A last-gasp penalty from Giosue Tolomeo has denied Melbourne City FC victory in an entertaining 2-2 draw with Whittlesea Ranges at Epping Stadium on Saturday.
In-form midfielder Luka Prelevic continued his fine goalscoring form as City took an early lead in the fourth minute, only for Matthew Iuliano to equalize from the penalty spot only moments later.
City re-took the lead in the 33rd minute after an excellent curling strike from Luke Gallo and were in the box seat as Matthew Cundari’s second yellow card reduced Whittlesea to ten-men with under half an hour to play.
But Joe Montemurro’s side were to be denied at the death once again as Ilhan Altunas was fouled inside the area only two minutes from time, with Tolomeo firing home the second penalty of the day to salvage a point for Whittlesea.
Melbourne City FC made a flying start to proceedings and took the lead after only four minutes. A delicate chipped pass from Ratip Cileli sent Hernan Espindola through on goal, with Ranges FC ‘keeper Steven Tapia smothering the danger before Prelevic pounced on the rebound to score his fourth goal in five matches.
The lead was extinguished in the 13th minute as City were punished for some errant defending. A misdirected pass from Yaren Sozer forced Baki Efe to foul Cundari inside the area, with Iuliano making no mistake from the penalty spot.
Both sides continued to threaten in attack during a free-flowing opening period of football, but City were proving to be lethal in in front of goal and reclaimed the lead in the 33rd minute.
The lively Espindola burst through the Whittlesea defence with a surging run and slipped a delicate through ball to Gallo, with the winger cutting inside and curling wonderfully past Gian Tapia into the bottom corner to make it 2-1.
Prelevic had an opportunity to double the advantage only minutes later, performing a neat one-two with Dekker before being thwarted by the onrushing Tapia.
Tapia had to be at his best once again on the stroke of half-time, denying a fierce long range strike from Prelevic with a superb fingertip save to keep Whittlesea in the contest heading into the break.
City continued to control the match and created majority of the goalscoring opportunities in the second half. A marauding run from right-back Nick Symeoy teed up a golden chance for Wade Dekker in the 60th minute, but the striker wasn’t able to direct his inventive back-heel towards goal.
City had ‘keeper Sozer to thank for preserving the lead only a minute later, standing tall to deny Matthew Kundevski with a smart save at his near post.
Whittlesea were dealt a blow in the 66th minute when Cundari was given his marching orders for a second yellow card as City looked to up the ante in wake of their numerical advantage.
Tapia once again stood tall in the 69th minute to deny Dekker at the near post, before Cileli’ nearly left the goalkeeper red faced with a superb chip that narrowly sailed over the crossbar.
Despite being reduced to ten men, Whittlesea continued to create chances and nearly equalised when Stefan Baricevic’s pile-driver was deflected just wide of the right-hand post.
And they had a golden chance to level the scores in the 81st minute when Tolomeo calmly rounded Sozer to leave him with an empty net, but he could only fire his shot straight into the post.
City appeared to have weathered the storm but were denied victory in heartbreaking fashion when Tolomeo converted from the penalty spot only two minutes from time to snatch a point for Whittlesea.
Whittlesea Ranges 2 (Matthew IULIANO 13’, Giosue TOLOMEO 88')
Melbourne City FC 2 (Luka PRELEVIC 4’, Luke GALLO 33’)
Melbourne City FC Line-up: 1. Yaren SOZER, 3. Nicholas SYMEOY, 5. Leo ATHANASTOU, 7. Hernan ESPINDOLA, 8. Ratip CILELI (Anthony RIZK 82’), 9. Wade DEKKER, 10. Luka PRELEVIC, 13. Haralambos STAMBOULIDIS, 14. Baki EFE, 15. Luke GALLO, 19. Anthony TARANTO.
Substitutes not-used: 20. Jack WEST-ASTUTI, 18. Ali EIYGEN, 21. Mehdi SARWARI, 22. Nicolas GONZALEZ
Whittlesea Ranges Line-up: 1. Gian TAPIA, 19. Adem MUSTEDANAGIC, 6. Andrew TAYLOR, 20. Tobias HAEGELE, 2. Pavle DURKIC (Ilhan ALTUNAS 77’), 4.Mario PIRANIA, 17. Stefan BARICEVIC, 15. Matthew KUNDEVSKI (Danny BAKARAT 74’), 10. Matthew IULIANO, 7. Matthew CUNDARI, 23. Giosue TOLOMEO.
Substitutes not-used: 26. Jarrod HILL, 14. Rami MUSTAFOSKI, 32. Andreas BACHOS.