Melbourne City FC have turned in a resilient performance to secure a hard-fought 2-1 victory against Richmond SC at Epping Stadium on Friday night.
A deft finish from Wade Dekker gave City the lead in the 36th minute in an open first-half contest which exhibited some entertaining end-to-end play from both sides.
Luka Prelevic doubled City’s advantage from the penalty spot after the break, only for Joshua Knight to capitalise on a defensive error to pull one back for Richmond with 15 minutes to play.
But a resolute defensive display saw City withstand a late barrage from the away side to secure an important victory.
A superb performance from Richmond goalkeeper Christian Rossi prevented City from putting the contest beyond doubt, with the shot-stopper thwarting Dekker on numerous occasions in what was a glorious battle between striker and goalkeeper.
City made a bright start to proceedings and were nearly ahead as early as the fifth minute. A delightful chipped pass from Luka Prelevic provided Dekker with a golden one-on-one opportunity, but the striker’s lobbed effort trickled narrowly wide of the post.
The blistering pace of Dekker was proving to be a nuisance for the Richmond, with Rossi rushing out to clear the danger in the 18thminute after the striker made another menacing run in behind the defence.
Richmond were not without chances in a frantic opening period as City keeper’ Yaren Sozer had to be alert to snuff out an arrowing through ball from Michael Catalano, before holding on to a goal-bound header from Hamlet Armenian in the 17th minute.
Dekker could have been celebrating a hat-trick on another day but could not manage to find a way past the imposing Rossi. The keeper displayed awareness to smother another surging run in the 21st minute, before twice denying the striker with magnificent diving saves as City continued to apply pressure in the final third.
But Dekker was not to be denied again, nipping in ahead of Rossi in the six-yard area to poke home the game’s opening goal after some brilliant build up play on the left-flank between Luke Gallo and Anthony Rizk.
Richmond sprung into life in the second period and began to press forward in search of an equalizer. Striker Tom Cahill thought he had managed just that in the 57th minute, only for his strike to be ruled out for offside.
Despite absorbing a wave of Richmond attacks, it was City who delivered a timely sucker-punch on 64 minutes. A mazing run by Stefan Zinni was halted abruptly inside the penalty area, with Prelevic sending Rossi the wrong way from the spot to double the advantage.
Joshua Knight continued to threaten in attack for Richmond and nearly provided his side with the perfect riposte, slicing narrowly wide of the target in the 60th minute before forcing Sozer into a magnificent finger-tip save onto the post.
But in similar fashion to Dekker, it proved to be third time lucky for the industrious Knight, latching on to an erroneous header in the City penalty area and coolly slotting home past Sozer to make it 2-1 with 15 minutes left to play.
The goal ensued a frantic final period of the match, with Sozer standing tall to deny Cahill inside the six-yard box as Richmond were firmly entrenched in their attacking third.
Prelevic had a golden opportunity to seal the victory in stoppage time after capitalising on a moment of indecision to round Rossi, but he could only steer his shot into the side netting despite having an empty net at his mercy.
Melbourne City FC 2 (Wade DEKKER 36’, Luka Prelevic pen 64’)
Richmond SC 1 (Joshua KNIGHT 75’)
Melbourne City FC Line-up: 1. Yaren SOZER, 5. Leo ATHANASTOU, 8. Ratip CILELI, 9. Wade DEKKER, 10. Luka PRELEVIC, 12. Anthony RIZK, 13. Haralambos STAMBOULIDIS, 14. Baki EFE, 15. Luke GALLO, 21. Ali EIYGEN, 22. Mehdi SARWARI (Stefan ZINNI 61’)
Substitutes: 16. Matthew MILLAR, 17. Joseph MONEK, 19. Anthony TARANTO, 20. Yianni SKLIROS
Richmond SC Line-up: 1. Christian ROSSI, 2. Andrew GOFF, 3. Matthew COLLIER, 5. Brendan RICHARDSON, 6. Peter SAWAN, 7. Hamlet ARMENIAN, 8. Joshua KNIGHT, 12. Matthew WATERS, 19. Michael CATALANO, 23. Joshua VALADON.
Substitutes: 20. Chris DAVIS, 18. Jordan SEETO, 11. Liam FLYNN, 16. Ryan LAMBERT, 22. George VOLIOTIS.