A youthful Melbourne City FC outfit went down to an experienced Adelaide United 4-3 in Darwin on Saturday evening.
Despite City establishing a surprise 3-1 lead at the break, Adelaide, who travelled to the Northern Territory with a strong squad, fought back to score three second half goals and secure the win in front of 1600 fans at Larrakia Park.
With City's primary focus on the Club's Westfield FFA Cup Round of 16 match against Wellington Phoenix on Wednesday, Head Coach John van't Schip opted to field a young, but talented starting XI.
Wade Dekker, Stefan Mauk, Marc Marino and Jonatan Germano - who captained the side - were the only senior players in a squad made up primarily of the Club's National Premier Leagues players, with the average age of City's starting line up just 19.5 years.
Adelaide had a much more experienced side, fielding senior players Iacopo La Rocca, Michael Marrone, James Jeggo, Sergio Cirio, Marcelo Carrusca, Pablo Sanchez and Eli Babalj.
Surprisingly, City took the lead through NPL striker Hernan Espindola in just the 16th minute. A brilliant ball from Mauk released Marino, whose shot was parried by United's shot stopper John Hall, but only as far as Espindola who slid the ball into an empty net.
Adelaide responded immediately two minutes later, as Sanchez converted a looping cross at the back post to level the scores.
But City hit the front again through Germano's near-post header from Ali Eyigun's clever free kick on the half hour mark and then extended it further with Mauk's strike in the 37th minute.
That 3-1 lead would be preserved up until the half time break, and up until that point City's youngsters had more than matched their experienced opponent.
But United started to apply the pressure early in the second stanza and found a goal through former City winger Mate Dugandzic, who latched onto a long ball from La Rocca to half the deficit at 3-2.
City's last line of defence was the solid Yaren Sozer in goal and the 'keeper put his hand up for man of the match with a string of fine saves to thwart Craig Goodwin and Bruce Djite on three separate occasions.
But United found two late goals as Goodwin struck in the 80th and then Jeggo in the 86th, as Adelaide ran out 4-3 winners.
In a positive for Melbourne City, the match was a great opportunity for the Club's young developing players to feature against some of Adelaide's higher profile players.
Saturday 22 August, 2015
Adelaide United 4 (Pablo Sanchez 18', Mate Dugandzic 52', Craig Goodwin 80', James Jeggo 86')
Melbourne City FC 3 (Hernan Espindola 18', Jonatan Germano 30', Stefan Mauk 37')
Larrakia Park, Darwin, Northern Territory