Melbourne's inability to defend Blake Acres' last-minute goal in their heartbreaking AFL semi-final loss to Carlton has been highlighted in behind-the-goals footage. Acres kicked the winning goal with less than a minute on the clock as the Blues prevailed 11.7 (73) to 9.17 (71) to end the Demons' season.
Melbourne became the first team ever to suffer back-to-back straight-sets exits under the current finals system, while Carlton advanced to a preliminary final showdown with Brisbane. The loss was absolutely crushing for Melbourne, who have now lost four finals matches in a row after their breakthrough premiership in 2021.
'ABSOLUTE JOKE': AFL under fire over preliminary final schedule
'NO NEED FOR THAT': Water-girl caught up in 'disgusting' incident
And the manner in which they coughed up Friday night's semi-final has been exposed in new footage. As Riley Beveridge and Kane Cornes highlighted on 'The Round so Far' on Sunday morning, the Demons defenders failed to track back properly when the Blues took possession.
Behind-the-goals footage shows how Acres tried to smother a kick from Jake Lever, before simply jogging towards the goal square. When Carlton took possession near the halfway line, the Blues had four players within 30 metres of the goals compared to one Melbourne defender.
When Sam Docherty sent the ball into the forward 50 with a long kick, all four of the Carlton players were loose, while three Demons defenders weren't tracking anyone specifically. Acres then took a brilliant high mark before turning and soccerring the ball through for the winning goal.
"I'm shocked by the fact Carlton have four players that are loose," Beveridge said. "When you're five points up with a minute to go in a game, how do you let that happen? It doesn't look like any Demons player pointed it out, no one had their hands in the air. How does that happen?"
Port Adelaide 300-gamer Cornes said: "You've got to swivel your head, and not one of those Melbourne defenders were swivelling and seeing that they were outnumbered. And you've got to work hard back. Those wingers, those midfielders, have to get back and clog up that space."
Cornes also pointed out that Lever's kick down the ground was far too central and allowed Carlton to get space across the other side of the ground. "As soon as that ball turned over, they didn't work hard enough," he added.
"That was the big one because it happened late in the game, but that happened probably on four of five occasions. They made some errors and when the game was on the line it completely broke down and cost them their season."
"They didn't work hard enough." 😬@RileyBev and @kanecornes break down the behind-the-goal footage of Blake Acres' match-winning goal on The Round So Far, thanks to @AAMI: https://t.co/ZSkQgFzBMN pic.twitter.com/yWnQyam4U4
— AFL (@AFL) September 16, 2023
Melbourne Demons suffer embarrassing finals flop
The Demons have now finished second and fourth in the last two regular seasons, but have nothing to show for it. “Any way you look at it it’s a failed season, which is a bitter pill to swallow," Melbourne great Garry Lyon said on Fox Footy after the game. “They’ve been in the top four for something like 58 of 62 weeks and they’ve got one premiership to show for it and they’ve lost their last four finals. This would be heartbreaking."
Demons coach Simon Goodwin lamented their failure to convert key opportunities after kicking 17 behinds against Carlton. "We got enough shots to win the game and we just didn't kick our goals," he said.
"In the end, it was inefficiency with the ball that cost us. When you lose finals and your season finishes, there's certainly an emptiness about the group and there's adversity that we'll have to work through.
“When you set yourself up (with) an opportunity to perform strongly in finals and you lose twice in straight sets, there’s going to be criticism out there. But as a footy club, we know we’ve got a list that’s building, and we’re going to continue to add to that … but it just doesn’t happen, it’s hard to do, and a lot has to go right. We certainly won’t be looking backwards. Once we step into next year we’ll be looking forward to the future about what’s possible.”
Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.