Melbourne City FC NPL recorded an important 2-1 win over the high-flying St. Albans Saints on Saturday afternoon, moving six points away from the promotion playoff spot.
In the opening minute hosts St Albans missed out on clear-cut chance to open the scoring with Ante Kozul opting for power instead of placement, and the ball hit the cross bar.
City regrouped and Stamboulidis cleared a pin-point cross by Ross Harvey which was directed at Barry Devlin right in the heart of the six-yard box, and left the home side up in arms, puzzled how another chance went begging.
Hernan Espindola looked catch the Saints' backline off-guard looking to constantly provide defence-splitting balls and quick one-two passing.
Ryan McGuffie's long ball to find Devlin up front became almost too predictable for City's young backline and it responded well when needed.
Mehdi Sarwari missed a chance up with a one-on-one as he approached Stuart Webster after a communication breakdown in defence, which could have swung the balance of the match City's way.
With neither side looking to cause considerable damage, Tom Barforosh opened the scoring on 22 minutes with a calm and composed finish, capitalising on an mix-up by the hosts at the back.
In the 39th minute, Espíndola got himself into the position on the right wing before halftime, and stretched play with an inch-perfect cross that left Webster stranded as Stamboulidis went up from the backline into attack and got the finishing touch for 2-0.
The midfield battle ultimately determined the course of the match.
Right on the stroke after half time, the Saints lifted their spirits completely.
McGuffie brought a thunderous shot that left Yaren Sozer stranded, only inches off target.
Ideas were plenty with Nicholas Scerri spearheading the Saints' revival, pressing tightly and looking for alternatives especially out wide.
Frustration grew though the Saints piled increasing pressure, with the introduction of Tom Trbuhovic adding extra sting and a numeric presence in midfield gave the hosts renewed hope.
A quick counter attack saw Barforosh almost extend his brace courtesy a speeding break by Hernan Espíndola that saw him on the end of a late crunching tackle in the process.
Scerri was left in disbelief again on the hour mark with another miss, followed by Devlin meeting up with an indirect free kick.
Chances went begging again on 72 minutes with substitute Georgi Nicevski opening up City's Cileli.
St Albans' courageous fightback began on the scoreboard but was not enough with Scerri getting on the scoresheet with seven minutes remaining on the clock.
The full time whistle was imminent until Joe Montemurro's City boys were able to breathe just a little easier with hard fought three points.
Joe Montemurro reflected afterwards: "We have a bright star in Tom Barforosh who is scoring a lot of goals, coming in from the 20's and like the other boys, they have projection for their futures. This is exactly what our project is about."
"Our rotation policy enables opportunities and surprises, that's our job. We see the maturity coming through in our players and that's great to see. I thought today the game could have gone either way, the key was to get the better of the midfield and when the Saints exposed us at the back, we were put to the test and had to play deep."
"Fortunately they (Saints) missed out on key chances in front of goal or else it could have cost us dearly, we've come away with three points and my side needs to continue working the way we are going."
Melbourne City 2 (Tom Barforosh 22', 40')
St Albans Saints 1 (Nick Scerri 84')
St Albans Saints: 1. Stuart WEBSTER, 2. Ryan McGUFFIE, 3.Nanayew OTUO-ACHEAMPONG, 4. Nicholas SARBIN, 5. Tedros YABIO, 7. Trent WATERSON (10. Tomislav TRBUHOVIC 40'), 8. Ross HARVEY, 9. Barry DEVLIN, 11. Nicholas SCERRI, 15. Konrad DOBRASZKEIWICZ (19. Georgi NICEVSKI 65'), 20. Ante KOZUL (17. Stepjan TRBUHOVIC 61').
Unused Subs: 16. Christopher SIKETA, 19. George NICESKI, 21. Diwan IBRAHIM
Melbourne City: 1. Jack WEST-ASTUB, 4. Jordon HALL, 5. Leo ATHANASIOU, 7. Hernan ESPINDOLA (21. Denis GENREAU 83') , 8. Ratip CILELI, 12. Anthony RIZK, 13. Haralambos STAMBOULIDIS, 15. Luke GALLO (19. Anthony TARANTO 90'), 16. Matthew MILLAR (17. Joseph MONEK 67'), 18. Tom BARFOROSH, 22. Mehdi SARWARI.
Unused Subs: 3. Baley ROW, 20. Yianni SKILIROS.
Yellow Cards: 18. Tom BARFOROSH '90