Melbourne City’s senior NPL squad has ended their 2019 season on a high; defeating Northcote City 4-3 in a highly entertaining contest at ABD Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
A hattrick to attacker Stefan Colakovski combined with a lone goal from young midfielder Emile Peios to seal a 4-3 win for Head Coach Petr Kratky’s side, who bounced back strongly despite the disappointment of being confirmed for the third tier of Victorian football the week prior.
It marks a season that, though possessing a less than ideal outcome, has been an important one for City’s NPL side.
Undergoing a period of marked transition both on the field and in the dugout, a City side that frequently had an average starting age of just 16-years nonetheless battled to a win total just one fewer than the 2018 season - with the same number of defeats recorded.
With a number of players still out on international duty or restricted to A-League work, Kratky reshuffled his XI once again for the meeting with Hercules.
Daniel Smith got his second start of the season between the posts; in front of a back four of Mark Karlic, Alec Mills, Nick Hatzigeorgiou and Daniel Lucente.
Luca Tevere, Jordi Valadon and Emile Peios manned the midfield behind an attacking trio of Colakovski, Jordy Bos and Raphael Borges Rodrigues.
City started the contest at ABD Stadium in a bright manner: Colakovski springing Bos in on goal for a shot that the winger just couldn’t get sweet contact on in the 8th minute of play.
Unperturbed, though, City continued to look for an opening early and, combined with their fierce press, they were rewarded in the 11th minute of the contest when Borges Rodrigues got right in the face of the Northcote defence and poked the ball clear just on the edge of the penalty area.
Pouncing on the loose ball, Colakovski fired the ball past Griffin McMaster in the Northcote goal to make it 1-0.
Northcote, nonetheless, was able to respond and created two quickfire chances in the 16th and 19th minutes for James Wilson and Noah Mihailidis before finally finding paydirt in the 21st minute when a ball looped in towards the back post from the right was met with a strong header from James Karvelis to make it 1-1.
Despite firing back with a number of chances of their own, City then found themselves down 2-1 in the 33rd minute when, after failing to properly clear a corner, Adrian Boglis fired home for Hercules.
Refusing to be intimidated, however, City fired themselves level just five minutes later when Bos drove in from his position on the left and laid the ball off for Peios, who took a touch onto his right boot before lacing a long-range effort home.
Just three minutes later City was able to then restore their lead when Colakovski got on the end of a ball played in behind the Northcote lines and rounded a trailing defender to get onto his preferred right boot before firing an effort past McMaster to make it 3-2.
Unfortunately for City, their lead was only able to last five minutes of the second half before being erased when a turnover as they looked to move the ball forward sprung Wilson in the attack.
Driving the ball forward, Wilson then slid the ball to his left to Amer Abdullah, who placed his shot past Smith to bring things back to equilibrium once again.
Though both sides would create numerous chances as the second half continued – Abdullah having Northcote’s best chance from a free kick in the 63rd and substitute Josh Varga forcing McMaster into a diving save in the 75th – but it would take until the 90th minute for the net to be found once again.
A creative force all game, Bos once again took the initiative to cuts inside and attack the penalty area – this time from the right flank.
Getting the ball inside the Northcote box, the young winger was then able to slide the ball across to Colakovski, who did well to find himself enough space to get a shot off that found the net and restored City’s lead.
A scare was sent through City when Wilson, with almost the last kick of the game, found himself in enough space to get a volleyed effort off on goal but, thankfully for Kratky’s boys, the resulting shot went wide.
Earlier in the day City’s U20 side – who had been crowned as Premiers of the NPL2 U20 Eastern Conference the week prior – was also able to end their season on a high after recording a 2-0 win over the 20s of Northcote.
With the 2019 NPL Victoria season concluded, the thoughts of City’s NPL boys will now turn to impressing A-League Head Coach Erick Mombaerts enough to potentially earn a place in his thinking for A-League duties.
A number of City’s players also remain in contention to represent Australia at the U17 World Cup in Brazil this October and November.
For Kratky and his staff, attention will now turn to, amongst other duties, preparing for the 2019/20 Y-League season.