Jamie Maclaren at double as depleted Melbourne City down woeful Western Sydney Wanderers

“We were literally in the tunnel when we made the change with [Naoki] Tsubaki coming in [for Berenguer]. But with the way we play, the way we do things, players are across it. I won’t say it was a simple change – it can be a disruptive time – but it’s full credit to Tsubaki, full credit to the team who stuck to what we said we wanted to do.

“Hopefully [Kisnorbo] enjoyed watching it on the TV back in the hotel room. We spoke to him before the game … the messages were the same, it just came from a different person.”

The Wanderers, in stark contrast, were woeful, slumping to consecutive losses – both at home – for the first time under coach Carl Robinson’s reign.

Simon Cox and Rostyn Griffiths battle for a high ball.Credit:Getty

After a promising start to the season Western Sydney has now won just once in their last five outings – a 2-0 triumph over bottom-placed Melbourne Victory – despite boasting arguably the strongest and deepest squad in the A-League, and appear to be regressing at a time when they should be building.

“It’s disappointing, without a doubt. There’s no point hiding away from it, because with two wins you’re in a good position, but two defeats and everyone thinks it’s the end of the world,” Robinson said.

“What I’ll say is, we’re the same team we were four days ago – let’s not get carried away here. I won’t get carried away.

“But you can’t defend like that. We’re in professional sports here. You can look for excuses … I won’t do that. Individually we need to be better, collectively we need to be better.”

Maclaren gave City a deserved lead in just the sixth minute, with City’s high press snuffing out an errant pass from Keanu Baccus as the Wanderers tried to play out from defence.

Craig Noone pounced immediately, feeding the ball to straight Maclaren who produced an expert left-footed finish past Daniel Margush.

The night didn’t get much better for Baccus, who was yellow carded for diving in an attempt to win the penalty and then substituted out of the match at half-time for Jordon Mutch.

City could and should have been further in front by that point, with Andrew Nabbout coming closest to extending their lead on the half-hour mark after a darting run down the right, but his shot slammed into the right post.

Maclaren eventually made it 2-0 in the 54th minute from the penalty spot after the video assistant referee spotted a handball by James Troisi, who was turning and lifted his arms to protect his face from being hit by the ball as it was crossed into the box.

Robinson fumed with the decision post-match, saying Troisi claimed the ball came off his leg first and that it wasn’t enough of a “clear and obvious” error for the VAR to step in, before complaining about general inconsistencies in refereeing across the A-League.

“We had the head of the referees down to us, because I wanted to speak to him about a number of incidents – not just this year but in previous years,” Robinson said.


“And he was good, he was very good, he told us everything probably I want to hear. But … the clear and obvious we talk about, there was a decision today, the referee’s stood seven yards away and the VAR gets involved. Is it clear and obvious? It has to be 100 per cent, which is stated. It was not 100 per cent.

“So again, I’ll call him tomorrow and he’ll tell me the same thing, tell me what I want to hear. I’ve been in the game for a long time … it’s actually making me not enjoy football and that’s a shame.”

The inevitable second-half surge from the Wanderers, after the introduction of Bernie Ibini and Bruce Kamau off the bench, was well contained by City.

The hosts’ best chance came in the 71st minute, when Kamau headed Thomas Aquilina’s volley-cum-cross on target, but Thomas Glover produced a terrific reaction save to keep it out.

The Wanderers face Western United – led by in-form veterans Alessandro Diamanti and Besart Berisha – on Sunday, while City have a derby against Melbourne Victory to come on Saturday night.

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Jamie Maclaren speaks out about A-League officiating, calls for referees to face questions over calls

Melbourne City striker Jamie Maclaren has hit out at the standard of refereeing decisions and VAR in A-League games, calling for officials to face the same public scrutiny as players and coaches.

Speaking on The Grandstand Football Podcast, Maclaren was asked for his thoughts about the consistency of officiating in the league.

“As a player, if I was to miss a chance or if I was to get a red card — players are in the spotlight — you get the magnifying glass [out] and people start to pinpoint things,” he said.

“At post-match interviews you get asked the harder-hitting questions, like you’re asking me now …

“Now I have a question for the officials… they finish the game and they can just hop in their car and drive home without explaining their decisions.

“So coaches just lose their job because of these sort of decisions; players, their futures are [affected by them]. It’s a tough one to speak about because it does annoy me.

He pointed to last weekend’s match at Hindmarsh Stadium, where Adelaide United were given two controversial penalties in a 3-2 win over Central Coast Mariners.

“For me, the first two [penalties] the other night at Adelaide United, I can’t see how VAR has given Mauky’s (skipper Stefan Mauk) first one,” Maclaren said.

“And I’m the same, I try to milk penalties sometimes, but that was beyond [what’s acceptable].

“Mauky copped some abuse which he shouldn’t have and he did rightfully put that stuff on his social media. It’s uncalled for.

A striker spreads his arms in celebration after scoring a goal in the A-League.
Jamie Maclaren says players are questioned about their performance, but A-League officials escape scrutiny.(AAP: Sean Garnsworthy, file photo)

Mariners coach Alen Stajcic said after the game his players probably felt they had been “robbed”.

Referees boss Strebre Delovski later reportedly stated officials were wrong to award two penalties to Mauk.

Delovski told Nine referee Adam Fielding should not have given the first penalty because Mauk initiated contact with the defender, and the video assistant referee should have called on Fielding to review the decision.

In the other incident, Mariners midfielder Josh Nisbet was penalised for bringing down Mauk — but Delovski said both players were holding each other.

“You need to have these referees to come out, face the media, face the questions from you guys and say this is why we gave these penalties,” Maclaren said on the podcast.

“At the end of the day, if I was Alen Stajcic … rightly so, he walked off and declined to speak to Fox Sports and probably speak to Robbie [Cornthwaite].

“Because he would have said something he regretted and … it’s not good enough.” 

Maclaren said he had friends watching the A-League from the UK, who were messaging him saying they were turning their TV off, because the VAR and officiating were “embarrassing”.

“So if guys are like that in the UK watching that, I can only imagine how bad it is for people at home and our fans.

“We want to grow this game but it’s killing our game.”

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Socceroos strikers Tomi Juric and Jamie Maclaren set for battle

Adelaide United striker Tomi Juric has a perfect chance to prove he’s worthy of a Socceroos recall on Sunday night when he goes head-to-head with Melbourne City goal-machine Jamie Maclaren.

Back in the A-League after five years of mixed fortunes in Europe, Juric is primed for a huge performance at Coopers Stadium, according to Adelaide coach Carl Veart.

Reigning A-League Golden Boot Maclaren will be equally as keen to impress after failing to score in City’s first-up 1-0 away win over Brisbane Roar last Tuesday night.

Juric, 29, has scored eight goals in 41 appearances for the Socceroos, but has not played for Australia since November 2018.

In that time Maclaren, 27, has jumped ahead of Juric in the national team pecking order. The former Hibernian forward has scored five goals in 15 appearances for Australia.

“You just have to look at Jamie’s record – he scores goals every year,” said Veart, himself a former Socceroos attacker.

“Him and Tomi are a little bit different as strikers. Jamie’s more of a player that goes in behind (the defenders), gets in the box a lot, while Tomi will want to link up play a bit more and get in the box as well, and has a bit more of a physical presence in the game.”

Veart said if both Maclaren and Juric were in form come March, they could combine in attack for Australia’s World Cup qualifiers, depending on the opposition.

“Tomi just provides you that flexibility because he’s so good with both feet at holding the ball up, and if you could have someone that’s quick next to him, it would provide a huge threat,” he said.

Veart tipped Juric – who impressed during his 84 minutes on the park in Adelaide’s 0-0 draw with Western United last Monday night – to open his 2020-21 season goal-scoring account on Sunday.

“We’re looking forward to Tomi getting some goals (on Sunday) night. He’s had two weeks of training, he’s had the first game, that’s the longest he’s played for over a year, so he’s only going to be better for that,” Veart said.

City coach Patrick Kisnorbo was well aware of the threat Juric posed.

“We know that he’s a good player and a dangerous player,” Kisnorbo said.

“We all know his strengths. He hasn’t played a lot of football to date, but I’m sure as time goes on, he’ll keep improving.”

City will be without injured forward Andrew Nabbout (hamstring) and suspended midfielder Adrian Luna.

The A-League debut of Adelaide’s Spanish midfielder Javi Lopez has been delayed by a knee injury.

Veart said the injury was “nothing too major: and was confident Lopez would be fit for Adelaide’s clash with Perth Glory on January 16.

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Team glory the ultimate prize for Jamie Maclaren

NO amount of goals or Golden Boots have been able to make up for an A-League semi-final capitulation that still haunts ace Melbourne City marksman Jamie Maclaren.

Despite basking in the glory of a 22-goal regular season haul that netted him a second Golden Boot, Maclaren on Thursday said he had some unfinished business to take care of with a City side just one win away from a grand final berth.

Next Wednesday’s semi-final will be the third time in Maclaren’s career he has reached that stage of an A-League season.

Twice during his time with Brisbane he made it to the last four, and it’s the Roar’s 2016 semi-final loss to Western Sydney Wanderers that still gives him nightmares.

The Roar had one foot in the grand final when they led the Wanderers’ 3-0 after 23 minutes.

But what followed at Parramatta’s Pirtek Stadium still eats away at Maclaren, with the Wanderers staging a remarkable comeback to win 5-4 in extra-time and reach the following week’s grand final against Adelaide United.

“I remember after the game we were all just in disbelief,” Maclaren said.

“It was a crazy game. One you cannot explain.

“We probably thought we had the cigars out ready to go into a grand final against Adelaide.

“Western Sydney turned it around and at their stadium, they had the fans behind them and punished us.

“It still hurts me to this day.”

But the pain will ease if City win next Wednesday on the same site, the upgraded Bankwest Stadium, to qualify for the decider.

“We’ve got two games to go – that’s our mentality. If we don’t believe it then we’re not going to achieve it,” Maclaren said.

“I want to play in my first grand final and if there’s ever a time to do it, I believe it’s now.

“I’ve won some individual awards and they’ve been great, but I don’t think they’ll give me as much of a buzz as winning something (with the team).

“This game isn’t for individuals, unless your called Messi or Ronaldo … we all want to achieve something great at this club.”

Maclaren said losing in the semi-final next week take some gloss off City achieving their highest ever points tally of 47 points.

“That’s something that will hold for the rest of our lives until someone beats that … (but) there’s still one more box to be ticked,” he said.

“It’s a great group. The boys are so hungry to do something and I’m included in that.”

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Maclaren boots City past Western United

Western coach Mark Rudan did not hesitate to shuffle his pack, making a huge eight changes to the starting line-up that beat Sydney with a late goal on Saturday.

That meant Alessandro Diamanti, Max Burgess and Besart Berisha were on the bench. Luke Duzel, 18, made his starting debut while fringe players like Valentino Yuel, Jerry Skotadis and defender Oskar Dillon got their chance to impress.

City boss Erick Mombaerts had already flagged a handful of changes, two of them enforced, with Craig Noone missing through suspension and Florin Berenguer out with a calf injury. Connor Metcalfe came into midfield while Moudi Najjar and Stefan Colakovski also enjoyed rare starts.

City were excellent at retaining possession, keeping control of the rhythm and tempo of the game as they looked to move their opponents around to create space, using the pace of their wide men in midfield and the extra workload of Nathaniel Atkinson as the left back pushed into midfield.

They got the early goal they wanted in the 12th minute when youngster Najjar struck.

A misplaced pass fell to Metcalfe and the City midfielder drove forward before releasing the young forward who struck low and hard to beat Filip Kurto.

Western’s Polish goalkeeper then had to dive to his left to tip aside a long-range Atkinson drive.

Western’s young and inexperienced team kept their heads and their shape and did not become flustered, but were on the back foot and struggled to create chances.

Maclaren finds the net from the penalty spot.

Maclaren finds the net from the penalty spot.Credit:Getty Images

A Tommy Uskok header from a corner was blocked and Connor Pain set up Duzel for a shot which Tom Glover dealt with in straightforward fashion.

Yuel then had an opportunity when he broke through but was too slow to get a shot off and City dealt with the danger.

Maclaren got the goal he needed – his 21st of the season – in the 57th minute from the penalty spot after City were awarded a spot kick when Uskok was judged to have handled as he contested a header with Harrison Delbridge.

Berisha who had only just come on, pulled one goal back – his 19th of the season – when he smashed home a penalty with 20 minutes remaining, but it could not spark a full recovery for Western.

Maclaren then made sure he would claim the top scorer award when he slotted home a cross from Lachlan Wales with five minutes remaining.

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Jamie Maclaren double propels Melbourne City to victory

Socceroos striker Jamie Maclaren snared sole possession of the A-League’s Golden Boot on Wednesday night, scoring a brace in Melbourne City’s 3-1 win over Western United at Jubilee Stadium.

Maclaren’s double, his 21st and 22nd goals of the season, denied Sydney FC’s Adam Le Fondre a share of the scoring gong, with the English marksman finishing the regular season with 20 goals.

United’s Besart Berisha, who started the game on the bench, finished with 19 goals after scoring a penalty five minutes after entering the contest in the second half.

Berisha was among a host of players left out of United’s starting side by coach Mark Rudan, who had an eye on this weekend’s elimination finals.

City’s win stopped United’s run of three straight victories and ended the A-League newcomers’ hopes of finishing the season in third spot.

Instead, United placed fifth and will now meet fourth-placed Brisbane Roar in Sunday’s sudden-death playoff at Bankwest Stadium.

In Saturday’s do-or-die final at the same venue, Wellington Phoenix, who finished the season in third place, will take on sixth-placed Perth Glory.

Second-placed City and Premier’s Plate winners Sydney FC don’t play again until next Wednesday in the semi-finals to decide which teams will meet in Sunday week’s grand final at Bankwest Stadium.

City coach Erick Mombaerts said the win was the “best way” for his side to prepare for the finals series.

He was also delighted City had achieved their pre-match target of ensuring Maclaren gained sole possession of the Golden Boot.

“We wanted to give some good ball to Jamie to finish with the Golden Boot – it was very important,” the French mentor said.

United coach Mark Rudan was confident the defeat would not derail his side’s momentum heading into the finals.

“We’re in a very good place,” Rudan said.

“The most important thing was no injuries … all in all we’re quite content.

“We’re playing great football at the right time.”

City took control early against United, with Moudi Najjar making the most of a rare starting opportunity when he gave the Mombaerts-coached team a 1-0 lead in the 12th minute.

Left unmarked in a dangerous position in United’s penalty area, Najjar made the most of the pass he received from Connor Metcalfe to score his first A-League goal.

City doubled their lead in the 57th minute when Maclaren scored from the penalty spot after a handball offence from United defender Tomislav Uskok.

Berisha and fellow United star Alessandro Diamanti came on in the 65th minute, and the pair had an almost immediate impact.

Diamanti played a long ball into Berisha’s path, with the star forward earning a penalty when he was brought down by Richard Windbichler.

Berisha converted to cut City’s lead in half, but it was Maclaren who had the last laugh in the battle of the rival forwards when he scored his second and City’s third from close range in the 86th minute to seal the three points for his team.

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