Tarek Elrich’s solo effort against Melbourne City in Round 27 has been heralded one of the best A-League goals in the competition’s history. The Australian international showed great skill, dribbling in a general forward direction while defenders fell down in his wake. However, any footballing expert could tell you that the real genius lay in Melbourne City’s use of ground-breaking defensive tactics to concede the best goal in their short history.

The full goal can be seen below:


Stage 1: Pressing the invisible man

As the ball was played out wide to Elrich, the Melbourne City front three initiated their press. Usually this involves pressing the three defenders on and closest to the ball. As seen in the graphic below, City’s right winger would normally press Elrich to try and force him to react quickly.

Melbourne City winger should press Elrich.

However, instead he decides to press the empty space next to Elrich, allowing the fullback to use his first touch to take the ball in a direction towards Melbourne City’s goal without any sort of pressure whatsoever. This tactic is called ‘pressing the invisible man’.


Stage 2: The Defensive Leave

John Van’t Schip’s side uses a unique defensive tactic called the “defensive leave”, which involves a defending player standing their ground as the opposing player moves towards them, then pretending to make a tackle, allowing the attacking player to continue their forward run.

As seen below, the Melbourne City midfielder approaches Elrich on the ball before skilfully employing the defensive leave, throwing his hands in the air.


A close-up of the defensive leave in its full glory:


Stage 3: Tactical Simulation

Having allowed Tarek Elrich to continue running forward unopposed, Melbourne City’s right winger, working hard, continues to chase Elrich before performing an elegant swan dive straight into the turf. This piece of simulation deceives Elrich into believing he has skillfully outpaced his defender.


Stage 4: Unpressing

Showing a level of cohesion not seen since the heyday of Ange Postecoglou’s Brisbane Roar, Melbourne City defensive quartet masterfully run away from Elrich. This is designed to relieve pressure from the attacking player, allowing him time to devise the best way to break through a defensive line which has absolutely no interest in closing him down. This tactic, known as “unpressing” requires incredible discipline from the back four, who must run away from the ball in unison.


Stage 5:  “Do everything but tackle”

Young Melbourne City defender Connor Chapman has been heralded one of Australia’s best young talents, and its easy to see why after his perfect execution of the “do everything but tackle” against Elrich. As seen below, Chapman lunges and chases Elrich in multiple directions, with almost dramatically extended movements, doing everything but actually close down the marauding fullback. Impressively, he is able to run past the ball twice without making any impact on it whatsoever; this is not easy.


Stage 6: Intra-leg through ball

Finally it is time for Melbourne City goalkeeper Tando Velaphi to get involved. As Elrich fires his shot directly at Velaphi, the goalkeeper is forced to react quickly, spreading his legs wide in a perfect execution of tactical nutmeg, also known as an intra-leg through ball. Incredible athleticism, mercurial stuff.