NPL Wrap: Positive signs, but City falls to Whittlesea Ranges

Melbourne City’s losing streak in the NPL2 now stands at six, with a much-improved performance from Joe Palatsides’ young group not enough to overcome a desperate Whittlesea Ranges on Saturday afternoon.

With City in the midst of a form slump and Ranges battling for survival at the bottom of the NPL2 Western Conference, proceedings began tentatively at La Trobe University as both sides took a conservative approach in the earlier stages.

Two quick corners from the Ranges gave the visitors their best chance of opening the scoring in the opening ten minutes, while a long-range toe-poke from Gianluca Iannucci was the best opening for City.

With neither side able to break into penetrating into the others penalty area for much of the opening half – the Ranges playing a high line and City’s young defenders doing a fine job of shutting down Ranges striker Jacob Colosimo – chances were slim.

A speculative effort from the Ranges Anthony Doig in the 11th minute summed up the lack of penetration of either side: the big midfielder opting to shoot from nigh on the halfway line in an audacious attempt to catch Daniel Smith off his line rather than try to play through the City backline.

Half chances to City’s Yusuf Ahmed – who made his return after not being risked the week prior with soreness – and Colosimo would then follow; before the Ranges were finally able to make a breakthrough late in the half.

Fittingly in a game that was anything but an attacking showcase for either side, the goal came not from the Ranges figuring out a way to play through the City backline, but instead from the young City defence lapsing in concentration.

Sloppy in possession as they looked to move the ball upfield in the 41st minute, City would turn the ball over to the Ranges Anthony Ramzy deep in their own half.

Advancing unimpeded toward the goal, Ramzy would look up to see Smith coming off his line and get his foot under the ball, deftly chipping the City goalkeeper and making it 1-0.

Shell-shocked by the late goal, City’s defensive discipline would then break down in the final minutes of the half, with disastrous results.

Scrambling the ball out for a corner after Smith had been forced into a save by Colosimo moments prior, City lost all defensive containment inside the penalty area as the Ranges took a short corner. Working the ball into the box, the Ranges would get the ball to Tobias Haegele, who was inexplicitly free on the edge of the six-yard-box, who duly made it 2-0.

Resuming after the halftime break, any hopes of the two late goals were dashed as the two sides once again settled back into a familiar rhythm.

Both sides would struggle to create any real chances in the second half, Aydin Mustedanagic eventually forcing a save from Smith in the 51st minute and Duzel launching a long-range effort in 71st to mark both sides best chances in a drab second half opening.

However, City – who had developed an unfortunate habit of fading in the second half of games during their losing run – eventually found themselves getting on top as the game wound down, Jordy Bos, Mitch Graham and Iannucci all having late chances for City to get something from the game.

It wasn’t to be, however, and City’s senior NPL side once again found themselves consigned to defeat when referee Alejandro Azcurra called time on proceedings.

Earlier in the day, City’s U20 side kept their unbeaten run as they came from behind late to record a 1-1 draw with the 20s of the Ranges.

Down 1-0 going into the final ten minutes of the contest thanks to an own goal from Harry Politidis in the game’s 45th minute, City pressed hard and was rewarded for their endeavour when they were awarded a penalty in the game’s 86th minute.

Whilst the initial shot was saved by Ranges keeper Gian Tapia, City’s Sam Morrison would react quickest to the ball as it rebounded back into play – pouncing on it and sliding the ball in to secure Peter Kratky’s a valuable point.