Undefeated in five weeks, Melbourne City’s senior NPL side will look to keep the momentum going this Saturday when they travel to Shepparton to take on the Goulburn Valley Suns in a massive NPL2 Eastern Conference clash.
Despite at one point falling all the way to the bottom of the NPL2 Eastern Conference table during a mid-season horror run of losses, now seventh-placed City enters Saturday evenings game against the Suns knowing that a win would bring them to within three points of the sixth-placed regional side.
With a game in hand against the now bottom-placed Springvale White Eagles also in their pocket, a win would put City well and truly in the hunt for a position in the Eastern Conference’s top six; a position that, come to the end of the season, would ensure that the club will retain its place in Victoria’s second tier in 2020.
In their last most recent game City, despite missing prospective A-League players Moudi Najjar, Ramy Najjarine, Connor Metcalfe and Mark Karlic, was nonetheless able to scrape out a nervy victory over Box Hill United.
A sixth-minute penalty to Gianluca Iannucci – who played as a number nine in the win – gave his side the lead only for Pythagoras’ Javier Marangos to fire back with an equaliser four minutes later.
A goal on debut to Raphael Borges Rodrigues served to fire the boys in City Blue back into the lead in the 27th minute only for Box Hill, once again, to find an equaliser before the halftime break – this time through Rowan McNamee.
Showing a grit that during their losing streak would have been absent; Head Coach Petr Kratky’s side came out of the blocks firing in the second half and quickly extended the lead to 4-2 thanks to goals from Iannucci and Emile Peios.
Though MacNamee was able to pull back another goal for Box Hill, a dogged rear-guard action from City’s young side ultimately ensured them three points.
The Suns, meanwhile, had significantly less luck in their encounter with table-toppers Eastern Lions at Gardiners Creek Reserve.
Up 2-1 at half time thanks to goals from Alou Kuol and Adam Gatcum, the Suns were brought back to level pegging in the 81st minute by a Ross Staley strike for the hosts.
Further drama was then afoot as the game ticked over to injury time when referee Lewis Gieseffi awarded a marginal penalty to the Lions. Twice, Muntadhar Al Gazaly saved the resulting spot-kick only for the officials to bring the play back and issue a re-take after adjudging that the Suns’ keeper had strayed off his line.
The third time then proved the charm for penalty taker Staley; who hammered home to give his side the win.
That result means that the Suns will have lost two on the trot heading into Saturday’s game, going down 2-1 to Manningham United Blues the week prior.
City and the Suns last met in round seven of the NPL season at La Trobe University in Bundoora. On that day, braces from Suns’ player/coach Craig Carley and Kuol powered the regional side past City despite Iannucci’s 21st-minute opener.
The senior NPL sides are now set to meet at 7:00 pm this Saturday at John McEwan Reserve in Shepparton. Beforehand, City’s U20s side – who fell to 2nd on the NPL2 U20 Eastern Conference table after a 4-3 loss to Box Hill last week – will look to rediscover their form when they clash with eighth-placed Goulburn Valley from 5:00 pm.
NPL Victoria - NPL2 Round 23
Saturday, 20 July 2019
Melbourne City FC v Goulburn Valley Suns FC
Venue: John McEwen Reserve, Shepparton, Victoria
Kick-off: U20s – 5:00 pm | Seniors 7:00 pm