Melbourne City FC returned to winning ways with a 3-2 win over newcomers Western United at AAMI Park on Friday night.
A Jamie Maclaren brace paired with Adrian Luna’s strike gave City a 3-0 lead at the break before two second half penalties saw Western United mount a late comeback. Despite their efforts, Erick Mombaerts’ men held firm to secure the result.
City will look to continue their winning streak when they head to Brisbane to take on the Roar on Saturday 11 January, before returning to AAMI Park to host Newcastle Jets on Saturday 18 January, kick off 7:30pm.
A short turnaround saw Javier Cabrera miss through injury as Connor Metcalfe, Tom Glover and Ramy Najjarine are away on international duty. Skipper Scott Jamieson returned to the starting XI following his absence with illness last week.
In hazy conditions at AAMI Park, the match kicked off despite initial concerns over the air quality.
Looking to make amends from back-to-back losses, Erick Mombaerts’ men made an early statement, taking less than three minutes to have their first real threat on goal. Englishman Craig Noone found Jamie Maclaren with a pin-point cross, although the attacker’s header glanced just wide.
City’s early chance set the scene for the remainder of the first half, as the hosts opened the scoring two minutes later. Lachie Wales attacked the box from the right wing before finding Florin Berenguer who struck the woodwork, following a slight scramble on the goal line, Jamie Maclaren pounced with a poacher’s effort from point blank range to open the scoring.
On the 12th minute mark City went inches away from extending their advantage when a swift counter started by Wales saw Noone carry the ball before laying it to Berenguer wide who whipped in a dangerous cross, just missing an un-marked Wales at the back post.
It was Wales again involved in the 19th minute when the attacker was played through on goal only to be denied by a big save from Filip Kurto.
City’s first half dominance continued and the dam wall temporarily broke for Western United with the hosts netting two goals in eight minutes to close out the half with a 3-0 advantage.
In the 36th minute, Adrian Luna netted the goal of the match after he latched onto Noone’s delightful chip with a fierce volley, which was fired into the bottom corner after his intelligent run broke United’s attempted offside trap.
With one minute of regulation time remaining in the first period, Maclaren was gifted his brace after Kurto mistimed the ball well outside his area, allowing City’s number 9 to run on and fire home into the back of an empty net.
The second period started much-like the first with City looking to press United’s defence, keeping them deep in their defensive half.
Noone continued driving towards the box and went oh so close to making it 4-0 when he curled an effort from the edge of the area in the 52nd minute, which fizzed just shy of the far post. Maclaren was then played in-behind, only to be denied by a sharp save from Kurto.
With 15 minutes of time remaining the game took a turn as the visitors were awarded two penalties in two minutes.
The first came after Dean Bouzanis was deemed to have fouled Josh Cavallo in the area with Besart Berisha making no mistake from the spot. Moments later the referee again pointed to the spot after Harrison Delbridge’s sliding tackle saw the ball strike his arm. Despite the referee’s initial decision to caution Delbridge with a yellow card, a VAR Review saw the central defender sent off with a straight red.
Alessandro Diamanti stepped up for the second spot kick, sending Bouzanis the wrong way and closing the gap to 3-2. Despite a late rally from United, City held firm with 10-men to open the New Year with three points at home.
City hit the road, looking to extend their winning streak when they head to Brisbane to take on the Roar on Saturday 11 January, before returning to AAMI Park on Saturday 18 January to host Newcastle Jets, kick off 7:30pm.