Melbourne City FC has resumed its A-League season in style, knocking off top of the table Sydney FC 2-0 on Saturday.
City now sit in second place, three points and goal difference ahead of Wellington Phoenix with both teams having two games to play.
City dominated the first 45 minutes but despite forcing Sydney keeper Andrew Redmayne into six saves, the first half ended goalless.
The dominance was transferred onto the scoresheet in the second half, with Craig Noone and Jamie Maclaren both finding the back of the net to secure an important win at ANZ Stadium.
Erick Mombaerts made four changes to the City team that took to the field 132 days ago. The defence had a reshuffle with Richard Windbichler coming in for his fourth game of the season and Harrison Delbridge moving across to left back. Rostyn Griffiths is still in quarantine so unable to play while Markel Susaeta has departed the club. Connor Metcalfe and Nathaniel Atkinson both started on the bench with Florin Berengeur and Craig Noone brought in to the starting squad.
There were plenty of questions about how City would perform after having not played for months, especially given Sydney had already played twice since the season re-start.
These questions were pretty quickly put to bed as City didn’t take long to settle, with Jamie Maclaren forcing Sydney keeper Andrew Redmayne into a save in the first 70 seconds.
Lachie Wales was dangerous down the right wing and was the man City often looked to in attack. He looked confident on the ball and continually got in behind the defence, playing a few dangerous balls into the box.
Florin Berenguer was another who didn’t take long to get back into the action, pulling the strings in the City midfield. He played a perfect ball for Maclaren in the 13th minute but his powerful strike was saved by Redmayne at his near post.
Berengeur took matters into his own hands 10 minutes later, unleashing a shot from outside the box but Redmayne did just enough to pull off one of the best of his six first half saves.
City’s defence weren’t very busy in the first 45, with Tom Glover only really being called into action once, making a routine save following a set piece.
Despite the second half getting off to a much more even start, City were finally able to get onto the scoreboard. Adrian Luna played a good ball over the top to Craig Noone who was able to use his pace to get in behind the defence and around Redmayne, before coolly finishing into an empty net.
Just over ten minutes later, City doubled its lead with Maclaren getting onto the scoresheet for the first time since the season got back underway. After a defensive mistake from Sydney, the striker steamed into the box before an outside of the boot finish that was as classy as it gets.
This was Maclaren’s 19th goal of the season, which now sees him take the outright lead in the race for the golden boot.
City held strong in the last half an hour to ensure it came away with the win.
Curtis Good was in doubt during the week after coming off an injury, but he was solid in defence, forming a strong partnership with Windbichler that was key to keeping a clean sheet.
City will have two further fixtures before finals begin. The first of these will be on Tuesday the 11th of August against Adelaide, and the final game of the season will be on Wednesday the 19th against Western United.