A game Melbourne City have suffered their second defeat in as many weeks after two first half wonder goals from the Goulburn Valley Suns and a late no penalty call condemned City to a 2-1 defeat in Shepparton on Saturday.
In a back and forth opening that showed the clash in style between the two opponents - City sticking with the possession based style that had seen them rise to second on the NPL2 Eastern Conference table and the Suns attempting to play long balls through to their dangerous strike pairing of Shaun Kane and Ramah Taya - it was City that struck first through winger Lucas Derrick.
Latching onto a superb through ball down the left wing the long haired winger was able to make a driving run to the edge of the penalty area before coolly slotting the ball past Suns keeper Clayton Neville Scott to give City the one nil lead.
It was a goal that summed up Derrick’s day, with the City number 6 putting in a man of the match effort tormenting the Suns defence on both wings for the full 90 minutes.
The City lead was short lived however, when only three minutes later in the 25th the Suns’ Kane, in a goal reminiscent of City’s own Tim Cahill’s effort against Melbourne Victory in the 2016/17 A League opening derby, spotted City goalkeeper James Delianov off his line and launched a perfectly weighted chip that snuck just under the crossbar to bring the Suns level, drawing rapturous cheers from the home crowd.
It was the type of goal that gives goalkeepers nightmares and put a dampener on what was a magnificent opening half for Delianov, who signed a multi-year contract with the Melbourne City seniors team on April 1. Often forced into one on ones with Suns attackers running onto long balls over the top, Delianov made a number of world class reaction saves throughout the game that showed why he has a bright future at Melbourne City.
Unfortunately for City, Delianov was unable to produce another miracle save in first half stoppage time. Taking a free kick almost 25 yards out, the Suns Robert Hughes was able to lob his shot perfectly over the City wall and just far enough from Delianov that the diving shotstopper could only deflect it into his own side netting to give the Suns a 2-1 lead with almost the last kick of the first half.
The second half saw both City and the Suns push hard for a goal, with the action boiling over at times and a number of both teams players going into the referees book.
The action came to a head when in the 82nd minute Kobe Timms, who had come on in the 12th minute to replace an injured Dylan Perias, was shown a straight red card for what the referee deemed to be a dangerous challenge.
Speaking after the game, acting City coach Lachlan Armstrong said that he thought the decision to hand Timms a straight red card was harsh.
“I don’t think so [when asked if he thought it was a straight red]. We see those tackles against us week in – week out. I thought it was probably a yellow card offence and I’m disappointed the referee chose to deem it a serious foul play.”
The incident wasn’t the only gripe that City had with the refereeing, when on the 92nd minute Lucas Derrick was through on goal before being brought down inside the penalty area by the Suns' goalkeeper Scott, only for the referee to wave for play to continue.
Armstrong again – “I thought it was a penalty live. But at the end of the day that’s the refs decision.”
Armstrong went on to say that he was pleased with his sides effort, and their commitment to their style of football despite their second half deficit and eventual reduction to ten men.
“The first half I thought was a fairly open game, both sides had chances. Second half I thought we dominated totally in possession and they tightened things up."
"Certainly pleased that we tried to play through the line. When you go down to ten men for the last 15 minutes you can easily fall into the trap of launching it long and hoping for the best but I’m proud of the boys for trying to get something out of the game by playing the right way."
After Dandenong City’s 0-0 draw with Box Hill earlier in the day, the loss sees City five points down on the league leaders. Facing Nunawading City, who play Springvale White Eagles on Sunday, next week, City will be looking to take all three points to keep touch with the Eastern Conferences pace setters as they return to the friendly confines of LaTrobe University in Bundoora .
Earlier in the day, City’s Under 20 side scored a miraculous 3-2 win over the Suns’ under 20s, conceding an equalizer deep into injury time before stealing a winner with the last kick of the game.
Melbourne City FC 1 (Lucas Derrick 22’)
Goulburn Valley Suns FC 2 (Shaun Kane 25’,Robert Hughes 45+’)