Following back-to-back wins, Melbourne City have been dealt a blow going down 3-1 to league-leaders Sydney FC at Allianz Stadium on Friday night.
Luke Brattan opened the scoring in the 37th minute when he cannoned a strike into the cross-bar and the resulting rebound cleared the goal line, before the Sky Blues bounced back with two set-piece strikes in the dying moments of the first-half courtesy of Adrian Mierzejewski and Bobo.
Captain Alex Brosque sealed all three points for the home side in the sixth minute of added time when his well-timed volley beat Bouzanis.
Despite the disappointing result, City maintains third spot on the table. Warren Joyce’s side will be looking to make amends for the result when they host Melbourne Victory in a blockbuster Christmas derby at AAMI Park next Saturday, 23rd December.
Head Coach Warren Joyce made one change to the starting XI that faced the Central Coast Mariners in City’s 1-0 win last week, the previously suspended Manny Muscat returned to the starting line-up in place of last week’s debutant Nathaniel Atkinson at right-back.
Dean Bouzanis was yet again rewarded for his efforts in last week’s win, maintaining his place in the starting XI ahead of the experienced Eugene Galekovic.
From the onset, it was evident that the contest would be decided by a moment or two of brilliance – City had registered back-to-back wins in the past fortnight against top-five opponents, whilst the Sky Blues were full of confidence and fresh off a 5-0 drubbing of their cross-town rivals, the Western Sydney Wanderers.
After a fairly subdued opening 10 minutes, Ross McCormack had a golden chance to put City ahead when he found himself one-on-one with Andrew Redmayne inside 14 minutes. Osama Malik’s superb interception led to Brattan picking up the ball on the edge of the area, the midfielder then released the Scotsman with a perfectly weighted ball into the box but he was denied by the former City shot stopper.
Two minutes later, the Sky Blues had an opportunity of their own to open the scoring but Bobo was sensationally denied by a desperate Bart Schenkeveld. Luke Wilkshire’s ball across the area found the Brazilian before a diving Schenkeveld blocked his shot.
Stefan Mauk had a chance to break the deadlock when Scott Jamieson found the midfielder in the box although he was unable to capitalise with his shot glancing well wide of the goal.
Half an hour into the contest City were dealt a huge scare with both McCormack and Schenkeveld down with injury. The defender was able to continue, but following a lively start to the clash, McCormack was forced to leave the field with 18-year-old Nathaniel Atkinson replacing him.
Luke Brattan’s outstanding strike eventually broke the deadlock in the 37th minute, after Jakobsen found him in the box expertly. The Dane’s cutback found Brattan, before the midfielder fired a shot amidst congestion that hammered straight off the cross bar and over the goal line with the rebound – beating Redmayne for pace.
City’s lead was a reward for their effort, but Warren Joyce’s side’s hard work was undone in the final moments of the first-half, which saw them concede two set-piece goals.
City were dealt their first blow when Alex Brosque was fouled on the edge of the box by La Rocca, Adrian Mierzejewski then stepped up to take the set piece and buried it into the top right hand corner.
Two minutes later, Schekeveld conceded a penalty after fouling Jordy Buijs in the box. Bobo stepped up to take the spot kick, sending Bouzanis the wrong way and handing the Sky Blues a 2-1 cushion at half-time.
Nick Fitzgerald came close to equalising for City, but a solid Redmayne save denied his brilliant solo run in the opening minute of the second-half.
As the half progressed the game began to tighten up, with the reigning champions denying City an inch.
The contest got a whole lot tougher for the visitors, when Manny Muscat was shown a straight red card for a clash with Michael Zullo that was reviewed by VAR.
This was despite Muscat being involved in a behind-play clash with Bobo only minutes before, clearly showing the Brazilian scraping his studs down the shin of the full-back with no punishment.
With 10 men, Joyce’s side showed great resilience against the league leaders but were unable to capitalise on their opportunities.
Daniel Arzani showed great promise off the bench, with the 18-year-old threatening Graham Arnold’s defence and showing poise beyond his years.
Sydney sealed all three points in the sixth minute of added time when Redmayne’s goal-kick was flicked on by Matt Simon and clinically finished off the volley by Alex Brosque.
Warren Joyce’s side will be looking to bounce back when they host Melbourne Victory in a blockbuster Christmas Derby at AAMI Park next Saturday 23 December, kick-off 7.50pm.