If ever there was a game to kickstart your season, this was the one.
Spearheaded by a brace from star striker Jamie Maclaren, Melbourne City held on to defeat Sydney FC 3-2, exacting revenge for last season’s heartbreaking grand final defeat.
Maclaren scored either side of an Adrian Luna tap-in, while Milos Ninkovic and Patrick Wood’s late goals created a nervous final minutes for the home side.
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Despite the late onslaught, City were able to stay resolute and run out victors, something Melbourne City coach Patrick Kisnorbo was proud of.
“I think we dominated pretty much until the 70th minute,” Kisnorbo told the media.
“Then we started inviting pressure and Sydney are a quality side and they scored two late goals … it got a bit nervy but before that I think we controlled the game, created a lot of chances and played some really good football tonight,
“I am really happy with how they responded especially after the Newcastle game.”
City were firing from the onset and it took less than 10 minutes for Maclaren to open the scoring, pouncing on Andrew Redmayne’s parry from Luna’s shot.
Their relentless push for a second was soon after rewarded as Craig Noone’s deflected cross found Luna, who tapped the ball home at the back-post on 28 minutes.
Sydney’s poor first half was compounded by Luke Brattan being forced off after a nasty fall in between City’s first-half strikes.
Kisnorbo’s charges didn’t take their foot off the gas after the break and Maclaren soon after made it three, slotting the ball home from Nabbout’s cross.
The Sky Blues were able to mount a late fightback as substitute Ninkovic scored and provided an assist for Wood but City were able to hold on and secure all three points.
DYNAMIC CITY FINALLY TURN CORNER
Melbourne City may have finally found their groove.
After an uninspiring start to the season and off the back of three straight defeats, City were re-energised following an extra week’s rest and punished their much-fancied opponents.
Their defence seemed settled for the first time all season and their rapid counter-attacks were led by classy midfielders Florin Berenguer and Adrian Luna.
However, despite a tired finish where they leaked two goals, Kisnorbo can take out a lot of positives.
But Kisnorbo doesn’t believe the result is a significant ‘weight off his shoulders’.
“We want to get better,” Kisnorbo said.
“As a young coach, you always want to learn … we want to get and I want to get better,
“Just because we played some good football tonight and we got the result it is not a weight off my shoulders, I want to push harder and harder as best I can to improve the playing group.”
GRAND FINAL REPEAT
It’s only been six months since City had the A-League Championship ripped from their hands by Sydney FC.
Incredibly, both of these sides had almost identical line-ups to the sides which met back in August with nine of Sydney’s and seven of City’s starting XI’s featuring from the first-whistle on Grand Final day.
On top of that, Milos Ninkovic who started in the Grand Final featured off the bench while Rostyn Griffiths and Connor Metcalfe were promoted to starting positions after appearing as subs last season.
SYDNEY’S BITE ARRIVES TOO LATE
It was a game of two halves for the Sky Blues.
In a game where they finally unleashed star striker Bobo and were expected to knock-off their severely out-of-form rivals – they were well and truly smashed for the opening 60 minutes.
However, the introduction of Ninkovic instantly changed the game as they capitalised on a fatiguing City but the late flurry arrived as time was their enemy.
Head coach Steve Corica said the result was not characteristic of his Sydney outfit who were way off the pace from the opening whistle but almost found a way to snare a point.
“We probably didn’t deserve getting a point,” Corica said.
“First half especially, they came out hungrier, they were winning every challenge, every second ball, everything was falling to them,
“It obviously changed in the second half when we brought on Ninko and a couple of the younger boys as well and really in the end could have had a point.”
Sydney was fresh off a three-day turnaround in comparison to City’s two week break and Corica believes the short break “didn’t help”.
“It wasn’t just one or two players, it was pretty much all our boys who looked sluggish in the first half,” Corica said.
“We want to play games and we have to deal with this I suppose, there’s going to be a lot more times that we have to turn around after two days.”