Melbourne City overcame the agony of their Grand Final defeat in 2020 to become A-League champions in the 2020/21 season by defeating Sydney FC at AAMI Park. The two sides faced off in a rematch of the 2020 Grand Final where a strike from Rhyan Grant in extra time allowed the Sky Blues to claim the crown.
However, City earned redemption in 2021 and displayed character in the process. Kostas Barbarouses put Sydney in front in the 21st minute, but Patrick Kisnorbo’s team responded through Nathaniel Atkinson before taking the lead as Scott Jamieson scored from the penalty spot. Scott Galloway ensured that City would claim its maiden A-League crown with a stoppage-time effort.
After their breakthrough victory, City is backed in the A-League betting odds at 3/1 to win the crown for the second year in a row. Kisnorbo has a strong squad behind him for another run at glory, and he will aim to emulate the Sydney side that won successive titles in 2019 and 2020 before City halted their charge at becoming the first team to win three Grand Finals in a row.
The City Group rewarded the success of Kisnorbo where others failed in charge of the club, handing the former Australia international a new two-year contract. Star striker Jamie Maclaren also committed his future to Melbourne with an extension after two outstanding campaigns in the final third. City lost the services of Craig Noone, who agreed on a deal to join Macarthur FC. Noone was a useful contributor to the club, scoring six goals in the A-League last season in 22 appearances.
The 33-year-old will be tough to replace, although City made a bold move to sign Mathew Leckie after his release from Hertha Berlin. Leckie played for nearly 10 years in Germany after impressing for Adelaide United in the early stages of his career. He should have no difficulty adjusting to life back in Australia and the A-League. A partnership with Maclaren in the final third could define whether Melbourne is successful in its bid to secure back-to-back crowns.
City was reliant on Maclaren’s goals last season. The forward notched 25 over the course of the campaign in only 24 appearances. He scored almost half of their goals by himself, while Noone was next on the list with six strikes to his name. Therefore, Leckie will have to come into the team and hit the ground running. There will also be pressure on Connor Metcalfe, Andrew Nabbout, and Stefan Colakovski to make a greater contribution from other areas of the field.
The defense ranked behind Sydney, Central Coast Mariners, and the Brisbane Roar last season. Kisnorbo will want to see an improvement this term after conceding over one goal per game in the 2020/21 campaign. City kept eight clean sheets, compared to the 10 shutouts that Sydney managed. City will be the targeted team in the 2021/21 season and will get the best efforts of its opponents. The club will have to be ready for the challenge and make incremental improvements in every area of the field to ensure that they remain ahead of the pack.