Melbourne City has booked itself a home final ahead of the A-League Finals Series with a professional 1-0 win over Central Coast Mariners on Saturday night.
City dominated possession and chances throughout the match but a sole strike from Bruno Fornaroli in the second half proved the difference on the night.
Set up by a neat pass from Scott Jamieson, Fornaroli struck a low drive from the edge of the penalty area in the 49th minute to confirm the result, recording his side third win in as many weeks.
City will look to continue their positive form when they face Wellington Phoenix in the last game of the regular season at Westpac Stadium next Saturday night, kick-off 5.35pm (AEDT).
City’s line-up remained unchanged for fourth consecutive week as Head Coach Warren Joyce looked extend the continuity in his side after last weekend’s 3-0 win against Newcastle at McDonald Jones stadium.
In perfect conditions for football, City picked up from where they left off against the Jets, dominating possession from the get-go.
The first chance of the match came to Fornaroli, who - after being played in by Brattan - had his close-range shot saved by Mariners keeper Ben Kennedy.
Kennedy was in the thick of the action yet again getting down well to save another close range strike from City’s Uruguayan star. His parried save fell into the path of Stefan Mauk, whose shot was charged down by a desperate Mariners defence.
Fornaroli, who continues to make positive strides after returning from a long-term ankle injury, held the ball up well, combining well with young winger Daniel Arzani who continued to trouble opposition backline.
With the away side finding it difficult to create chances, City tried to test Kennedy from distance. Oliver Bozanic’s long effort flew over the crossbar before Arzani’s curling shot from the corner bounced past the far post.
Arzani, Nathaniel Atkinson and Luke Brattan continued to cross the ball into dangerous areas but City’s forwards found it difficult to win clear headers in a congested Mariners penalty area.
City took the lead soon after half-time thanks to a tidy finish by Fornaroli, who increased his tally this season to four goals in just five matches.
Fornaroli expertly controlled Jamieson’s low pass before striking a low volley into the corner of Ben Kennedy’s net.
A fast counter attack almost gave City and Fornaroli the icing on the cake as substitute Nick Fitzgerald – a 55th minute substitute for Arzani – collected the ball wide and cut inside his marker before playing in the Uruguayan, who was denied by a sharp save from Kennedy.
A late flurry from the Mariners was well negotiated by the City defence as a third consecutive clean sheet win was secured in the final home match of the regular season.
City will look to continue their strong run of form with a trip across the Tasman to face Wellington Phoenix at Westpac Stadium on Saturday April 14.