Melbourne City maintained their perfect record over Western United with a come from behind win at AAMI Park on Saturday night.
Four changes for City from the side that took on Adelaide, with skipper Scott Jamieson forced to sit out due to suspension, Aidan O’Neill sitting this one out with a back injury, and Marco Tilio and Florin Berenguer dropping to the bench.
Gaffer Kisnorbo handed a first start of the season to Scott Galloway and City debuts for Taras Gomulka and Naoki Tsubaki, whilst Luna returned from his suspension to give a welcome boost to City’s engine room.
Conspiracy theorists will have had a field day with Kisnorbo electing to unleash the 5G network in defence (Glover, Galloway, Good, Griffiths and Garuccio) whilst Gomulka held down the 6 position with Luna and Metcalfe sitting front. A front three of Tsubaki, Maclaren and Noone rounded out the XI.
Forever in your nightmares
The game got off to a lively start for City with the lads having several near misses in the opening 15 minutes. Craig Noone was productive down the right-hand side and threatened for the opener.
Western United started to get a foothold in the game shortly after and, following a few shots fired across the bow, they finally snatched the lead as Ivan Vujica took advantage of some static defending at the corner kick to bury a header past a diving Tom Glover.
City fans didn’t have to wait long to get back on terms however as scarcely 10 minutes later Craig Noone jinked his way past two defenders and curled an absolute peach of a goal in off the far post.
Just two minutes later a slick move involving Galloway and Noone down the right fell to the debutant Gomulka who was just inches away from scoring one of the great A-League goals from the resulting volley.
Unfortunately for City, Rostyn Griffiths looked to have injured his left thigh late in the first half, although this opened the door for youngster Kerrin Stokes to make his competitive debut for the side.
The second half started as an arm wrestle, however the 67th minute sub of Naoki Tsubaki for Marco Tilio proved to be a turning point in the game as City slowly began to take control.
No doubt Paddy Kisnorbo will sleep well tonight after his final set of subs (Berenguer for Gomulka and Colakovski for Noone) turned the game on its head. The young winger’s pace proved far too hot to handle for a tiring United defence whilst the Frenchman’s experience appeared to introduce some composure and fluidity to the home side’s midfield.
Following a slew of near misses, it was Adrian Luna in the 83rd minute who was able to orchestrate City’s winner, picking out one of the more exquisite through balls you’ll see to play Colakovski in behind, who maintained his composure to cut back to Maclaren who made no mistake.
Far from going into their shell, the men in blue pressed on and went excruciatingly close to finding a third on multiple occasions before the final whistle was blown and City made it a perfect 5 from 5 against the new mob down the road.
Good, Bad, Beautiful
Good – How good was it to be back at the football? After 308 long days, City fans were finally able to return to the place they call home and cheer the boys on, delivering with a late winner and some delightful football.
Bad – Whilst the last 15 minutes more than made up for it, some of the passing out of defence seemed a little forced at times, particularly with a lack of options presenting on occasion. Perhaps a bit lucky we were able to get away with a few turnovers in dangerous places, however the same could definitely be said about the opposition.
Beautiful – Pick a goal, any goal. Noone for sheer brilliance or Maclaren’s goal as a beautifully composed team goal that warms the cockles of any footballing pundit.
Glover – Not overly busy but a solid performance from the man between the sticks. Not at fault for the goal conceded.
Garrucio – Very solid opening 15 minutes as he overlapped exceptionally well with Tsubaki, however like the friendly a few weeks ago it wasn’t a game that particularly suited fullbacks.
Good – Man of the match. Exceptionally solid at the back once again and dare I say it, a good performance.
Griffiths – Injury struck late in the first half for Rostyn, who – to that point – clearly had the better of the old enemy Berisha.
Galloway – Not a game he’ll remember too fondly with Connor Pain regularly beating him down the right-hand side.
Gomulka – Pretty solid starting debut for his new club, regularly breaking down United attacks. Will want to be a bit better when passing out through the defence, however not too many people will take too much notice if he starts banging a couple of those long-range efforts in like he was oh-so-close to nailing on a couple of occasions last night.
Luna – Another great performance from City’s answer to the Energiser Bunny, feeding through the match-winning pass and regularly turning the ball over in midfield.
Metcalfe – Quieter game from Connor, however really looked at home late in the match when he replaced Gomulka in the defensive midfield role.
Noone – Fantastic first half and looked like City’s most likely avenue to goal. Faded as the game wore on but a valuable contribution from City’s scouser.
Tsubaki – Positioning and off-ball movement was outstanding, as were some of his first touches, however will probably be disappointed about losing the ball after the hard work was done on a few occasions. A good starting debut for the young Japanese winger.
Maclaren – Starved of service for most of the night, Maclaren bounced into life as the game got quicker and opened up with the introduction of Tilio, Colakovski and Berenguer. Scored the winner to make it eight goals in five against the Westies and is bound to be giving Mark Rudan the night terrors for several nights to come.
Stokes – Never easy to get thrown in as a sub as a centre-back, especially when it’s your first competitive match. Performed admirably and will need to make sure he takes Berisha out of his back pocket before he washes his footy shorts.
Tilio – Came on, made an impact; that’s what subs need to do and Tilio delivered in spades tonight. A real ‘keep an eye on’ player.
Colakovski – The fans love Stef and for good reason: he’s one of them. His best cameo to date in City colours and will continue to press for a start with performances like that. Assisted the Maclaren winner.
Berenguer – The Frenchman helped change the complexion of the match with his introduction and brought a sharpness to the City midfield that was very noticeable to the naked eye. Not necessarily our best player, but quite arguably our most important.