Melbourne City’s senior NPL side was unable to hold on against Melbourne Victory on Sunday afternoon, surrendering a late goal to their crosstown foes to go down 3-2 in the NPL Victoria Youth Melbourne Derby.
Though placed under significant pressure by Victory in the early stages of the contest at Epping Stadium, City took the lead in the 36th minute when Victory’s Benjamin Carrigan, looking to clear away a City cross, inadvertently turned the ball into his own net.
Victory was able to erase that deficit in the 59th minute, however, when striker Nuh Šehavdić pounced on City’s failed attempt to clear a long throw into the penalty area before firing into the bottom corner of the net and make it 1-1.
City was able to retake its lead in the 70th minute when the newly introduced Stefan Colakovski broke down the left and whipped in a cross for Moudi Najjar to poke home but it only lasted 60 seconds – Stefan Ristic ensuring that a shot from Šehavdić found its way into the back of the net in Victory’s first attack after the restart.
With both sides pushing for a late winner if was Ristic once again that popped up at the vital moment, going behind himself to swing a leg at a Liston Diaz cross and fire his side to a win.
The result means that City, thanks to Springvale White Eagles picking up points, has now fallen to the bottom of the NPL2 Eastern Conference table.
After much upheaval in their side over the past few weeks, City welcomed back some welcome reinforcements against the Victory.
Striker Najjar must his first start since his return, whilst injured prospects Mark Karlic and Colakovski took up their places on the bench.
With the departure of goalkeeper Majak Mawith to Port Melbourne, Ahmed Taleb pulled on the number one jersey for Head Coach Petr Kratky’s side.
Despite Victory having the best of the early stages of the contest, City was the first to create a meaningful chance on goal when winger Gianluca Iannucci pulled the trigger on a right footed effort from range that Victory goalkeeper Branko Skocic was forced to save in the 3rd minute.
Responding, Victory would then create to chances to open the scoring from set pieces: Carrigan heading a set piece delivery from Ristic wide in the 11th minute and Aaron Anderson heading a Ristic corner over the bar in the game’s 17th.
City returned serve through another long range effort from Iannucci in the 32nd minute and Victory quickly returned fire themselves with a long range effort of their own, Ristic’s attempt also going wide of the post.
In the 36th minute, City was finally able to make a breakthrough from the unlikeliest of sources: a ball that was methodically worked up the right before being whipped into the area for Najjar inadvertently turned into the back of the net by Victory captain Carrigan to give City a 1-0 lead.
City almost made it 2-0 just a minute later when, soon after the restart, Iannucci picked the pocket of his man out on the right. Cutting inside, the Cobram born star let loose with another attempt to get his name on the scoresheet only for Skocic to once again deny him.
Victory had one final chance to bring levels as the first half ticked over into injury time when So Nishikawa, who engaged in a pitched battle with Iannucci all afternoon, cut inside and let loose that took a dangerous deflection before settling into the grasp of Taleb.
It took until the 58th minute of the second half to produce a clear cut chance on goal but, when it came, it took a minor miracle for City to retain their 1-0 advantage over the hosts.
Breaking clear in transition, Victory worked the ball forward and into the path of Šehavdić though one-on-one on goal.
Forced to go wide to round Taleb, Šehavdić nonetheless was able to get a shot off that looked set to trickle over the line were if it not for the efforts of Iannucci who – taking advantage of the extra second afforded to him by Taleb’s delaying action – was able to get back and clear the ball off the line.
Šehavdić was not to be denied, though, and on the hour mark he brought his side level after he seized upon a ball loose in the City penalty area after the visitors had failed to clear a long throw in and guided it into the bottom corner of the net to restore the game to parity.
Nonetheless, City was able to regain its lead just ten minutes later when Colakovski, receiving a ball flicked on by Najjar, broke down the left soon after entering the field of play from the substitutes bench.
Getting to the byline, the speedy winger was able to lay a tantalising low pass into the path of an onrushing Najjar – who promptly fired home to make it 2-1.
Disastrously for City, the lead was not to last as Victory, immediately driving forward from the resulting restart, worked the ball to Šehavdić inside the area.
Launching the ball in towards goal, the Victory number nine found the foot of Ristic who ensured that, even if the ball had been going in anyway, there was no chance of another goalmouth clearance as he put it into the back of the net.
Then, as the game ticked over into the 83rd minute, it was the turn of a newly introduced Victory player to provide his side with a spark when Liston Diaz broke down the right side and laid a ball into the area for Ristic.
Although he was forced to go a smidge behind himself to collect the ball, Ristic made no mistake with his resulting shot: burying it in the back of the net to make it 3-2 to his side and secure all three points.
City will next week play their first official home game at their new home base of the Veneto Club when they play host to NPL2 Eastern Conference side Langwarrin SC at 8:30 pm on Saturday night.
For fans that can’t get down to the game in person, the fixture will be broadcast on the NPL Victoria Facebook and YouTube pages.