It wasn’t the way Michael Valkanis envisaged how Friday night’s contest would pan out but the Head Coach was confident his side would learn from the defeat.
The 3-1 loss to league leaders Sydney FC put a dent in City’s top two aspirations as a Bobo double and an unstoppable free-kick from Brandon O’Neil sealed the result for Graham Arnold’s side despite Nick Fitzgerald’s stunner.
It was a positive start for City, showing plenty of potency in the forward half and restricting Sydney to two chances in the opening half but the game changed with the second yellow card issued to Manny Muscat.
There was no doubt the red card stunted the home side’s flow in the match and the Head Coach felt the game plan he entered the match with had to be adjusted with 10-men.
“I think the first 35 minutes was going according to plan. We were very happy with the game and I guess sometimes you don’t expect you’re going to get a red card,” Valkanis said.
“That changed everything and the strategy we had put in place for the second half as well. Up until the penalty it was the first time Sydney got into the box and put a bit of pressure on us. We contained them well and we were in control with and without the ball.
“We thought we were doing quite well and of course the penalty, they go one up and the response was fantastic, a great goal from Nick Fitzgerald. We came out into the second half, planned accordingly for the red card and then conceded a free-kick. That makes it very difficult.
Despite the result, the positive signs throughout the first half will motivate City, dominating the league leaders during the opening stages. With an important March that will see the team play three of the bottom five teams, Valkanis says the time is now for his side to mount their charge towards the Finals Series.
“We’ll keep working game by game. The highest we can finish, that’s where we’ll finish. If you can make finals, I think we have a team that can really do well in the finals,” he said.
“Credit to the boys. Their effort was fantastic, up until the end they were fighting and it’s not easy because you’re playing the team on top of the ladder.
“We’ll look forward. There’s a lot to learn from this game and a lot of positives to take away from the first half as well.”
City will have an eight-day turnaround as they face the Central Coast Mariners on Sunday 5 March, kick-off 7.50pm.