NPL Report: Nunawading City 2-7 City

Melbourne City’s NPL side started their season in style on Sunday, defeating Nunawading City 7-2 at Mahoney’s Reserve.

Braces from centre-half Lucas Portelli, Gianluca Ianucci and Moudi Najjar, as well as a solo effort from Dylan Pierias did the damage for City - who shot to the top of the NPL2s Eastern Conference with the comprehensive victory.

Iannucci and Luke Duzel were the stars on the day, the pair playing a key role in almost all of City’s attacking movements as they used a blistering opening hour to put a hapless Nunawading to the sword.

The only blight on the result was an unfortunate injury to 16-year-old Mitchell Graham. The young centre back suffering a head injury and being taken to hospital after being inadvertently collected by City goalkeeper James Delianov as the two sought to clear a Nunawading cross.

Starting XI

Acting Head Coach Lachlan Armstrong ran out a strong starting XI for City’s season opener, his side featuring a heavy dose of A-League capped players and Young Socceroo talent.

Australian U19 custodian Delianov took his place between the goalposts, starting behind a back four of Pierias, Graham, Portelli and Mark Karlic.

Young Socceroos Denis Genreau and Josh Cavallo partnered with Anthony Lesiotis in the midfield, whilst Zac Bates, Iannucci and newly signed from the Western Sydney Wanderers Najjar led the City line. 

What Happened?

City announced their intentions from the get-go, immediately seizing the lion’s share of possession and creating early chances for both Bates and Cavallo to grab the lead.

Pushing on, it was after only nine minutes of play that they would make a breakthrough; Cavallo floating a corner into the penalty area that Portelli rose highest to meet.

Towering over attacker and defender alike, the lanky defender would direct his header into the net to give City both their first goal of the 2018 NPL campaign and the early 1-0 lead.

City’s bright start would then be darkened however; when promising young defender Graham suffered a nasty knock to his head after he was unintentionally cleared up by Delainov as the two entered a pack contesting a Nunawading cross into the area.

Play was halted for several minutes as trainers attended to Graham, with the young defender eventually stretchered off and taken into the rooms to be examined by the City training staff.

After an initial examination, an ambulance was called, and the defender was taken to a local medical facility for further tests.

Looking to collect themselves after the injury, City would do so in the best way possible on the half hour mark when Duzel, who had been brought on to replace Graham, set up Iannucci for City’s second.

Finding himself with space about 30 yards out from the Nunawading goal, Duzel would have time to turn and launch a perfectly placed chip over the top of the Nunawading defence to Iannucci, who met the ball in stride and lofted a header over the top of Franken to make it 2-0.

City would pour then proceed to pour it on, Najjar finally grabbing that elusive goal seven minutes later.

Duzel, grabbing his second assist of the game, would collected the ball on the right of the penalty area before playing a ball into Najjar that gave him enough to time to collect himself, round Franken in the Nunawading City goal and slot the ball in to make it 3-0.

The rout would prove itself well and truly on when a minute later when City would grab yet another, this time Iannucci forcing a turnover deep in the Nunawading defence and slotting it in to grab his second goal of the game.

Whilst most would be seemingly content with a 4-0 lead at the half, City weren’t.

They would make it 5-0 in the 40th minute; this time Iannucci floating a corner into the area that, after bouncing around, would eventually find it’s way to Portelli, who grabbed his second of the game and give City a commanding lead heading into the main break.

For Nunawading, it was a half they would like to forget, finding themselves unable to make any headway against a City side that came into the game match-fit following the conclusion of the Y-League season only a fortnight ago.

Missing marquee signing and 2017 NPL Victoria Gold Medal Winner Massimo Murdocca, Nunawading were forced to surrender almost complete control of the midfield to City; with City at times turning their opponents into figures more resembling bright blue training cones than an opposition as they knocked the ball around between themselves in the midfield.

Whilst City were unable to continue the flurry of goals that marked the end of the first half into the second, they would eventually grab their sixth goal in the 58th minute.

Right-back Dylan Pierias, continuing his fine form from the Y-League season, ghosted into the back of the penalty area unmarked, getting on the end of a Najjar ball and blasting it to the right of Franken.

Up 6-0 at the hour mark and with the game well and truly decided, City’s young squad began to ease up on the pressure, with some of the more “veteran” presences amongst their line-up such as Pierias and Delianov becoming visibly frustrated with the reduction in urgency.

They were right to be concerned, as Nunawading took advantage to pinch a goal of their own in the 65th minute, Karamo Kamara poking the ball into the net after City were unable to clear a ball pinballing around their penalty area.

The score line was still 6-1 however, and that goal failed to spur City back into action, with Nuna continuing to produce chances as the second half wound down.

Delainov, coming off a world class performance in the Y-League Grand Final, produced some fine saves to keep the worst of Nunawading out, but was unable to do anything about an effort from Mathew Oghanna in the 83rd minute that made it 6-2.

And whilst no fadeout is going to surrender a 6-0 lead, perhaps that is the goal that woke City up, as Najjar would secure his second of the day in the 92nd minute and put a bow in City's performance when he rounded a duo of Nunawading defenders and Franken before hammering it home.

Elsewhere, Melbourne City’s U20s got their title defence off to the best possible start in the days curtain-raiser, defeating the U20s of Nunawading City 3-1.

What’s Next?

City will look to back-up Sunday's win against Eastern Lions; who last week were able to come away with a 1-1 draw despite having to make the tough trip north to face Murray United in Albury.