Melbourne City’s Senior and U20 NPL teams completed the difficult away trip to Albury-Wodonga over the weekend, with both sides returning to Melbourne with a well-earned point in tow from their fixtures against Murray United.
A week after they had ended their seven-game losing run with a comprehensive 5-2 thrashing of Ballarat City, City's NPL seniors looked like they were to be on the end of some good fortune once again when United goalkeeper Abdulkerim Koc was forced from the field in only the 13th minute of play, replaced by backup Mathew Mildren.
Despite this setback though, it was United that took the lead in the NPL2 East Round 20 fixture when Zac Walker struck in the 27th.
Cutting inside from the right wing, United's Angel Taravillo ran across the face of the pitch about 25-yards-out from the City goal. Beating the sliding challenge of Metcalfe, he then slid a ball across to a waiting Lewis Greenwood on the edge of the penalty area.
With fantastic vision, Greenwood would sneak a pass directly to his left as he motioned inside, finding Walker with time in behind the City back four. With City goalkeeper Daniel Smith charging him down, Walker kept his cool: skimming the ball into the net to give his side the lead.
The lead was only to last for nine minutes, however, with City leveling things back up at 1-1 in the 36th minute thanks to an own-goal from United’s Alex West.
Though, while the goal may be in the record books as own goal to United, in spirit it belongs to Yusuf Ahmed.
The big winner created the equalizer after he won the ball on the right side of the field and beat several United defenders as he marauded up the park and cut inside. His dangerous cut back to the penalty gave no choice to West but to stick a leg out, as it was headed straight for a waiting Metcalfe.
City then took the lead just on the stroke of half-time, when Gianluca Iannucci – who has found a rich vein of form in recent weeks – struck to put City ahead.
Ghosting unmarked to the top of the six-yard-box, Iannucci was able to get on the end of a brilliant cross from Ramy Najjarine, who had previously been sprung down the right by a fantastic ball from Mark Karlic.
Driving a powerful header past Mildren, Iannucci nabbed his eighth goal of the season and gave City a 2-1 lead heading into the break.
Despite City dominating the chance creation during the second half, including one effort that was just cleared off the line by a desperately retreating United defence, it was United that struck with the second half’s only goal.
Looking to intercept a long ball down the left, City defender Lucas Portelli misjudged the ball’s flight path completely, the ball floating by him and into the path of United’s Walker.
Running forward, Walker threaded a pass in behind the City defence into the path of United captain Ashley Dunn, who knocked the ball past Smith as he looked to round him, only to be brought down by the goalkeeper’s trailing arms.
Without hesitation, referee Adam Bavcar pointed to the spot, awarding United a 75th-minute penalty.
Walker made no mistake with the resulting set piece, sending Smith to his left as he put a low side-footed effort into the bottom right corner.
Despite both sides launching late salvos in search of a winner, the game would remain locked at 2-2 at the end of 90 minutes, both sides forced to settle for a point.
Honours had also been even in the 20s fixture that had preceded the senior contest.
City opened the scoring in that fixture in only the 2nd minute of play when Sam Morrison – who despite his young age has made a number of appearances for the seniors this year – knocked in his 11th goal of the season to make it 1-0.
It would stay at that scoreline until the final ten minutes of the contest, United’s 20s salvaging a late result when Isaac Read struck to bring things back to level pegging.