Melbourne City’s senior NPL side went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows in an instant on Saturday afternoon, suffering a last-second defeat to Box Hill United in their NPL2 East Clash.
Coming into Saturday’s fixture undefeated in two weeks after turning around a seven-game losing run, Joe Palatsides’ City outfit started the game in dominating fashion; seizing the lions share of possession and keeping the ball predominantly in the Box Hill half.
Frustratingly for City, however, was their inability to turn this monopolization of the ball into clear efforts on goal, with long-range half chances to Gianluca Iannucci and Ramy Najjarine the closest City got to goal in the early stages.
The game had a distinct air of the 2018 World Cup’s Russia v Spain tie to it during the first half, City’s dominance of possession failing to create any clear chances while up the other end Box Hill’s presented all sorts of challenges for City goalkeeper Daniel Smith and his defence.
And on 38 minutes, City would be paid for their inability to convert control of the ball into goals when Thomas Lakic put Box Hill ahead.
On the second corner in quick succession that Ryan Go had floated into the penalty area, City was unable to properly clear; the ball lifted eventually lifted upward towards the penalty area.
Rising highest to meet the ball Lakic would have initial header parried back out toward him and made no mistake with his follow-up, burying his second header into the net to give Box Hill the 1-0 lead.
A defensive error from Dalibor Markovic in the game’s 40th minute almost gifted Box Hill a two-goal buffer headed into halftime, Anthony Le Page’s poor effort in a one-on-one situation with Smith the only reason City were able to go into the break with a deficit of one.
Having seemingly absorbed City’s best shot in the first half, Box Hill came out hard in the second, employing an intense press and being more purposeful in their efforts to win control of the ball from their opponents.
They would then have a disallowed goal in the 49th minute of play, a low ball to the back post following a corner to the edge of the penalty area turned in, only for the lineman’s raised flag to put paid to any celebrations.
From that point on it was a back and forth affair, City and Box Hill trading short periods of domination in the midfield without ever producing efforts that truly looked like troubling the scorers – City’s shouts for an 83rd-minute penalty notwithstanding – until the game ticked over to injury time.
Entering the 93rd minute of play, a desperate City began a move down the right; searching for a late equalizer that would extend their unbeaten run to three.
The ball was eventually worked to Najjarine in the top right corner of the Box Hill penalty area, with the winger finding he had enough time and space to perfectly place his shot inside the far post to lock things up at 1-1.
City’s cries of jubilation would turn to heartbreak moments later, however, when Box Hill was able to immediately move the ball up the field and retake the lead.
Breaking through the City lines almost immediately from the restart, Todd Decker was sprung by a long ball from the midfield. Despite claims from City that the Box Hill substitute was offside, no flag was raised, with Decker instead skipping forward and netting to steal his side the three points at the death.
City had had no luck in the day’s earlier contest either, Peter Kratky’s U20 side suffering a 4-2 defeat at the hands of Box Hill’s U20s in the day’s curtain raiser.
Nick Edwards opened the scoring for Box Hill in the 12th minute of that contest, before an in-form Sam Morrison tied things up for City in the 23rd minute.
Darcy Hall and Greg Siamoa then added to Box Hill’s lead before the interval and Edwards made the lead 4-1 when he grabbed his brace in the game’s 74th minute.
Dennis Menelaou grabbed a late consolation goal for City from the spot in the 80th minute, the game ending 4-2.
The result was not kind to Davey van ‘t Schip’s U18 squad in their fixture on Sunday, going down 8-1 to FC Bulleen Lions in the top of the table clash in NPL’s U18 Eastern Conference.
City’s U15 were the lone bright spot for City in the weekend’s action, recording a 3-2 win over the 15s of FC Bulleen Lions in their clash at the Veneto Club.
Ibraheem Kassaby opened the scoring for the Lions in the 9th minute of that contest, before Dante Avian netted things back up only five minutes later.
Avian would grab his brace and give City the lead in the 25th minute, with City’s lead then extended to 3-1 when Bulleen’s Blake Pearson inadvertently turned the ball into his own net just on the stroke of halftime.
A 50th-minute penalty from Kassaby gave the Lions some semblance of hope as the contest wound down, but they were unable to follow through, the scoreline finishing 3-2.