The City boys made a statement in the FFA Cup last night, comfortably dispatching the Western Sydney Wanderers 3-0 thanks to a brace from class-above Craig Noone and a delightful finish from in-form Jamie Maclaren.
Rami Najjarine was the surprise inclusion to the starting lineup, with the youngster taking up a position on the right-wing which would typically have been occupied by Javier Cabrera or Adrián Luna. Connor Metcalfe continues to look like a probable midfield starter alongside Florin Berenguer and Josh Brillante.
Despite the Wanderers fast start in the game’s early minutes, it was Craig Noone who would establish dominance over the match soon after.
The Englishman was on fire early, setting up numerous chances for Jamie Maclaren in the opening twenty minutes, including a brilliant cross to our number 9 who broke away from his marker but placed his close-range shot straight at Wanderers keeper Daniel Lopar, who was able to force it over the bar.
Noone’s class was only further exemplified just a few minutes later, when he whipped in yet another dangerous cross which evaded Maclaren in the middle but found Najjarine who was trailing closely behind at the far post. The youngster got his timing wrong, however, and missed the ball entirely... an accurate representation of the remainder of his performance; the less said about which, the better.
With Craig Noone continuing to boss the game, it was only a matter of time before his name would appear on the scoresheet.
The 34th minute brought about two huge defensive calamities from the Wanderers, with Tarek Elrich failing to deal with a lofted through ball intended for Noone. His botched header back to the keeper ran notably wide, and – in an effort to prevent the corner – Wanderers’ keeper, Daniel Lopar, dived to keep the ball from crossing the byline, only for the recovered ball to be stolen by Noone, who dribbled around a defender and put the ball into the back of an open net for City’s first.
City’s central defensive pairing of Good and Delbridge put in a much-improved performance from previous fixtures, and were rarely caught out, barring a few close calls:
The Wanderers’ first big chance came in the 44th minute, when an admittedly lucky header from frontman Mohamed Adam fell into the path of Kwame Yeboah, whose driving first touch exposed our central pairing and lead to the striker being through on goal. Fortunately, Scott Galloway was able to apply enough pressure to force Yeboah’s shot over the bar.
However, City would score their second just a minute later, when a secondary cross by Galloway found Maclaren at the near post, who was able to convert the awkward knee-height ball into a beautiful backheel finish past Lopar.
The Wanderers started fast again in the second half, but to no avail.
There were chances for Metcalfe and Najjarine early on, but the first big moment of the second period came for the Wanderers in the 58th minute when former-City player Bruce Kamau forced a crucial save from Bouzanis, diving low to his left to block the shot from a wide angle at the edge of the six-yard box.
City had a massive opportunity in the 65th when Josh Brillante provided a beautiful diagonal long ball for Noone on the left flank, chesting the ball down for Maclaren in a move which exposed the opposition centre-backs. With JMac through on goal, the Wanderers’ Lopar did well to rush off his line and smother the shot early.
Ramy Najjarine’s night came to an end in the 68th minute when he was replaced by Javier Cabrera on the right wing.
It wasn’t until the 81st minute that City finally put the game out of the Wanderers’ reach, with Craig Noone producing a spectacular curling effort which found the side netting following another superb diagonal long ball from Josh Brillante.
Three goals up, Erick Mombaerts put the game on ice by bringing Adrián Luna on for Florin Berenguer in the 83rd and Rostyn Griffiths to replace Connor Metcalfe in the 86th, with the rest of the game remaining largely uneventful.
Craig Noone was the clear standout all match, yet again showing a level of class that already looks to be superior to anything we’re likely to see this A-League season.
His partnership with Jamie Maclaren has been incredibly potent thus far, with both forwards racking up four goals in three competitive (FFA Cup) fixtures, accounting for all of City’s eight Cup goals.
The defensive partnership of Good and Delbridge was much-improved, with very few shaky moments throughout. Delbridge, in particular, was very impressive and was one of the standouts behind Noone.
The 3-0 result puts City into the FFA Cup Semi-Finals, where we’ve been drawn to play NPL Queensland outfit Brisbane Strikers, who last night emerged victorious 3-2 over Moreland Zebras.
Final score: City 3-0 Wanderers
⚽️ 34' Noone
⚽️ 45’ Maclaren
⚽️ 81' Noone