Melbourne City’s NPL side had its two-game winning streak snapped on Saturday, going down 4-0 to NPL2 Western Conference side North Geelong Warriors in the first ever staging of the Josip Skoko Cup.
Things were delicately poised at half time of the meeting between the two sides at Elcho Park, with Jamie Noggler’s 33rd minute goal the only difference between the two heading into the halftime break.
A second goal from the Warrior’s Kai Halliday just past the hour mark served to open the floodgates, however, with the hosts adding a third and fourth from Lochie McGrath and Darius Madison very late in the contest to secure North Geelong the Cup.
Less than 24 hours after making his A-League debut off the substitutes bench, 15-year-old Idrus Abdulahi started against the Warriors for City.
Taking a place on the bench for City was striker Moudi Najjar, who was making his return from a long layoff after an injury to his ankle. The soon to be named Y-League player of the year recorded 45 minutes in his return after being subbed on at half time.
Captain Dylan Pierias started in his final game for City before his departure for other opportunities.
Despite the conditions overhead being anything but, the Warriors started the game brightly on Saturday; having a chance within seconds after Madison set up Ryan Oppermann for a shot that ended up clearing the defence but going right at City keeper Majak Mawith.
Though clear chances such as Oppermann’s proved a rarity in the opening stages of the contest that then unfolded, proceedings were by no means dull.
Allowed the majority of possession, City quickly established their intentions to play their quick, pass and move style instilled in them by the coaching staff but were forced to contend with a fierce Warrior press that made their attempts to move the ball out from the backline difficult.
When City did eventual get the ball forward, their attempts at laying that final, killer pass through the Warrior lines was then stymied by a well-organised North Geelong defence.
City’s first real chance came in the 26th minute of the contest when Pierias, having drifted over to the left of the field to collect the ball, cut inside onto his right foot and lashed an effort goalward that forced a strong, diving save from Warrior’s keeper Hamish Flavell.
The Warriors quickly responded, though, and took the lead just seven minutes later through Noggler after the winger rose to meet a lofted cut back from Madison and nodded a strong headed effort past Mawith from the edge of the six-yard box.
The Warriors would continue to press their luck as the half progressed, Anthony Banovac heading wide in the 38th minute and Opperman just unable to pick out Madison in the area in the 44th minute, but City would be able to stage a rear-guard action to prevent any further damage on the scoresheet.
Gianluca Iannucci had one late chance for the visitors in the half but, was unable to get his audacious long-range effort on target just moments before the halftime whistle.
Iannucci came even closer to opening the scoring just seconds into the second half after a sustained period of pressure from City would eventually allow the ball to fall to him to hammer an effort in on goal.
Unfortunately for the City winger, Flavell proved up to the task of protecting the Warrior lead; producing a fine diving save to keep the scores locked at 1-0.
Bigger and stronger than their opponents, the Warriors increasingly took the ascendency as the game wore on; Michael Anderson capping off a foray forward in the 55th minute with a shot that just skidded wide of the post.
Just past the hour mark, the Warriors were able to find their second after a cross scythed into the penalty area from the left found a waiting Halliday waiting unmarked at the back post to drive a header home.
Despite their struggles, City would create a half chance to drag the margin back to one goal in the 75th minute when some hard running from Josh Cavallo and Najjar forced the Warriors into a turnover deep in their own half.
The ball falling to Iannucci, the City winger teed up a long-range effort but, alas for City, was unable to keep his effort down; the ball instead harmlessly sailing over the bar.
Further chances to Anderson and Oppermann followed as the Warriors continued to press their advantage, before the result was sealed in the 90th minute when an alert McGrath pounced on a spilled save by Mawith in order to poke home and make it 3-0.
Madison capped off the result three minutes later, the American blasting an effort home after combination play from McGrath and Oppermann enabled the Warriors to find their striker with space inside the penalty area.
Sitting fifth on the NPL2 Eastern Conference following the defeat to the Warriors, City will look to get back on track when they make the short trek to John Cain Memorial Reserve to face Northcote City.
Third on the NPL2 Eastern Conference table, Northcote recorded a 2-1 win over NPL2 Western Conference side Whittlesea Ranges in their round ten fixture, making it three wins from three for Heracles.
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