NPL Wrap: Derby disappointment for seniors, but juniors roll on

Melbourne City’s Academy sides have suffered another mixed weekend, with victories to City’s U15, U18 and U20 sides soured by the NPL seniors 5-1 defeat to rivals Melbourne Victory in the Youth Melbourne Derby.

Despite the eventual heavy defeat, it was City that started the brighter of the two sides in the senior contest with Yasin Nur, and Luke Duzel both going close to opening the scoring in the game’s initial stages.

It was Marko Delic that converted City’s eventual breakthrough when in the 13th minute the powerful striker would bustle a defender off the ball, beat another as he cut inside, launching a powerful shot just inside the far post to put City up 1-0.

City and Victory would trade chances following the goal, Birkan Kirdar forcing a good save from James Delianov from a powerfully taken free-kick while Mitch Graham blasted just wide as City looked to counter.

In the 27th minute, however, it was Kirdar that made the next breakthrough when he produced a magnificent solo effort to bring scores level. Collecting the ball on the right, the Victory attacker would shrug off the attention of City left-back Mark Karlic and advance goalward, dance past an attempted sliding challenge from central defender Lucas Portelli and slot a shot past a diving Delianov from an acute angle to level the scores.

Spurned back into action, City would create a number of excellent chances as they looked to retake the lead, well and truly taking control of the game as the first half wound down.

Delic, Josh Cavallo – who started at center-back in a rejigged City backline – and Duzel would all create chances, but they were all for naught, as head coach Joe Palatsides’ side were unable to convert their dominance into goals as the first half concluded.

When Yusuf Ahmed, who had been on a rich run of goalscoring form heading into the contest, went close to scoring in the 48th minute it appeared that City was poised to carry over their dominance from the first half – but the Victory had other ideas.

Working the ball down the wing in the 50th minute, Jonathan Vakirtzis whipped a dangerous ball into the area that City was unable to get in front of. The ball fell to Brandon Lauton, who converted the simplest of tap-ins to give his Victory side a 2-1 lead.

A golden chance for City to equalize – Ahmed winning a penalty just moments after the game had been restarted – was then squandered by the hosts when Victory keeper Majak Mawith produced a stunning, one-handed diving save to deny Josh Cavallo from the spot.

That moment proved the turning point in the contest, with a Victory side with their tails up and an increasingly fatigued City side combining to create a perfect storm of Victory dominance.

Denied two minutes earlier after he would have a one-on-one effort saved, Lauton would secure his brace and a 3-1 lead for the Victory in the 72nd minute, when he broke down the left wing, cutting back inside before sliding a perfectly placed shot past Delianov.  

Jack Palazzolo would add a fourth for the Victory in the 79th minute when he headed in a Benjamin Carrigan cross; as discipline began to break down for City.

A frustrated Portelli received a red card for dissent in the aftermath of Palazzolo’s effort, before fellow centre-back Cavallo would launch a clearly rash challenge and receive a straight red two minutes later.

A Palazzolo goal following a penalty area scramble in the 84th minute would complete the rout for the Victory, who departed La Trobe with the three points.

Despite the loss, City retains the third position on the NPL2 Eastern Conference table – their healthy goal difference enough to keep them ahead of the fourth-placed Springvale White Eagles, who drew equal with City on points after a draw with Sunshine George Cross.

The going was a bit better for City’s U20s in their clash with the Victory, Peter Kratky’s side bouncing back from their 2-0 loss to Langwarrin SC the previous week to record a comfortable 3-1 win over their Victory counterparts.

The contest was locked at a goal apiece heading into the halftime break thanks to late strikes from both sides; City’s George Gerondaras scoring in the 42nd minute and the Victory’s Liston Diaz responding in the 44th.

A 79th-minute effort by Billy Skliros would then go on to give City a 2-1 lead; before Giovanni Stellitano sealed the result for the hosts with an 87th-minute strike.

The win means that City’s U20s, who have won four of their last five, have overhauled the Goulburn Valley Suns for the third position on the U20 NPL2 Eastern Conference table, with their sights now set on the top two of the Eastern Lions and Springvale White Eagles.

City’s U15s and U18s both experienced triumphs in their Saturday contests, vanquishing foe Nunawading City at Mahoney’s Reserve.

Simon Zappia’s U15 side recorded their third win on the bounce, scoring a 2-0 win over Nunawading’s U15s.

Although City stayed in the fifth position on the NPL U15 Eastern Conference despite the win, the vital three points mean that City has stayed in touch with the league-leading Bentleigh Greens and South Melbourne. 

Davey van ‘t Schip’s U18s were even more convincing in their defeat of Nunawading, putting nine goals past their hapless opponents en route to a 9-1 win.

Jordi Valadon, Lucas Byrns and Darcy Anastovski (who has ten goals this season) all grabbed solo goals in the contest, whilst Thomas Pisani and Maxwell Branov both notched hat-tricks as their side extended their lead atop the NPL U18 Eastern Conference table with their eighth win in a row.

Photo: Dion Fountas Photography