Melbourne City have returned to the winner’s circle for the first time since April with a convincing 8-2 win over Bendigo City FC on Saturday.
Goals to Lucas Derick, Austin Wong, Nathanial Atkinson and Marko Delic were enough to secure the win for City - who put their regional opponents to the sword with a dominating display that truly showed the talent that has been stockpiled at the City Football academy.
Bendigo, despite coming into the round rooted firmly to the bottom of the NPL2 Western Conference with one point from 18 rounds of football, had shown glimmers of form recently, coming into the game having put three goals past Moreland City to lead 3-0 in the previous round of play (Moreland City would eventually score 4 unanswered to win four goals to three)
City, wary of their own tendency to ship goals early – coming into the round City had not scored first in a game since their one goal to nil win over Moreland City on April 29 – wouldn’t allow Bendigo to stage a repeat however, coming out of the blocks firing.
And they were up after only three minutes.
Countering quickly from defence, City striker Delic ran at the Bendigo defence before playing a diagonal ball in behind the defence to pick out a charging Derrick. Taking a few touches to compose himself, the winger blasted the ball into the bottom left corner to give City the lead, their first lead in six weeks.
Derrick had his second seven minutes later. Stealing the ball after both he and Delic put Bendigo defender Oliver Leonard-Shannon under intense pressure at the top of the penalty area after the centre back was sold into trouble with a poorly thought out back-pass, Derrick was able to blast a thunderbolt goalwards. Despite getting a hand on it, Bendigo goalkeeper Dante Thomas was unable to block the shot - making the score two nil after ten minutes.
And just three minutes later Derrick had his hattrick - set up with a shot at an open goal after a magnificent piece of defending from the front by Gerrie Sylaidos enabled the left winger to steal the ball after a poor attempted clearance by the Bendigo defence and then put a ball right at Derrick’s feet at the edge of the six-yard box.
It was four only two minutes after that, this time when Lucas Portelli – who was one of four City youth players that trained with the Brazilian squad during the week – lobbed a ball over the top of the Bendigo defence and into the path of central midfielder Austin Wong.
Wong was unchallenged by the Bendigo defence as he collected and he ran forward, before he eventually rounded Bendigo goalkeeper Dante Thomas and slotted it into an open goal to make it four goals to nil.
Up by four goals after only 15 minutes - the young City side appeared to switch off as play resumed, with the side increasingly attempting to go it alone and getting away from their team based style.
They would pay for the breakdown in discipline on 20 minutes when Bendigo were able to pull one back through Asa Kryst.
A lapse in concentration by the City defence – featuring a new look with Atkinson at right back, Portelli and Nenad Nikolic at centre back and Dylan Pierias at left back – enabled Kryst to find space at the top of the City penalty are to half volley a cracking shot past Yaren Sozer to make it four goals to one.
The game had barely resumed when yet another goal was scored – City getting their fifth.
It was Wong - grabbing his second in five minutes - that was able to get a toe on a cross sent in by Derrick and nutmeg Thomas in the Bendigo goal.
It was the sixth goal of the game within 22 minutes – but the crowd at LaTrobe didn’t have time to catch their break when Bendigo pegged one back with after only one minute.
Once again taking advantage of a lapse in concentration by the City defence, Bendigo captain Lachlan Beever had a one on one shot charged down by Sozer on the edge of the area. The ball rebounded off the City goalkeeper and into the path of Bendigo winger Mun Bichiok – who hammered the ball home.
The goal finally marked a break in the action – with both sides unable to find the back of the net for the rest of the first half.
City were undoubtedly less dangerous throughout the rest of the first half and the opening stages of the second. Passes that were normally made as a part of City’s possession based style were eschewed in favour of more daring pieces of individual efforts that broke down at the last touch or speculative long-range passes that were intercepted by the Bendigo defence.
It goes towards the quality of the City side that these efforts eventually began to bear fruit as the game progressed and Bendigo tired.
Atkinson – thrown forward after City brought on Jaiden Madafferi and shifted Ali Eyigun to the backline – grabbed two goals to add to his season tally in the 71st and 82nd minutes and Marko Delic grabbed an 84th minute goal of his own – a reward for the intense effort the striker put in throughout the whole game.
The win ensures that City will maintain third position on the NPL2 Eastern Conference table entering round 20 of the season, keeping in touch with Dandenong City and the Thunder atop the table and maintaining at least a one point buffer over Murray United, who sit in fourth position.
City will again return to LaTrobe University next week, game three of a four match homestand, when they host Eastern Lions SC at 3pm.
The two sides last met in round 4 of the season at the Lion’s home ground Gardiners Creek Reserve. Goals to Madafferi, Daniel Arzani, Sylaidos, Connor Metcalfe, Eyigun and Atkinson seeing City run out six nil victors and begin a run of four straight wins.
Earlier in the day, City’s U20 side continued their magnificent form – winning their fifth game on the trot and stretching their unbeaten run of form to 12 – with an eight goals to nil win over Bendigo City’s U20 side.
The win was the sides 15th on the season; and it guarantees that they will sit at least nine points clear over second placed Box Hill United SC atop the NPL2 Eastern Conference table entering Round 20 of the season.
City: 8 (Derrick 3’,10’,13 – Wong 15’, 22’ – Atkinson 71’, 82 – Delic 84’)
Bendigo City: 2 (Kryst 20’ – Bichiok 23’)