NPL Report: Box Hill United 0-2 City

Melbourne City Youth have bounced back from their round 2 loss, downing Box Hill United 2-0 in sweltering conditions at Wembley Park in round 3 of the NPL2 campaign.

A first half goal to Dylan Pierias and an 87th minute strike from Gianluca Iannucci did the damage for City, who returned to the winners list following their 1-0 defeat at the hands of the Eastern Lions last round.

Opening slowly, City took control of the game after about ten minutes of play - calmly knocking the ball between themselves as they forced their opposition to chase the ball in the hot conditions.

The game also marked the second consecutive week of competitive football for Yusuf Ahmed, 2016/17 Y-League player of the year coming on as a second half substitute as he continued his long recovery from foot surgery.

Starting XI

After missing last week’s loss to the Eastern Lions with senior commitments, Australian U19 goalkeeper James Delianov made his return to the starting line-up.

Mark Karlic, Yasin Nur, Lucas Portelli and Pierias made up the back for in front of Delianov, Nur sliding across from his normal left back position to cover for injured Mitch Graham and ill Aidan Farquhar.

Sitting in front of the defence was Anthony Lesiotis, who had impressed A-League head coach Warren Joyce enough to have earned call ups to the extended A-League side in recent weeks.

In front of him was a formidable assortment of talent, Josh Cavallo and Denis Genreau taking position in the centre of the midfield behind the trio of Iannucci, Moudi Najjar and Zac Bates.

What Happened?

With A-League head coach Warren Joyce watching on for the first time this season, City’s squad were fired up, looking to bounce back from their 1-0 defeat last week.

However, it was Box Hill who had the best of the opening stages of the contest, the side known as Pythagoras squandering a golden opportunity to go ahead after only two minutes of play.

With the ball deep in their half, City failed to properly clear the danger, and the ball eventually fell to Pythagoras attacker Caleb Ludlow just outside the penalty area.

Ludlow danced through the City backline for a clear one on one, however his side footed effort directed towards the bottom corner was somehow denied; Delianov making a spectacular save to his left to force it out for the corner.

Sloppy defending from City would gift Box Hill another golden chance to score in the seventh minute; a cross from Darcy Hall somehow falling to Nick Edwards one-on-one and about six yards out, only for Delianov to once again produce some magic and keep the game level.

City would begin to settle after this initial onslaught, finding their touch and knocking a few passes around the midfield; probing the Box Hill defence for an opening.

Chances to Najjar in the 10th, 12th and 20th minutes would follow, City’s lone striker just lacking the final lethal touch required to convert the chances supplied to him.

Eventually breaking through the Box Hill lines in the 21st minute, Najjar thought he had won a penalty for City when he was brought down from what looked to be behind by the Box Hill defence, only for the referee to wave for play on.

With 31-degree conditions bearing down on them, both teams then began to slow; City still controlling possession but finding themselves unable to break down a resolute Pythagoras defence.

A drinks break would be taken at around the half an hour mark, and perhaps that top up is just what City needed, as they would score soon after.

After helping his defence repulse several back-to-back crosses into the Box Hill penalty area, Pythagoras centre back Yoshiki Nakajima could only direct a clearing header from another ball into the box straight towards City right back Pierias.

Spotting Box Hill keeper Luke Gavalas out of position, Pierias would launch a low, swerving thunderbolt of a shot that would easily avoid the Pythagoras keeper and nestle itself into the left side of the net to give City the 1-0 lead.

Box Hill would look to immediately answer back through Edwards, however their efforts were fruitless as City went into the break leading by a single goal.

The heat truly began to exert itself on both teams as the second half resumed, both sides at best producing half chances in the initial stages.

Box Hill’s best opening would come when a dangerous looking Lionel Masudi cross would beat all assembled in the penalty area in the 51st minute, whilst a speculative Lesiotis effort in the 56th would mark City’s best chance.

It would take until the hour mark for the second half to produce a clear goalscoring chance, when Najjar would go close to scoring yet again.

Pinching the ball off Nakajima just outside the Box Hill penalty box, Najjar broke through on goal, but his heavily hit shot was somehow saved by Gavalas, who bravely kept the ball out before being collected by a furiously backtracking Nakajima.

City should then have made it 2-0 in the 75th minute, when Pierias would look up from almost the halfway line on the right wing and float an absolutely perfect ball to a waiting Yusuf Ahmed just outside the six-yard box.

Ahmed, who had only come on ten minutes earlier, found his touch had abandoned him; with the big winger attempting to to volley the ball only to make minimal contact, the ball fluffing off his boot and over the bar.

A combination of the heat and the City pressure would finally cause the Box Hill dam to break nevertheless, when in the 87th minute Iannucci would make it 2-0.

Najjar and Ahmed combined on some lovely back-and-forth passing down the right as they worked the ball forward, before squaring it to Iannucci at the top of the penalty area.

Iannucci would collect himself before calmly side-footing the ball to the right of Gavalas to give City the 2-0 lead and ice the game.

Earlier in the day, City's U20s would bounce back from their defeat last week, knocking off the U20s of Box Hill 3-1 in the day's curtain raiser 

What’s Next?

Looking to back up today’s win, City will be at home for the first time this season next week, hosting Murray United at LaTrobe University in Bundoora.

City played out two draws with the border side in the 2017 NPL season, both affairs finishing 2-2.

Photo: Dion Fountas Photography