City have seen their NPL winning streak end at four games after going down to Whittlesea Ranges FC 3-0 in cold and blustery conditions at Epping Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
In a clash between one of NPL2’s most high powered offences and one of its stingiest defences, it was City’s attack, scorers of 17 goals in its previous four games, that found itself unable to break down Whittlesea’s rock solid back four, with Whittlesea recording their fourth clean sheet of the season.
Goals to Naum Sekulovski, Mario Piraino, and Thomas Barforosh sealed the win for hosts Whittlesea, bouncing back from defeats in both the Westfield FFA Cup and NPL and also securing their fourth win of the season.
Warning signs for City appeared early in the game when in the 13th minute Piraino found Joshua Frame on Whittlesea’s attacking left flank. His dangerous cut back was almost met by two Whittlesea attackers before being scrambled away to the touchline by the City defence.
City’s inability to clear properly from attacks down the left flank soon bore fruit for Whittlesea however, with another scramble for the ball from a Whittlesea cutback this time finding Sekulovski. The Whittlesea captain found himself with enough time and space near the penalty spot to put Whittlesea up 1-0 on 17 minutes.
This early goal allowed Whittlesea to seize the momentum and for the rest of the half they laid siege to the City defence in the pursuit of a second goal, incredibly unlucky not to be rewarded in the 37th minute when a free kick taken by Frame deflected off the heads of the City defensive wall and clattered back into play off the crossbar.
City’s best chance of the half came in its last moments, as a 43rd minute free kick from Ali Eyigun from the edge of the penalty area was floated to a tantalizing position on the edge of the six-yard box, only to be cleared by the stout Whittlesea defence.
Going into the break down 1-0, City would have been hoping to repeat the heroics that saw them come back from a one goal half time deficit against Springvale White Eagles the week before, and did start the second half strongly by creating a series of chances that was highlighted by Gerrie Sylaidos capping off an attacking run by playing the ball through to Josh Cavallo, who found himself just unable to reach the ball before it was pounced on by Whittlesea goalkeeper Philip Petrovski.
Hopes of converting this early pressure into an equalizer were dashed however, when on 69 minutes an erroneous sequence of play saw City goalkeeper Yaren Sozer left with the ball at his feet and two Whittlesea attackers bearing down on him. Sozer was unable to clear and in the ensuing struggle for possession Piraino was able to knock the ball into the net to put the hosts up 2-0.
The goal broke City’s momentum and the result was put beyond all doubt ten minutes later, when on 80 minutes Barforosh was able to get on the end of a through ball played from his own half to go one on one with Sozer. The former City Youth Player made no mistake, guiding down and to the right of Sozer with the side of his foot to put Whittlesea up 3-0 and condemn City to their second defeat of the season.
Earlier in the day City’s U20 were able to secure the win 1-0 over Whittlesea’s U20s in the curtain raiser for the senior game.
City’s next runout will occur on April 8 when the side travels to Shepparton to take on Goulburn Valley Suns FC at the Shepparton Sports Precinct at 4pm.
Melbourne City FC 0
Whittlesea Ranges FC 3 (Naum Sekulovski 17’, Mario Piraino 69’, Thomas Barforosh 80’)