NPL Report: City 2-0 Eastern Lions

Melbourne City’s NPL side made it two wins in as many weeks on Saturday afternoon as they recorded a comfortable 2-0 win over Eastern Lions at LaTrobe University.

An own goal from Eastern Lions Mathew Collier in just the second minute of play gave City a perfect start to Saturday’s contest - setting the scene for a game in which they would never really be made to sweat against an opposition that had entered the round of play in the top position on the NPL2 Eastern Conference table.

Nonetheless, despite the comfortable nature of their performance, it would take until the 70th minute for City to find their second of the contest when Yaya Dukuly fired into an empty net after some smart build-up play from Josh Cavallo and Stefan Colakovski.

The win propels City into the fourth position on the NPL2 Eastern Conference table, just three points adrift of Lions – who retained their position atop the standings despite the defeat.

Starting XI

With City’s A-League side set to kick off just half an hour after the game’s conclusion, both Ramy Najjarine and Connor Metcalfe were absent from the XI that took the field against the Lions.

Gianluca Iannucci and Idrus Abdulahi took their place amongst the starters.

What Happened?

In perfect conditions at La Trobe, City also had the perfect start: finding themselves ahead after just two minutes.

Running onto a perfectly weighted pass from Cavallo at the attack's inception, left back Jordy Bos broke down the Lions’ flank and fired a low ball into the area from the byline.

Though it failed to reach its intended target in Calakovski, its dangerous trajectory nevertheless forced Lions’ defender Collier to attempt to clear the danger; only to instead turn the ball into his net to give City an early lead.

Chances to Josh Varga and Dylan Pierias then followed for City, who carried themselves with an air of confidence and sharpness that made them, and not the Lions, look like the side that entered the day in first place on the table.

The Lions failed to have a notable chance on goal until the 17th minute of the contest when the threatening Tom Biss was able to lob a free kick goalward only to be denied when City keeper Majak Mawith rose to comfortably tap the ball over the bar.

Biss would have an even better chance to open the scoring in the 23rd minute when he rounded Mawith and put a left-footed effort towards goal. Desperate defending denied the Lions’ danger man, however, with Nick Hatzigergiou – nicknamed Winx by his teammates – was able to sprint back and clear the shot off the line.

It would be the turn of the Lions to clear a ball of their own line in the 41st minute of the contest when Colakovski was able to somehow squeeze himself and the ball in on goal and flick a shot past goalkeeper Keagan Coulter.

Colakovski appeared destined to make it 2-0 for the hosts only for Collier to somewhat make up for his earlier error when he turned the ball away just before it crossed the goal line.

Though Lions’ Iggy Razuki would create the first half-chance of the second stanza when he lofted a dangerous looking, but eventually uncapitalized on, cross towards the City back post soon after the restart it was City that had the first genuine shot in anger when Iannucci lofted a long-range free-kick just over the bar in the 48th minute.

Luke Duzel and Cameron Neales would then have duelling chances for their respective sides as the game just ticked past the hour mark.

Increasingly appearing at ease as the game progressed, City finally made it two in the 70th minute in yet another move sparked by Cavallo.

Retaining possession in the midfield, the 19-year-old looked up and laced a perfectly weighted pass through the Lions’ lines and into the path of Colakovski with just the goalkeeper to beat.

Moving in on goal, Colakovski could have been forgiven for having a ping but the man with 99 on his back instead did the unselfish thing: sliding the ball into the path of the newly introduced Dukuly to allow him to hammer into an open goal to make it 2-0.

Though Colakovski – who has been in a rich vein of form in the first months of the NPL Victoria season – had a number of other chances to find a goal of his own he found himself continuously frustrated; his last-gasp 94th minute header on goal from a Cavallo cross looking dangerous only to be blocked away by the Lions defence at the goal line for a corner.

What’s Next?

With the NPL set to break for a week to allow for FFA Cup action, City will next take the field on April 27 when they make the trip to Geelong to clash with NPL2 Western Conference foes North Geelong Warriors at Elcho Park.

Kickoff is set for 3pm.