Melbourne City’s senior NPL side suffered defeat for the second consecutive week on Saturday when they went down to fellow NPL2 Eastern Conference side Northcote City FC 6-2 at John Cain Memorial Park.
Despite a bright start, City fell behind in the 16th minute of the contest when, capitalising on a poor turnover in defence, James Wilson advanced into the penalty area and fired home his first of two goals for the contest. Former City youth player Leo Athanasiou then ensured his Hercules side went into the rooms with a 2-0 lead in the 38th minute when he laid off a perfect pass through the City lines for Mehdi Sarwari to fire home.
Wilson secured his brace with a chipped effort just four minutes after the restart, before Asher Nelson and Jordan Nelson piled on the pain in the 54th and 65th minutes.
Goals to Giovanni Stellitano and Moudi Najjar in the 76th and 80th minute made the scoreline look slightly more respectable for City, only for Alec Mills own goal in the 85th minute to dampen things for City once again and complete Northcote’s six-pack.
Taking charge of his first ever game as Head Coach of City’s NPL side, Petr Kratky handed striker Najjar the armband in his first game back amongst the starters since returning from a long-term ankle injury.
With Dylan Pierias have left the club midweek to pursue opportunities elsewhere, his brother Ben slotted into the starting XI in his place.
City started proceedings against Hercules in a positive manner; dominating possession in the early stages to the extent that the hosts barely touched the ball in the opening ten minutes.
That bright start proved for naught, however, when in the 16th minute Nelson tussled with Bradley Chick just outside the penalty after the latter had received a pass out from goalkeeper Majak Mawith.
With both falling to the turf, Nelson was just able to flick the ball into the path of Wilson as he fell, enabling the Northcote attacker to run into the box and fire home.
Wilson would almost grab his second goal just six minutes later when he pounced on a loose ball in the area after Mawith had palmed away an Adrian Boglis and sent a shot goalward only for Ben Pierias to, somehow, get back in time to clear the ball off the goal line.
Poor distribution in the defensive third would continue to cost City as the half progressed and eventually they found themselves down 2-0 after Athanasiou split central defenders Lucas Portelli and Chick with a super pass to give Sarwari a one-on-one chance he duly converted.
Sarwari turned provider for the hosts just minutes into the second half when, after nipping in to steal a City throw in, he laid a ball off to Wilson on the left flank.
Letting the ball run onto his right foot, the Northcote number nine proceeded to launch a perfectly weighted chip that looped over the top of a leaping Mawith and inside the far post to make it 3-0 to Hercules.
Just five minutes later Nelson made it 4-0 with a well taken shot from the right side of the penalty area; the ball falling to the midfielder after City was unable to properly clear the ball following several blocked shots.
Rampant, the goals continued to fly in for Northcote in the 65th minute when Ross got in on the action; running onto a ball headed behind City’s lines by Wilson before sliding a ball into the back of the net to make it 5-0.
City was able to restore some semblance of pride in the game’s final stages; Stellitano nodding in a perfectly directed cross to the back post by Gianluca Iannucci in the 76th minute of play and Najjar capitalising on a tricky set-piece move – where Portelli fainted launching an effort on goal only for Iannucci to chip a pass into the penalty – to make it 5-2.
Nonetheless, Northcote was to trouble the scorers one final time before the 90 minutes expired: Boglis watching his cross into the penalty area deflect off Mills and past Mawith to make it 6-2 to the hosts.
Sixth on the NPL2 Eastern Conference table after 11 rounds, City will return home next week for another round of NPL2 cross-conference action and take on Moreland City – seventh in the NPL2 West – at 3:00 pm on Sunday.
Around the Academy:
Northcote City 6-2 Melbourne City
Giovanni Stellitano 76', Moudi Najjar 80'
Northcote City 3-2 Melbourne City
Maxwell Branov 38' + 45'
Eastern Lions 1 - 2 Melbourne City
Rhys Bozinovski 8’, Charbel Shamoon 30'
Eastern Lions 1-4 Melbourne City
Noah Spaseski 12', Oliver Peios 16', Joshua Inserra 54', Danijel Lugonja 61'