Melbourne City’s Senior NPL side welcomes NPL2 Eastern Conference title challengers Moreland City to La Trobe University this Saturday, in what will be their penultimate home game of the 2018 NPL Season.
City was last in action on a rescheduled fixture on Tuesday evening, forced to field the youngest starting XI in the club’s senior NPL history in an eventual 3-1 loss to Springvale White Eagles thanks to numerous international call-ups.
Despite the youthful nature of the City line-up, signs looked promising for acting Head Coach Lachlan Armstrong’s side in the opening 15 minutes, the inexperienced side producing some promising link-up play and crisp passing in the opening ten minutes of the contest.
The promising early start culminated in the 16th minute for City; hitting the front after forcing a turnover in the White Eagle’s half.
Pouncing on an errant ball played out from the defence, Seb Kis never broke stride as he knocked the ball towards Tristan Patsiotis. Spying his teammates continued run, Patsiotis then played a ball through the White Eagle’s lines and into the path of Kis, allowing him to poke the ball past an onrushing White Eagle’s keeper James Burgess to give City the lead.
Bradley Chick almost put City 2-0 up in the 22nd minute from a Gianluca Iannucci corner, with the White Eagles then marching up the other end and having four back-to-back shots on goal that all somehow failed to find the target.
Isaiah Joseph followed with a long-range ping in the 24th minute to force City keeper James Delianov into an acrobatic save before Iannucci responded with a long-range effort of his own up the other end a minute later to force Burgess into a save.
Both sides were able to force other chances as the half wore down, Kis producing City’s best while Slaven Vranesevic went closest for the White Eagles in the dying moments of the half, but neither side were able to make a breakthrough; the closing stages of the opening stanza characterised by the White Eagles beginning to impose themselves on proceedings.
That dominance was pressed in the second half when play resumed, Nenad Nikolic going close to bringing his side back level in the 51st minute when his free kick from near the corner of the City penalty area crashed off the far post.
It harkened a half of football in which City was barely able to get out of first gear, a ruthless White Eagles outfit pressing them further and further back in search of an equaliser.
In the 79th minute, only two minutes after the White Eagles had been denied by City defenders quite literally hurling their bodies in the way of three successive shots, Springvale finally found the equaliser that the balance of play said they deserved.
While it wasn’t pretty, Damir Stoilovic was able to pounce on the ball after yet another desperate piece of defending by City to knock it in, ensuring that there would be no miracle escape for Armstrong’s young City side on that day.
Just under ten minutes later Stoilovic had his second to put his side ahead, finding enough space to launch a shot towards goal that Delianov was able to get a hand to, but wasn’t able to prevent rolling over the line.
Bonel Obradovic added a third with a close-range header in the 91st minute to seal the win for the White Eagles, a dominating final ten minutes ensuring the visitors took all three points from City.
City will now host Moreland City on a short turnaround this Saturday, Moreland desperate to claim three points to press their still not mathematically dead chance of securing automatic promotion over league-leading Dandenong City.
Moreland kept their hopes of overhauling the league pacesetters alive last weekend when they defeated Dandenong City 5-3 at CB Smith Reserve.
Their last meeting with City came back in April in Round nine, when a furious comeback from Moreland enabled them to steal a point with almost the last kick of the game, proceedings ending 2-2.
Moreland will be lead into the fixture by striker Apai Ukuno, who leads the NPL2 Eastern Conference with 15 goals so far on the season (although City’s Moudi Najjar is only a goal behind him on 14).
The two sides U20 outfits will also meet in the traditional curtain raiser prior to the senior’s clash on Saturday, City looking to back up a dominating 5-1 win over Springvale in which Sam Morrison and Giovanni Stellitano both grabbed doubles.
Moreland City’s U20s enter the fixture having defeated their counterparts from the NPLs other A-League side, downing the U20s of Melbourne Victory 2-1 at the Maribyrnong Sports Academy on Saturday.
Despite getting that win, Moreland’s U20s sit in the last position on the NPL2 Eastern Conference table, five points adrift of second-bottom Murray United with only three games remaining on the season.
In contrast, City’s U20s sit in the second position on the table, hoping that luck goes their way in the season’s three remaining fixtures to let them overhaul the five-point gap between themselves and first placed Eastern Lions.
City’s other academy sides will also be in action this coming weekend, the U15s and U18s making the short trip to Olympic Village to take on the junior sides of historical powerhouses Heidelberg United.
City’s U15s will kick off at the Village at 12.30 on Sunday, with the U18s to follow at 2.00 pm.
National Premier Leagues Victoria – NPL2 - Round 26
Melbourne City FC v Moreland City FC
Saturday 25 August 2018
Venue: La Trobe University – Pitch One, Bundoora, Melbourne, Victoria
Kick-off: U20s – 12.30, Seniors – 3.00pm