Report and takeaways from City's preseason win over Dandenong Thunder
Melbourne City has made a positive start to its preseason after downing NPL1 Victoria outfit Dandenong Thunder 3-2 in a friendly fixture at George Andrews Reserve.
The City boys dominated early, netting twice in the opening 10 minutes to streak ahead to a comfortable lead. In the fourth minute, Marco Tilio was the recipient of a releasing ball from midfield and the diminutive winger provided some silver platter service for Max Caputo to deftly finish across Thunder goalkeeper Noah James. The ninth minute brought a moment of individual brilliance from Jordan Bos, who was played through in a centre-left position by Durakovic with an intelligent reflex pass. The former was able to take on several defenders as he prepared himself for a shot, which initially appeared to have been sprayed wide of the mark before taking a deflection off a Thunder player into the back of the net.
Shell-shocked early, the home side then clawed their way back into the fixture, finding success with long aerial balls played over the City defensive unit. It was through this manner that Dandenong's first goal arrived, with that lobbed through ball then followed up by a cut back to the edge of the box, where a Thunder forward was able to beat his man before fizzing in a low cross that Curtis Good knocked into his own net.
Bos was one of City's liveliest contributors throughout the first half and had a good moment in the 28th that he failed to meaningfully convert. The left-sided speedster intercepted as Dandenong attempted to play out from the back, executed a one-two move with Florin Berenguer and found himself with time for a shot as he bore down on goal from a slight angle. The final strike was underwhelming, however, with Bos' effort blasted straight at James to save reflexively.
The aerial through-ball served the home side well again in the 33rd. It was Scott Lochhead who latched on to the well-weighted pass and resisted the defensive pressure of Nuno Reis to finish coolly past Tom Glover in goal.
However, the City would reply in characteristic fashion, netting a goal that would have left Patrick Kisnorbo very pleased in the 40th minute. Working the ball across the edge of the box, it was Taras Gomulka who eventually played the defence-splitting pass towards the byline that fullback Scott Galloway was able to run onto and whip back into the six-yard box. James got both hands to the effort, but spilled it into a nearby City player, with the ball eventually falling nicely for Florin Berenguer to tap into a totally unguarded goal.
Kisnorbo rang the changes at half-time, bringing on the first complement of several academy players, and invited a far more competitive second period in doing so. In fact, it was the home side that dominated the early exchanges of the new half, including forcing a goal-saving intervention from Nuno Reis to deny Sanih Zijai in the 53rd.
The City boys nearly scored the goal of their gaffer's dreams in the 63rd, switching the play upon entering the attacking third and enabling an overlap between winger and fullback that culminated in a low, fizzed ball toward the penalty spot. It was at the feet of young substitute Jordi Valadon that the opportunity fell, but the midfielder was denied by James' incredible, one-handed reflex save to prevent City's fourth of the night.
It was pleasing to see the likes of Reis and, in particular, Berenguer, get significant minutes in this early pre-season fixture, with the pair managing 75 and 82 minutes each before being replaced by more youthful positional counterparts.
Though there should have been a mismatch in quality as City's effectively NPL3-level XI held on against their NPL1 opposition, it was Kisnorbo's men who ran out 3-2 winners by the sounding of the final whistle.
There wasn't a particularly influential player for City on the night, especially with so many substitutions taking place, but Jordan Bos would be deserving of man-of-the-match recognition given his early dominance. The youngster played in both of his familiar left-sided positions (wing and fullback) throughout the encounter, but was especially captivating to watch early on as he beat defenders and created opportunities, even scoring a goal, simply with his mesmerising dribbling ability which fans have grown to love.
He can be accused of trying to do too much with the ball occasionally, but this is a defect that will be ironed out of his game with continued senior experience and coaching.
Aerial through-balls exposed the defence for both goals conceded
Several defensive third turnovers as we attempted to play out from the back
Where were Raphael Borges Rodrigues and Kerrin Stokes? Prime candidates for preseason minutes, surely. Without further information, you would assume that the pair is injured/ deemed not yet ready, but it would be a concern if either were to depart.
Rapid fire lessons
The next senior squad bolter?
The departures of Connor Metcalfe, Manuel Pucciarelli, Tsubasa Endoh, Anthony Lesiotis and Rostyn Griffiths means that, regardless of Richard van der Venne's signing, there appears to be plenty of opportunities in midfield. Academy player Emin Durakovic started tonight's friendly despite only arriving at the club ahead of our 2022 NPL3 campaign. It will be interesting to see whether he plays a part in our Cup fixture/s leading into the A-League season.
Enough in the tank
Victory over a mid-table NPL Victoria opposition should have fans confident of our ability to progress in next Tuesday's Australia Cup fixture against similarly-positioned NNSW side Newcastle Olympic. With Callum Talbot and the aforementioned van der Venne, Borges Rodrigues and Stokes still to be added to the squad, we should have enough in the tank to get the job done despite any early preseason cobwebs.