A 10-man Melbourne City held on at Dolphin Stadium on Tuesday night to open their A-League campaign with a 1-0 win over Brisbane Roar.
A 53rd-minute goal from Connor Metcalfe proved the difference, with the impressive midfielder combining well with former Roar striker Jamie Maclaren before curling the ball home past Brisbane goalkeeper Jamie Young.
City had to work hard for their win in hot conditions, particularly after the dismissal of their Uruguayan midfielder in the 69th minute.
Having been booked 17 minutes earlier, Luna was unlucky to be shown a second yellow card by referee Adam Kersey for a foul on Brisbane midfielder Rahmat Akbari.
But despite being a man down for more than 20 minutes, City defended strongly to give coach Patrick Kisnorbo a win in his first game as an A-League head coach.
The Roar had a late chance to equalise with a shot from substitute Scott McDonald, but it flew past the post.
The Roar’s attack lacked penalty-area potency for much of the contest, and it wasn’t surprising considering they played for more than half of the match without former Socceroos striker Scott McDonald.
The ex-Celtic marksman, who was a standout for the Roar during the latter stages of last season, started the match on the bench, apparently nursing a slight quad strain.
And how the Roar could have used him in the first half when they were clearly the better team.
Time and again the Roar probed in the opening 45 minutes but lacked the knockout blow required when City weren’t at their best.
How they could have used McDonald when their dominance was more than deserving of a half-time lead.
Despite his side’s win, Andrew Nabbout won’t remember his first A-League appearance in a City jersey fondly.
In hot pursuit of the Roar’s Japanese midfielder Riku Danzaki in the 60th minute, Socceroos attacker Nabbout pulled up sharply holding his left hamstring.
He was replaced immediately, limping off in despair as he feared the worst.
Nabbout suffered a similar hamstring injury last season while playing for Melbourne Victory.
Plenty is expected of the Nabbout attacking combination with fellow Socceroo Jamie Maclaren this season, so City fans will be hopeful their new recruit isn’t facing an extended period on the sidelines.
Heat is on
Having loved the cooler conditions during the August finish to last season, Melbourne City struggled – particularly in the first half – on what was a hot and sticky Queensland night.
“It’s never easy to come to this humidity,” said City’s former Roar striker Jamie Maclaren.
Maclaren also lamented his side’s limited pre-season, which was affected by Victoria’s COVID-19 crisis.
“Without making too many excuses, in the pre-season we’ve only played three games, so it’s always difficult,” Maclaren said.
However, to their credit, City dug deep in the second half to deft the tough conditions and grab a valuable three points.