Melbourne City FC has gone down 2-1 to city rivals Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park on Friday night.
Kevin Muscat’s men took a 1-0 lead into the half-time interval, as Kosta Barbarouses produced a composed finish in the 12th minute.
Bruno Fornaroli levelled the scoring in the 54th minute with a brilliant penalty in his return to the starting line-up, before Leroy George netted the winner in the 64th minute with a header at the back post.
City will look to return to the winner’s list when they face Adelaide United at Cooper Stadium on Friday, 16 March.
Head Coach Warren Joyce made three changes to the starting XI that suffered a late defeat at the hands of Perth Glory in Western Australia last week.
The big selection news came with Bruno Fornaroli named in the starting line-up for the first time this season. Following an extended stint on the sidelines with an ankle injury, the Uruguayan replaced Marcin Budzinski in the starting XI.
The other two changes saw Manny Muscat replace the suspended Bart Schenkeveld, as Bruce Kamau replaced Nick Fitzgerald, who was named on the bench.
With bragging rights on the line, the match dubbed as ‘The Decider’ kicked-off in perfect conditions for football at AAMI Park.
With both sets of fans in full voice before the first whistle, it didn’t take long before the noise inside AAMI Park became deafening as Melbourne Victory thought they had opened the scoring inside the first 60 seconds of play.
James Troisi played a ball across the penalty box finding Kosta Barbarouses at the back post, the attacker then made no mistake from close range. Despite finding the back of the net, Kevin Muscat’s side were denied the opener when a VAR review adjudged that Besart Berisha impeded the play in an offside position, a decision that sent the City fans into raptures.
The early decision by the video referee appeared to inspire Warren Joyce’s side into action with two successive chances in front of goal.
The first chance came inside six minutes when Bruce Kamau combined with Dario Vidosic, the latter earning City’s first corner with a deflected effort. Kamau then had a chance of his own to open the scoring, striking from 20 yards, but his shot fizzed wide past Thomas.
Despite City’s attacking presence, Victory opened the scoring with a counter attack on the 12th minute mark. Berisha received the ball, before splitting City’s defensive unit open with a perfectly weighted ball to Barbarouses in the area, the attacker finished truly from close range, slotting the ball calmly past Dean Bouzanis.
After falling behind, attacker Daniel Arzani came close to equalising for the home side in the 21st minute. The youngster beat Leigh Broxham in the penalty area, before unleashing a strike that forced Thomas to produce a solid save.
Less than 60 seconds later the youngster did brilliantly to find Bruno Fornaroli in the box, the forward attempted an audacious shot on the turn but his effort was well blocked.
As the first-half progressed, Muscat’s men looked increasingly dangerous on the counter-attack. On the 25th minute mark, Barbarouses again found himself on the end of a quick counter, this time the winger was denied by a desperate block from Michael Jokobsen.
On the half hour mark, Victory again forced the quick break as Leroy George found himself in a one-on-one position with Nathaniel Atkinson. With experience the winner in that battle, George found himself with only Bouzanis to beat from close range, but the City shot-stopper was equal to the task producing an excellent save.
City’s determination to hit back was evident in the closing stages of the first period. Arzani was again involved, with an effort that was headed for the bottom corner only to be denied by a diving Thomas.
Moments later the youngster’s exquisite footwork drew a foul on the edge of the area. With the set-piece positioned perfectly for a left-footer, Scott Jamieson stepped up to take, cannoning a fierce effort into the crossbar – a strike that summarised City’s first-half of play.
As the second-half commenced, City looked determined to level the scoreboard.
Despite an early chance to Berisha who was expertly denied by Bouzanis, City began to wrestle the ascendency and in the 53rd minute they were rewarded for their effort. Atkinson went on a brilliant run down the right wing before finding Arzani on the edge of the area, the 19-year-old then found Vidosic in the penalty area with a pin-point one-touch pass.
Vidosic’s attempted cross cannoned into the floating arm of Broxham, earning a spot kick for the team in City blue. In his first starting appearance of the season, the Uruguayan fired the spot kick past Thomas with pure conviction to level the scores at one goal apiece.
Eight minutes later Broxham made amends for his error, as the defender whipped in a cross that found George at the back post. The attacker nodded home from close range to restore Victory’s lead, the scoreboard reading 2-1 in favour of the away side.
The pace of Kamau sparked a late City rally with the attacker causing several problems on the right wing. Kamau found second-half substitute Marcin Budzinski in the box, before trying his own luck from just inside the area – with both chances forcing saves out of Thomas in goal.
With 10 minutes remaining Vidosic took matters into his own hands, striking the ball from 20 yards – his effort blazing just wide.
City will look to bounce back when they face Adelaide United at Cooper Stadium on Friday, 16 March, kick-off 7:50pm.
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