Melbourne City FC put in a resilient performance to record a hard-fought 1-1 draw with league leaders Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
After a tight opening period saw both sides enter the break on level terms, City found themselves ahead only two minutes after the restart when Harry Novillo capitalised on a calamitous error from Brisbane ‘keeper Jamie Young to open the scoring.
But it took a moment of quality from the home side to breach a resilient City defence as Henrique levelled the scores in the 70th minute, latching on to a superb pass from Thomas Broich before finishing coolly past goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen to give both sides a share of the spoils.
Deprived of host of first team players through injury, Head Coach John van’t Schip put his faith in a youthful back four to tackle an in-form Brisbane Roar attack.
With Aaron Hughes and Patrick Kisnorbo both on the sidelines, Jacob Melling shifted into an unfamiliar role in the centre of defence alongside Connor Chapman, while Jack Clisby lined up at left-back in place of Ben Garuccio.
Youth team graduate Matthew Millar made his starting Hyundai A-League debut on the right side of defence, with Paulo Retre moving back into midfield alongside Erik Paartalu and the returning Aaron Mooy. Corey Gameiro also made his first start of the season, replacing Steve Kuzmanovski on the right wing.
City’s makeshift defence was put to the test inside two minutes as Brisbane captain Matt McKay found space to shoot inside the penalty area, but his shot was beaten away by an alert Sorensen.
After starring for the Socceroos in the World Cup Qualifiers against Kyrgyzstan and Bangladesh, marquee man Mooy nearly made his mark with a trademark set-piece only two minutes later, whistling a free kick from the edge of the area just wide of the post, with Roar goalkeeper Jamie Young well beaten.
Gameiro was engaged in a tight tussle with Brisbane defender Shane Steffanuto from the outset, skipping past the left-back with a neat piece of skill before fizzing a warning shot wide of the post, as City applied pressure to Brisbane’s high defensive line in the early stages of the first half.
City were a constant threat from set-pieces as Paartalu rose highest to head a swinging corner from Mooy in the 20th minute, only for Jamie Young to produce a superb reflex save to palm the ball over the crossbar.
But Young nearly went from villain to hero only two minutes later as City failed to profit from a bizarre sequence of play. After lining up a long throw, the Brisbane ‘keeper lost his footing, with the loose ball rolling straight into the path of Fornaroli.
The Uruguayan then laid the ball off to the overlapping Mooy, who could only trickle his effort agonisignly wide of the open goal with Young well out of his ground.
Novillo then stung the palms of Young with a trademark run from the left, cutting inside Hingert and launching a blistering effort which the goalkeeper did well to beat out at the near post.
Young was twice called into action to prevent City from taking the lead, first backpedalling to tip over a swinging corner from Mooy, before palming Fornaroli’s looping header over the bar from the resulting set-piece.
Brisbane worked themselves into the contest in an open finish to the first half as Dimitri Petratos sent a powerful warning shot just wide of Sorensen’s right post, before Jamie Maclaren sent a header into the hands of the Danish goalkeeper after nipping ahead of Clisby at the back post.
After a goal-less first period, City nearly broke the deadlock immediately after the restart when Gameiro released Fornaroli through on goal with a well weighted chipped pass. The Uruguayan had Mooy in acres of space to his left, but launched an ambitious long-range effort which sailed wide of the target.
But the missed opportunity wouldn’t prove to be costly as Novillo capitalised on a moment of madness from Young to fire City into the lead. The Roar ‘keeper sent his goal-kick straight into the legs of an unsuspecting Daniel Bowles, but recovered to make an excellent diving save from Mooy’s effort.
Young quickly made amends from the ensuing scramble with a superb diving save to deny Mooy’s effort, but Novillo was quickest to react, pouncing on the loose ball to open the scoring.
German maestro Thomas Broich began to assert his influence on the contest, and it was no surprise to see his involvement when Brisbane levelled the scores in the 70th minute, picking out Henrique with a pin-point pass inside the penalty area.
The naturalised Australian did the rest, freeing himself with an exquisite first touch and rolling the ball past Sorensen for the equalising goal, as both sides picked up a deserved point.
Hyundai A-League Round 7
Friday, 20 November 2015
Brisbane Roar 1 (HENRIQUE 70’)
Melbourne City FC 1 (Harry NOVILLO 47’)
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Referee: Chris Beath
Melbourne City FC line-up: 1. Thomas SORENSEN (GK), 36. Matthew MILLAR (Ivan FRANJIC 58'), 4. Connor CHAPMAN, 25. Jacob MELLING, 22. Jack CLISBY, 18. Paulo RETRE (Stefan MAUK 75’), 6. Erik PAARTALU, 8. Aaron MOOY, 7. Corey GAMEIRO (David WILLIAMS 74’), 23. Bruno FORNAROLI, 9. Harry NOVILLO.
Substitutes not used: 20. Tando VELAPHI (GK), 19. Benjamin GARUCCIO
Yellow cards: Millar 18’, Chapman 39’, Retre 51’, Gameiro 63’, Franjic 82’
Red cards: nil
Brisbane Roar line-up: 21. Jamie YOUNG (GK), 19. Jack HINGERT, 14. Daniel BOWLES, 13. Jade NORTH, 3. Shane STEFFANUTO (James DONACHIE 78’), 23. Dimitri PETRATOS, 7. CORONA, 17, Matt MCKAY, 28. Brandon BORRELLO (HENRIQUE 58’), 9. Jamie MACLAREN (Javi HERVAS 66’), 22, Thomas BROICH
Substitutes not used: 38. Andre JANNESE (GK), 8. Steven LUSTICA
Yellow cards: Steffanuto 44’
Red cards: nil