Melbourne City FC has kicked off their 2018/19 Hyundai A-League season in style, with a 2-1 come-from-behind Melbourne Derby win over Melbourne Victory in front of 40,504 fans at Marvel Stadium on Saturday night.
Victory opened the scoring in the 28th minute through Keisuke Honda, when the Japanese international finished truly with a brilliant header.
Fellow marquee-man Ritchie De Laet then equalised in the 40th minute when he pounced on Florin Berenguer’s missed penalty which was tapped into the post by Lawrence Thomas and then rebounded back out to the stand-in City captain.
In the 70th minute City took a 2-1 lead as second-half substitute Riley McGree scored his first league goal in City blue with his first touch of the match, following a brilliant through ball by Luke Brattan.
Warren Joyce’s men will look to extend their winning start to the season when they travel to Central Coast Stadium to face the Mariners next Saturday afternoon.
New recruits Ritchie De Laet, Lachlan Wales, Florin Berenguer and Kearyn Baccus were all selected to make their Hyundai A-League debuts in City colours, as 15-year-old Idrus Abdulahi was named on the bench.
In Scott Jamieson’s absence, Head Coach Warren Joyce handed De Laet the captain’s armband.
Under the closed roof of the newly re-named Marvel Stadium, it was City who wrestled the early ascendency.
On two occasions inside the opening five minutes the boys in City blue were able to dispossesses their cross-town rivals and attack the space left behind on the right wing.
The first of those chances came when Kearyn Baccus won the ball in midfield before playing Ritchie De Laet into space, the Belgium international utilised the space in front of him before his cross was eventually blocked. Although his cross was blocked, City’s intent to use the 29-year-old’s pace was on display early.
Two minutes later, Brattan was fouled by Corey Brown – who was consequently shown a yellow card – before again using the right-wing to play Lachlan Wales into space. Wales attacked the middle of the park before moving the ball to Baccus, whose shot from the edge of the penalty area was blocked.
On the 10th minute mark Eugene Galekovic was called into action when Terry Antonis’ attempted cross from the left-wing was headed goal bound. The City ‘keeper was quick to backtrack and tip the ball over the cross bar and away for a corner.
De Laet would again display his quality by nutmegging Antonis on the wing before finding Wales in the box and then producing a neat backheel which was cleared by a scrambling Victory defence.
On the 19th minute mark Keisuke Honda stepped over his first dead ball for the night. The Japanese legend then whipped in a dangerous ball that bounced before the approaching pack and straight into the hands of Galekovic, a welcome site for the City faithful.
Moments later City responded when Harrison Delbridge combined with Florin Berenguer, before the latter played a brilliant attacking through ball to Bruno Fornaroli. The Uruguayan out muscled his opponent before getting a toe to the ball which was well-saved by a desperate Lawrence Thomas in goal.
Despite City’s early chances, it was Melbourne Victory who took the lead in the 28th minute through Honda. Storm Roux picked up the ball on the right wing before playing a dangerous cross into the area which was met by the marquee man who headed truly, leaving Galekovic with no chance.
Less than a minute after falling behind Joyce’s men looked to level the scores. Luke Brattan played a dangerous cross into the area from a set-piece which was met by Iacopo La Rocca, whose towering header flew over the crossbar.
In a game that ebbed and flowed, Antonis had a chance to make it 2-0 to the home side but his half-volley was fired straight into the gloves of Galekovic.
With nine minutes remaining in the half, the noise inside Marvel Stadium lifted to another level as a VAR Review took place.
Bruno Fornaroli did exceptionally well to hold the ball up against three Victory defenders before he was eventually fouled by Corey Brown, which was initially deemed to be on the edge of the penalty area. After a three-minute delay, Kurt Ams reviewed his decision and reversed his initial call, handing City a penalty and a golden opportunity to square the ledger.
New signing Florin Berenguer stepped up to take the spot kick, sending the ball to Thomas’ left, the keeper produced a brilliant save before De Laet stormed through to bury the rebound and ensure that City entered the break all square at 1-1.
Much like the first period, the second period started with neither team able to hold possession.
After 20 minutes without a decent attacking threat from either side, James Troisi sprung the game alight with an effort from 20 yards which was fired into Galekovic’s right upright.
Joyce responded immediately, replacing Anthony Caceres with attacker Riley McGree.
Moments later, McGree would hand City a 2-1 lead with his first touch of the match. Luke Brattan played a delightful ball piercing Victory’s defence and finding McGree, who then produced a clinical first-time finish beating Thomas at his near post.
Six-minutes later Galekovic was called into action as Honda’s long-range shot took a wicked deflection forcing the ‘keeper to backtrack and tip the ball over the crossbar and behind for a corner.
In the 84th minute, De Laet again found space on the right before firing a dangerous ball across the 18-yard-box, which just beat Fornaroli for pace.
With five minutes of regulation time remaining Anthony Lesiotis made his league debut, replacing Wales on the right side of midfield.
City shot-stopper Eugene Galekovic proved to be the hero in extra-time, denying both Melbourne Victory and James Troisi from equalising with an incredible save to secure the three points for the boys in City blue.
City will look to extend their winning streak when they travel to Central Coast Stadium to face the Mariners next Saturday, 27 October, kick-off 5:35pm. On Friday, 2 November, City will host their first home fixture for the 2018/19 season in a blockbuster double header with City’s Women against Sydney FC at AAMI Park.