A superb free-kick from Ross McCormack was enough to give Melbourne City FC a 1-0 win over a determined Wellington Phoenix outfit at AAMI Park on Saturday night.
With the scores deadlocked at 0-0 with under half-an-hour to play, the Scottish striker decided the contest with a moment of brilliance, smashing a free-kick in-off the post to ensure City maintained its perfect start to the season.
After three matches, Warren Joyce’s side have nine points and a goal difference of plus four. In addition to McCormack’s moment of magic, City’s third straight win was aided by another resolute defensive display which yielded yet another clean sheet.
It was an unchanged eleven from the Melbourne Derby that Warren Joyce brought into the Round 3 encounter with the Head Coach having a fit side to choose from.
The only change to the teamsheet saw Luke Brattan return to the bench for Ruon Tongyik.
The opening stages of the match saw both sides take a while to adjust to the greasy surface of AAMI Park as light rain hit AAMI Park.
The Phoenix were the first to come out of the blocks in terms of possession but it was City with the early chances.
A wonderful combination between Nick Fitzgerald and Bruce Kamau saw the latter find his way into the penalty area. His cutback to Scott Jamieson saw the fullback strike his effort well over the bar which began a series of chances for City.
Kamau would turn the provider for Fitzy’s chance minutes later as the number 7 blasted his volley 12 yards out as the hosts heaped on the pressure.
The momentum then turned towards the Nix in the latter stages of the half with the Kiwis coming closest through Ali Abbas. The Iraqi-Australia cut in onto his left foot on the right wing, blasting an effort towards Eugene Galekovic’s goal. The shot-stopper was on his game to thwart the effort to keep the scores level.
However, the best chance of the half almost came from the spectacular by McCormack as the Scotsman blazed an overhead volley from an inch-perfect Manny Muscat cross just over the bar.
Both sides continued to press in search for the game’s opening goal but found clear-cut chances hard to come by. McCormack fired another effort over the bar, while Abbas shot wide at the other end, but it was the Nix who came closest to breaking the deadlock near the hour mark.
Osama Malik’s intercepted pass in midfield and Phoenix forward Andrija Kaluderovic was played through on goal with just Galekovic to beat, only for the retreating Iacopo La Rocca to make a superb last-ditch intervention to put the ball out for a corner.
Vidosic headed the resulting set-piece goalward but was thwarted by Galekovic, and as the match got tighter and tighter, it looked as though a moment of brilliance would be the different between the two sides.
And with 23 minutes remaining on the clock, that’s exactly what happened. A dangerous City move came to a premature end as Bruce Kamau was felled some 30 meters out by Matthew Ridenton.
Up stepped McCormack, who vindicated his reputation as a set-piece specialist to smash home a thunderous free-kick which beat the wall, cannoned off Smith’s right hand post and into the back of the net.
Smith kept the Phoenix in the game with a brave diving stop to smother the onrushing Fitzgerald, while Krishna came agonisingly close to stealing a point for the visitors with a shot that cannoned off the upright, before Galekovic showed astute reflexes to tip Kaluderovic’s follow-up header around the post.
It’s our first away match of the season next Saturday night against Adelaide United at Coopers Stadium, kick-off 7.50pm. Our next home match is against Champions Sydney FC on Friday 3 November in a double header with our Women’s side against Victory.