Melbourne City’s senior NPL side was unable to kickstart their June with a win on Sunday after suffering a 1-0 defeat at the hands of a visiting Geelong SC at La Trobe University.
It didn’t take long for the grey, overcast conditions that had descended upon City’s Bundoora home that afternoon to transform into buffeting wind and fierce rain on Sunday; severely hampering both sides efforts to execute as time progressed.
Both sides poked and prodded in the opening stages of the contest, looking for a means of breaking down their opponents or playing that perfect ball in behind their lines.
In the end, though both sides flashed danger, it was Geelong that had the best of the chances in the first half and just three minutes before half time they were able to convert when Matthew Townley rose to meet a corner to head home and make it 1-0.
City looked to rebound as conditions worsened significantly in the second half but it was to no avail as they fell to their sixth straight defeat.
With Lucas Portelli and Ben Pierias departing City and a number of players still recovering from injury, Head Coach Petr Kratky was forced to reshuffle his line-up for Geelong’s visit.
With just an average age of just 16.9 years of age, it was the youngest side that City had ever sent out for a senior match and featured the likes of youngsters Idrus Abdulahi, Daniel Lucente and Emile Peios.
Promising striker Moudi Najjar also returned to the squad; taking up a position on the bench in his first game back.
Geelong quickly announced their intentions for the contest: a long throw-in from the right falling for Denis Youngule to flick onwards and over the bar of goalkeeper Majak Mawith.
However, that chance didn’t harbour an avalanche of opportunities to come with both sides instead jostling for dominance without ever really taking it; the most notable moment of the following 20 minutes when Giovanni Stellitano and the City coaching staff had screams for a penalty turned down after the striker went down in the Geelong box.
Geelong looked as though they were about to break the deadlock in the 22nd minute when Kyle Markham stole the ball off Mitch Graham deep in City’s half and turned goalward, only to be quickly closed down by the alert paring of Mawith and Nick Hatzigeorgiou.
Things took a turn for the worse for City when in the 39th minute of play Australian U17 representative Josh Varga was on the receiving end of a late challenge into his ankle. Unable to continue, he had to be helped off the field and replaced by Jordan Bos. Thankfully for the youngster, it appears that brusing was the extent of the damage.
Just three minutes later things got even worse for City when Geelong swung a corner in from the right and Townley, who had somehow been able to shake off any marking, met it with a powerful header across Mawith and into the net to make it 1-0.
Already unpleasant, conditions well and truly worsened as the second half resumed as rain poured down and howling winds threatened to tear the corner flags out of the ground.
It resulted in a half that was even more cagey than the already cautious opening half, Feli Sheriff’s run up the right and shot one that forced a save from Mawith in the 49th minute one of the few half chances.
Hatzigeorgiou, one of the game’s standouts, toiled away in the midfield attempting to spark the side to life but City was unable to capitalize; a number of threatening crosses swung in the 56th minute by the youngster known as “Winx” only able to find the head of Geelong defenders.
Oresti threaded a pass in behind the Geelong defence in the 72nd minute looking for the newly introduced Najjar but the striker was unable to steer his resulting shot past charging goalkeeper Dylan Nikolovski.
Michael Trigger had a chance to seal the game for the visitors in the 82nd minute when he found himself in enough space outside the penalty to wind up a shot; only for his resulting effort to sail over the bar.
In the end, though, he would not be punished for his miss as City was unable to find a late, late leveller.
The news had been better for City's U20 side earlier in the day as they recorded a 3-2 win over Geelong's U20s to stretch their lead atop the U20 NPL2 Eastern Conference table.
City will next week travel to Epping Stadium for one of the marquee events on the NPL calendar; the Youth Melbourne Derby between the senior NPL sides of Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City.