Melbourne City FC secured a hard fought 1-1 draw with Springvale White Eagles in NPL 1 West in Keysborough on Saturday.
The hosts took an early lead through striker Abel Fesseha, only for Marc Marino to equalise from the penalty spot just before half-time as both sides went into the break on level terms.
City were left to battle through the last 25 minutes with ten men after striker Wade Dekker was given his marching orders for a second bookable offence, but Joe Montemurro’s side held on to secure an important NPL point.
A cagey start to proceedings was exemplified by the poor condition of the playing surface at White Eagles Stadium, with both sides finding it difficult attain any fluency in possession.
The White Eagles were content to sit back on the counter attack and absorb pressure, but managed to take the lead in the 12th minute when striker Abel Fesseha raced in behind the defence and finished past Sozer to make it 1-0.
City began to dominate in the final third as the hosts began to sit deeper after taking an early lead, with Ratip Cileli forcing Springvale ‘keeper Nejbosa Vujic into a smart diving save in the 20th minute.
Vujic was proving to be impassable in goal for the The White Eagles, beating away a stinging effort from Marino in the 23rd minute before making a superb double save after a goal mouth scramble in the penalty area to keep the scores level.
Fesseha was proving to be a livewire in attack for the hosts and nearly doubled the lead when he found space inside the area in the 28th minute, but his shot was comfortably held by ‘keeper Yaren Sozer.
Sozer was again called upon to prevent City from falling further behind in the 36th minute, making an excellent block from Jovanovic after the striker was put through one-on-one.
And the hosts were dealt a severe blow just five minutes before half time when City were awarded a penalty and Marino made no mistake from the spot, coolly sending Vujic the wrong way to level the scores.
Sozer had to be alert to prevent City from falling behind early in the second half, racing out of his area to clear the danger ahead of Fesseha before making a good save at his near post from a Hamish Millar free kick.
The hosts began to grow in confidence and nearly took the lead in the 57th minute when Danillo Vuckovic raced through on goal with only Sozer to beat, but the City ‘keeper made an excellent block to keep the scores level.
Fesseha wasted a glorious opportunity to put Springvale back in front only three minutes later when he skewed Hernan De Rito’s pinpoint cross wide of the right hand post from a good position inside the six yard area.
The game proceeded to open up after Dekker was shown red for a second bookable offence in the 67th minute, with both sides creating enough goalscoring opportunities to win the game.
City survived a huge scare in the 80th minute when Joseph Monek’s errant pass left Sozer stranded, but De Rito somehow managed to miss the target with an open goal at his mercy.
Despite going down to ten men, City continued to threaten in attack and came close to taking the lead three minutes from time, when Zinni saw his effort cleared off the line after Vujic did just enough to block the initial shot.
Substitute Anthony Rizk nearly proved to be the hero for City in stoppage time, unleashing a curling left footed striker that clipped the top of the crossbar in what proved to be the final chance of a pulsating encounter.
Springvale White Eagles 1 (Abel FESSEHA 12’)
Melbourne City FC 1 (Marc MARINO 40’ pen)
Melbourne City FC Line-up: 1. Yaren SOZER (GK), 2. Tyler JAMES, 3. Tomislav FADJLEVIC (Joseph MONEK 46’), 6. Phillip PETRESKI, 7. Hernan ESPINDOLA (Nick MORTON 75’), 8. Ratip CILELI, 9. Wade DEKKER, 11. Stefan ZINNI, 16. Matthew MILLAR, 19. Anthony TARANTO, 22. Marc MARINO (Anthony RIZK 47’)
Substitutes not used: 20. Jack WEST-ASTUTI (GK), 5. Leo ATHANASIOU
Yellow cards: Dekker 33’, Espindola 63’
Red cards: Dekker 67’
Springvale White Eagles Line-up: 1. Nebojsa VUJIC, 2. Jordan BALLERINI, 6. Slavisa SARIC, 23. Marcus HOLMES, 13. Hamish MILLAR, 15. Milan JOVANOVIC (Scott MILLAR 75’), 16. Nemanja SALAMANDIC (Keletso MTHEMBU 61’), 11. Danillo VUCKOVIC, 8. Hernan DE RITO, 9. Abel FESSEHA
Substitutes not used: 30. Jeremy SANDOVAL, 3. Vedran TOMIC
Yellow cards: Vuckovic 43’
Red cards: nil