NPL Wrap: Junior sides continue stellar runs

Melbourne City’s NPL side had it’s run of defeats stretch to five on Saturday afternoon, going down 3-1 to Nunawading City at LaTrobe University. The results were better for City’s other junior sides, however, with City’s U20, U18 and U15 sides all recording wins.

Despite the eventual loss, it was City that took the lead in the weekends senior clash; Yasin Nur putting his side ahead after only eight minutes of play.

With City pressing hard, Nunawading goalkeeper Jordan Franken found himself with the ball at his feet inside his penalty area without options to give the ball off to. Nur would then apply pressure to Franken, forcing him to attempt to put his foot through the ball and find space.

His long pass would be blocked by Nur, however, who calmly collected the loose ball and slid it into the back of the net to give City an early lead.

City, once again without their scholarship players and also missing Yusuf Ahmed – who wasn’t risked after picking up in a niggle in training during the week – had the best of the game in its first 30 minutes, Kristian Bombaci, Connor Metcalfe, and Nur all having good chances to extend City’s lead.

Nunawading for their part was kept in the game in the first half by their new signing Fahid Ben Khalfallah.

The former Melbourne Victory and Brisbane Roar man was the catalyst for almost all of Nunawading’s chances in the opening thirty minutes – going close to opening their scoring himself in the 24th and 27th minutes.

City nevertheless was unable to continue their hot start, and Nunawading began to impose themselves on the contest as the first half wound down.

Borbor Sam went close to equalizing for his side in both the 31st and 37th minutes, his first effort saved by James Delianov and his second clattering off the woodwork and back into play.

City would produce one half-chance to go 2-0 up as the first half wound down, Gianluca Iannucci and Connor Metcalfe combining down the left to open up the Nunawading defence, only for their attack to sputter out as Nunawading defender Kai Miyakawa cleared the ball for a corner.

Nunawading’s control of the game was then extended into the second half, with the away side finally making the breakthrough to go level only two minutes after play resumed.

It was, much to the chagrin of City fans that have probably had enough of him over the journey, Ben Khalfallah that got the goal that brought Nunawading back to level pegging.

Winning the ball just inside City’s half, Ben Khalfallah would advance freely through City’s lines, both the City midfield and defence failing to apply pressure to the veteran as he ran with the ball. With all the time in the world to tee up his shot, Ben Khalfallah placed a perfectly placed long-range effort into the bottom left corner of the goal and made it 1-1.

Nunawading would assert their control over the game from that point, Sam taking his lead from Ben Khalfallah and tormenting the City defense with his physicality.

He would set up striker Devon Bonne with a clear-cut opportunity in the 54th minute that was saved by Delianov, before going close himself in the 61st minute when he shrugged off the attention of Dalibor Markovic at the top of the penalty area before poking a shot wide.

Sam wouldn’t make the same mistake four minutes later though, producing a series of stepovers and feints to win space outside the City penalty area before blasting a long-range shot into the top corner of the goals to make it 2-1 to Nunawading.

City would produce a couple of chance to equalize; Metcalfe having a powerfully driven shot tipped over the bar by Franken in the 68th minute and Delic also denied by the Nunawading keeper in the 74th but were unable to truly force their way back into the contest.

Nunawading sealed it late in second-half stoppage time, Sam securing his brace with a close-range effort after Lee Gellis found him open in front of goal.

The loss means that City has slipped to fourth in the NPL2 Eastern Conference, with Springvale White Eagles draw with Moreland City enough to see them leapfrog City on the table.

The news was better for City’s U20s in their clash with Nunawading in the day’s curtain-raiser, Peter Kratky’s side running out 2-0 winners.

Sam Morrison, who had made his senior NPL debut the week before against the Altona Magic, put City ahead in the 21st minute of the contest before Dennis Menelaou killed off the game in the 88th minute with his eighth goal of the season.

Davey van ‘t Schip’s U18 squad continued their winning ways to stay atop the NPL U18 Eastern Conference table, grinding out a hard-fought win over the U18s of Langwarrin SC on Sunday afternoon at Parade College.

Zac Kocankovski opened the scoring for City before a Langwarrin comeback resulted in van ‘t Schip’s side being down 3-1 after 51 minutes of play. Thomas Pisani would get one back for City to make it 3-2, only for Langwarrin to again respond three minutes later to put City in a 4-2 hole.

City refused to die however, Daniel Lucente, Maxwell Branov, and Domenic Folino all grabbing goals as they produced a furious comeback to run out 5-4 winners and maintain a two-point buffer over second-placed Bulleen on the table.

City’s U15 side was also forced to claw out a result against Langwarrin, Simon Zappia’s side unable to capitalize on two first-half goals from Giorgio Serdenes and Max Caputo as they went into the halftime break down 3-2.

Second half goals from Kai Wenzel and Alexander Menelaou secured the result for City, however, who stayed in touch with the league leaders in the highly competitive NPL U15 Eastern Conference with the win.