wanderers did play out from the back where possible and ultimately shaded the possession stakes, a sign of Gombau’s effect on his new squad.
The Red and Black’s goal was something of a fusion between two eras, with signs of Popovic all over the goal. Oriol Riera dispossessed Malik and Sotirio eventually made City pay in a flash.
Ultimately Gombau can be content with his first outing in charge; who could complain with six unbeaten matches?
VAR gets it right
Amid all the noise – negative noise about the VAR and time taken to reach verdicts, credit must be given to central official Barreiro and his video assistants.
The man in the middle missed Llorente’s late foul on Malik, but after some two minutes of deliberation, the call was made to overturn the decision and rightfully award a penalty.
It showed how the maligned system can be good for the game and serve its purpose in diminishing refereeing errors. McCormack took the ensuing kick and equalised.
However, some conjecture will surround whether the play should have reached that point, with Barrerio ruling against Jumpei in something of a 50-50 incident seconds earlier in the middle of the park.