Melbourne City FC continued its Westfield FFA Cup Final preparations in ideal fashion with a 2-1 win over Wellington Phoenix at AAMI Park on Sunday afternoon.
City took a first-half lead just before the break when Nick Fitzgerald's long-range strike deflected off Wellington defender Marco Rossi and into the back of the net. The visitors levelled from the penalty spot on the hour mark after Roy Krishna netted the rebound from Dean Bouzanis' penalty save, but City claimed all three points from a spot-kick of their own when Bruno Fornaroli fired past Glen Moss in the 71st minute to seal the result.
The result sees John van't Schip's side close to within four points of league leaders Sydney FC, ahead of Wednesday's tantalising Westfield FFA Cup Final against Graham Arnold's side at AAMI Park.
City almost got off to the perfect start in the first minute as a teasing cutback from Ivan Franjic saw Antony Caceres’ effort trickle agonisingly wide of the post via a deflection off the Phoenix defence.
The home side set the tone in the early stages, forcing Glen Moss to make a crucial point-blank save after eight minutes and the New Zealand international was in fine form throughout the contest.
Wellington’s calls for a penalty were waved away by referee Kurt Ams as Connor Chapman’s nod back to Dean Bouzanis saw a clash between the two under some fierce pressure from Roy Krishna, but the scare did not phase John van’t Schip’s side who continued to push for the opener.
Chances to Fitzgerald and Brattan saw Moss called upon once again for the visitors, who was powerless to stop the former from opening the scoring on the stroke of half-time with a strike which took a wicked deflection before nestling in the back of the net.
The tempo of the match somewhat eased as the sides returned for the second half, as the Nix pressed on in search of the equalising goal.
A tug of the shirt from Franjic saw Kosta Barbarouses drop in the penalty area to give the visitors a life-line from the penalty spot. Roy Krishna’s initial effort was brilliantly saved by Dean Bouzanis, but the striker reacted quickest to bundle home the follow up and level the scores.
With parity restored, Wellington retreated and headed back into their shell, as City freshened up the match with the introduction of Socceroos striker Tim Cahill.
Cahill played a key role in the lead up to the penalty as his chase-down opened the door for Caceres to find Fornaoli who was felled by Rossi.
Despite a hand by Moss from the spot, City restored their lead and almost conceded minutes after as a fine save from Bouzanis across the area was cleared to safety by Neil Kilkenny.
City were made to hold their breaths in the final minutes of the match as Andrew Durante found himself with an open net after 87 minutes. The powerful cutback across the area beat the outstretched leg of the centre back with the Phoenix only inches away from a late point.
It was three points for City however as the home side picked up the deserved win as they continued preparations for the Westfield FFA Cup Final with an important three points.
Man of the Match
Neil Kilkenny continued his impressive start to the season with another outstanding performance as the midfield general.
Playing in the number six role with our back four in place this week, the more advanced position allowed the midfielder to advance and play more of a role in the build up as well as playing a key defensive role as well.
The only negative for him is that he will miss Saturday’s clash with Brisbane after accumulating five yellow cards in the league.
Well, if you don’t know what’s next, then you have been living under a rock! The Westfield FFA Cup Final looms for van’t Schip’s men on Wednesday as they prepare to battle for their first piece of silverware.
In the league, it’s Brisbane next Saturday night at AAMI Park but there is no doubt that the focus will be on the cup final with the side in recovery mode after the short turnaround.
Don’t miss history and get your tickets to the Westfield FFA Cup Final 2016 now! Click here to secure your place at the match.
Hyundai A-League – Round 8
Melbourne City FC 2
Wellington Phoenix 1
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Referee: Kurt Ams
Melbourne City FC: 20. Dean BOUZANIS (GK), 3. Joshua ROSE, 4. Connor CHAPMAN, 5. Ivan FRANJIC, 8. Neil KILKENNY, 10. Anthony CACERES, 12. Nick FITZGERALD, 22. Michael JAKOBSEN, 23. Bruno FORNAROLI (C) (11. Bruce KAMAU 80’), 26. Luke BRATTAN (9. Nicolas COLAZO 76’), 27. Fernando BRANDAN (17. Tim CAHILL 66’)
Substitutes not used: 1. Thomas SORENSEN, 2. Manny MUSCAT
Yellow cards: Colazo 81', Kilkenny 83', Chapman 88'
Red cards: nil
Head Coach: John VAN’T SCHIP
Wellington Phoenix: 1. Glen MOSS (GK), 2. Jacob TRATT, 4. Rolieny BONEVACIA (11. Hamish WATSON 83’), 7. Guilherme FINKLER (23. Matthew RIDENTON 86’), 8. Alex RODRIGUEZ, 9. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 12. Adam PARKHOUSE (16. Louis FENTON 73’), 13. Marco ROSSI, 17. Vince LIA, 21. Roy KRISHNA, 22. Andrew DURANTE
Substitutes not used: 20. Lewis ITALIANO (GK), 5. Ryan LOWRY
Yellow cards: Rodriguez 39', Tratt 65', Finkler 68', Rossi 69', Durante 69', Parkhouse 72'
Red cards: nil
Head Coach: Ernie MERRICK