Melbourne City put on a convincing performance on Saturday to record a 3-1 victory over visiting Nunawading City FC in round 10 of the PS4 NPL2 Season.
Goals to City’s Anthony Theodoropoulos, Gerrie Sylaidos and Nathanial Atkinson cancelled out the opening goal from Nunawading’s Devon Bonne and enabled City to turn around their two-game losing run with a win over their Eastern Conference foes in frigid conditions at LaTrobe University.
Despite City bossing the game throughout - Dylan Pierias and Lucas Derrick combining well on the left side of the City attack and Sylaidos presenting a constant danger on the right - it was Nunawading who scored first in the 18th minute.
After City were penalised for a foul throw, the Nunawading attack was able to get in behind a napping City defence and striker Bonne was able to convert a one-on-one with City goalkeeper James Delianov.
Speaking after the match City coach Lachlan Armstrong said he was disappointed with the tracking back of the City midfield. “We expect a little bit more from our three midfielders defensively. They got in behind us and they punished us.”
City were able to respond nine minutes later however, when Theodoropoulos was able to get on the end of a cross from Sylaidos. Only able to bobble the ball past a charging Jordan Franken in the Nunawading goal, the City number 12 managed to follow his initial effort past Franken and to shuffle the ball over the line with his thigh to bring City back onto level terms.
It wasn’t a pretty goal, but it buoyed City and the young side pressed hard for a second throughout the rest of the first half, attacking up both wings and making life extremely difficult for the Nunawading wing-backs.
But despite their dominance, City lacked that finishing touch to convert their pressure into goals. A half-volley that sailed over the bar by Sylaidos in the 31st minute and a Dylain Pierias chip that was collected by Franken in the 35th encapsulating the deadlock as they went to half-time at 1-1.
Any hopes Nunawading may have harboured for a second-half reprieve from the pressure were dashed when, in the 49th minute, Sylaidos and Derrick combined beautifully in attack to give City the lead.
Collecting the ball near the attacking centre circle, Sylaidos ran straight at the Nunawading defence before playing the ball across the field to Derrick. The City winger continued to press the Nunawading defence, before laying a perfect through ball behind the Nunawading defenders for Sylaidos to run onto and score his 6th goal of the season.
City pressed on, looking for a third goal to put the result beyond doubt, but they continued to lack the lethality in front of goal that had accompanied their five-game winning streak earlier in the season and were unable to convert their sustained pressure into goals.
This was almost disastrous when in the 68th minute when Jason Trifiro, formally of the West Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne City in the Hyundai A-League, got behind Jordan Hall and Ali Eyigun in the City defence and found himself with a one-on-one with Delianov.
His low shot looked destined for the bottom right-corner but the 17-year old shotstopper made a diving save to deflect the ball around his post for a corner.
City were finally able to grab the sealer on 86 minutes when Atkinson was able to fire home a Sylaidos cut-back for his 2nd of the season.
After the match, Armstrong was pleased with the win but still saw room for improvement.
“We are in the results business,’’ he said. ‘’The boys like to win games and I like to win games, so it’s a good reaction to the two losses to get a win which I thought in the end was pretty comfortable, and we could have got a few more goals.
“I don’t think it was our greatest game by any stretch, but we did create a lot of chances. I would have liked to have taken a few more of the chances perhaps in the first half and we could have put the game to bed.
“It’s nice to be able to play against another team that plays a similar brand of football to us.
“In fairness to Nunawading they got the better of us a few times, created a few chances of their own, so there’s plenty of stuff to work with from that perspective.”
Dandenong City’s 2-2 draw at home with Murray United means that the win moves City to three points behind league leaders, and City will hope to close the gap even further when they return to LaTrobe University next week to host Ballarat City in round 11 of the PS4 NPL2 Season.
Earlier in the day City’s U20 were able to record a win of their own over Nunawading City, scoring four first-half goals on their way to a 5-0 demolition of the visitors, recording their third win on the trot.
Melbourne City FC 3 (Anthony Theodoropoulos 27', Gerrie Sylaidos 49',Nathanial Atkinson 86')
Nunawading City FC 1 (Devon Bonne 18’)