Resuming a fixture that had been abandoned last Saturday, Melbourne City’s NPL side suffered a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Moreland Zebras on Wednesday night.
Initially commenced at La Trobe University on Saturday, the fixture was abandoned in the 19th minute as a result of the broken leg suffered by City striker Sam Morrison, who was taken from the field in an ambulance after receiving treatment from City training staff.
Morrison has since undergone surgery for the injury, visited by his teammates on Monday.
After talks with Football Victoria, the fixture was rescheduled for Wednesday night at the Zebras’ home of CB Smith Reserve; play designated to resume with a free kick of Melbourne City in the 19th minute of play.
As a result of injuries and A-League commitments, City was forced to withdraw Mark Karlic and Ramy Najjarine ahead of the re-scheduled kick-off, with the two replaced by Dalibor Markovic and Luke Duzel.
Due to those changes, City was unable to make any substitutions for the remainder of the contest.
Proceedings could hardly have gotten off to a worse start for City once play resumed when, after just sixty seconds of play, Liam Cannell was able to get a foot on a loose ball in the area following a scramble and make it 1-0 to Zebras.
Imposing their will on the contest early, chances continued to follow for the Zebras; Luke Devitt and Tremayne Sadler both putting efforts on goal wide as the first half wound down.
Clearly disjointed, City were forced into staging a fighting rear-guard to keep the deficit at a single goal as time continued to wind down but were ultimately successful; heading into the locker room with the scores still at 1-0.
Indeed, it appeared that Head Coach Joe Palatsides’ halftime team talk was just the remedy that City had required when they came out for the second half; exploiting a pocket between the Zebras midfield and defence to create a series of promising chances.
Gianluca Iannucci had the first of them, spinning around his maker before letting loose with a shot that proved just unable to dip enough to get on the right side of the crossbar.
That effort was then followed by an effort from 15-year-old Yaya Dukuly – his effort just palmed over the bar for a corner that was eventually scrambled clear.
When Josh Cavallo just sliced an effort wide of the post in the 55th minute, it appeared that City was on the cusp of forcing their way back into the contest with an equaliser but, alas for Paltsides’ side, disaster then struck.
Counter-attacking, the Zebras were able to break containment by the City defence as they worked the ball down the left and drove a low cross inside the area.
Scrambling to get back across his goals, City goalkeeper James Delianov could only watch as a free Cannell tapped in from close range to make it 2-0.
Despite going down a second, City nonetheless continued to press and created further chances through Duzel and Dylan Pierias.
Though even further pressure would be piled on when Bradley Chick was shown a second yellow card for dissent, Pierias refused to be denied and on 73 minutes rose highest to meet a cross from Dalibor Markovic and make it 2-1.
Unfortunately for City, there was to be no fairytale comeback when just six minutes from time David Cardamone found himself with space outside the City area to collect himself and let loose with a world-class effort that screamed past Delianov and into the back of the net to make it 3-1.
City will next clash with regional side Goulburn Valley Suns at LaTrobe University (Pitch One) on Saturday.
The U20 sides of the two clubs are scheduled to meet at 12:30, with the seniors, then set to follow at 3:00 pm.