Melbourne City have come from a goal behind to secure a one all draw with the Western Sydney Wanderers at AAMI Park on Sunday night.
A penalty to Ross McCormack was sufficient to secure a point for City, with the Scottish striker's fourth goal of the campaign enough to cancel out Jaushua Sotiro’s opener and ensure City earned a share of the spoils in an entertaining encounter.
The draw means that City will remain in second position on the A-League table, leapfrogged by the high-flying Newcastle Jets but retaining second place over Sydney FC via their superior goal difference, whilst the fourth-placed Wanderers remain one of two undefeated sides in the A-League.
Head Coach Warren Joyce’s consistency in selections continued, with the side largely unchanged from the one that lost one goal to nil against Sydney last week.
Scott Jamison and Osama Malik returned to both the squad and starting XI after missing last week, with Jamieson slotting back into the left back position and Malik returning to anchor one of the defensive midfield slots.
Luke Brattan returned to the bench after starting in last week’s loss to Sydney FC.
Not included from last week’s squad were Tim Cahill, who is away on international duty with the Socceroos, and Ruon Tongyik, who was omitted.
City started the contest strongly, having the lion’s share of early possession and probing the Western Sydney defence, winning several corners and free kicks from which to launch attacks into the Wanderers penalty area.
The early pressure resulted in a direct goal-scoring opportunity in the ninth minute, when Scotsman McCormack almost gave City an early lead.
Played through for a one on one with Wanderer goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic by Bruce Kamau's tackle on Raul Llorente, McCormack had all the time in the world to tee up his shot, only to see his eventual effort across the face of goal saved by Janjetovic’s right boot.
It would mark the highlight of City’s initial period of dominance as the Wanderers gradually clawed themselves back into the game, before making the hosts pay for their missed opportunities.
Collecting the ball near his own corner flag in the 19th minute, Bart Schenkeveld played a ball to Osama Malik just outside the penalty area.
The defensive midfielder immediately found himself under intense pressure from Wanderer striker Oriol Riera, whose tackle on Malik knocked the ball into the path of Llorente, who found Sotirio inside the penalty area.
The winger saw his initial shot saved by Galekovic, but made no mistake with his second effort to give the Wanderers the lead after 19 minutes.
The Wanderers enjoyed a brief period of dominance following the opener with Galekovic making a smart stop to deny a Sotirio header, but City was not without chances to score as the lively Nick Fitzgerald probed the Wanderers defence with adventure and incision.
City looked most dangerous whenever Fitzgerald was on the ball, with the in-form winger beating his marker on the left before forcing Vedran Janjetovic into a superb diving save with a driven effort destined for the bottom corner.
Fitzgerald was in the thick of the action again in the 42nd minute, winning a free kick just on the edge of the area as Robbie Cornthwaite handled the ball as Fitzgerald drove past him.
McCormack stepped up and launched a magnificent effort towards the top corner of the goal that was thwarted by yet another magnificent save from Janjetovic.
Joyce swung the changes at the break, bringing on Marcelo Carrsuca for Mauk, and the change almost immediately paid dividends, with the Argentine playing some lovely one-two football with Fitzgerald before blasting a shot just over the bar.
City started the second in much the same way they had initially started the first half, dominating possession and pressing the Wanderer defence, with Carrusca continuing to provide a spark for the hosts.
The pressure paid dividends in the 52nd minute when McCormack was given an opportunity to level the scores from the penalty spot, after the VAR deemed Lorente to have fould Malik inside the penalty area. The dead-ball specialist made no mistake, sending Janjetovic the wrong way to level the scores.
City had regained the ascendancy, and in the 61st minute they were almost ahead when Bruce Kamau, quiet up to that point, burst down the right wing and cut the ball back to a waiting Fitzgerald in the area.
Fitzgerald had the time to compose himself and shoot, with his shot taking a deflection off a West Sydney defender and hitting the side netting.
The 64th minute saw threats at either end of the field, with Sotiro, who played very well in a rare start, being played through from a long through ball for a one on one with Galekovic that was saved before City quickly rebounded up the other end through Fitzgerald, whose cross found McCormack in the area only for the City striker to head it wide.
Two minutes later the Scotsman would have another gilt-edge chance to put City ahead with his head, this time after Jamieson collected the ball on the left wing and burst forward, sending a cross in for McCormack only for the resulting header to be saved by Janjetovic.
The game became increasingly physical as time wore on, Cornthwaite going into the book for a late challenge in the 72nd and a just introduced Brendon Santalab going into the book in the 80th.
The final ten minutes of regular play became increasingly frantic as both sides pushed hard for the win, with the football moving from end to end.
Neither side could find a winner however and after five additional minutes of injury time referee Jonathan Barreiro blew full time on an encounter both sides will be thinking they could have won.
City will next travel north to face the Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night, with the sides next home game coming against the Perth Glory in Round 7 on Friday, November 24.