When Michael Jakobsen finally shrugged off the long-running calf injury that kept him out of the Melbourne City line up for eight weeks, coach Michael Valkanis could hardly disguise his relief.
In his absence Valkanis had taken every opportunity, when asked about the importance of his Danish centre back, to insist that he was the best defender in the A-League and that he couldn’t wait to rush him back into the starting line-up.
Valkanis’ judgment looked to be spot on when Jakobsen returned to the City rearguard for the penultimate game of the regular season, a 1-0 win over Adelaide United in which City kept an all too rare clean sheet.
Things didn’t quite go to plan in Perth the following week, however, when City shipped five goals in a ludicrous nine-goal thriller.
Jakobsen laughs when asked about that and whether his contribution to City’s defensive set-up might have been over-rated, succinctly pointing out that he was simply one man in a defensive machine that failed to properly function last Sunday evening.
“I don’t think I could make that massive a difference on my own,” he says.
“It’s all about the whole team defending as a unit, not one or two guys at the back. We all have to stick together and work as one, defend and attack with 11 players and concentrate fully from the start.
“We have to be more aware and get more players behind the ball and not get caught out in the way we were, not be so open.”
Jakobsen, in common with his teammates, is expecting a much tighter game this weekend. Last Sunday Perth had to roll the dice and attack to try to win by four goals to force a home final.
This time the season will be over for who loses, so the Dane expected a much more controlled environment and a much more disciplined approach by both teams.
“Last week there was a lot of space out on the pitch. They were attacking, and that meant we could get forward. If we had been better in taking our chances we would not have had the concerns we did.
“They do have some good players going forward and they will try to hit on the break, so we need to have a better balance – and take the chances that we do get.”
This game kicks off at the distinctly un-fan-friendly time of 7pm on a Sunday, but Jakobsen says that City fans should defy the FFA planners and get out in force to support the team as it bids to play its way into the semi-final.