Melbourne City FC have surged into top spot of the Hyundai A-League table with a scintillating 3-0 win over Wellington Phoenix on a record-breaking Easter Monday at AAMI Park.
City’s lethal strike force was at it once again, with Harry Novillo opening the scoring on the stroke of half-time with a sensational half-volley after a neat combination with Bruno Fornaroli.
A second-half penalty doubled City’s advantage when Michael Zullo was brought down inside the area by Albert Riera, which Fornaroli eventually converted after Phoenix ‘keeper Glen Moss made a brilliant save from the initial effort.
But it was City’s third goal which brought the 9,895 strong crowd to its feet, with Fornaroli unleashing a magnificent curling effort into the top corner to become the first player to score 22 goals in an A-League season.
It was a record-breaking evening to cap off the Easter festivities, with John van’t Schip’s side setting a new record for most goals scored in a regular A-League season, while Novillo’s strike saw the Club become the first ever team to have three players score 10 goals in a single season.
The result leaves City top of the league table on 44 points, level with second-placed Brisbane Roar but superior on goal difference ahead of a testing trip to Perth next week.
With Socceroos duo Aaron Mooy and Alex Wilkinson away on international duty, Head Coach van’t Schip made only two changes to the side which swept aside the Roar 3-1 last week, with Anthony Caceres and Connor Chapman coming into the starting line-up.
Chasing a fourth consecutive win for the second time this season, City made an energetic start to proceedings, with talismanic striker Bruno Fornaroli once again at the heart of the home side’s attacking play.
The Uruguayan stung the palms of Moss in the ninth minute with a fizzing low shot from outside the area, before forcing the Phoenix ‘keeper into a brilliant save only two minutes later after a mazing run into the penalty area.
City were full of verve and purpose in the final third but nearly paid the ultimate price when Roy Krishna capitalised on a slip from Ben Garuccio, however the Fijian international displayed signs of rust in his return from injury with a shot that curled wide of the post.
The pace and trickery of Novillo was causing all sorts of problems for the Phoenix defence, with the Frenchman leaving Dylan Fox red faced with a neat turn before forcing Moss into another fine save at the near post.
But it was the lethal partnership of Novillo and Fornaroli which broke the deadlock two minutes before half time, combining to devastating effect with a genuine contender for goal of the season.
A sumptuous one-two between the pair saw Fornaroli dink a sumptuous chipped pass into the path of Novillo, who unleashed a perfectly timed half volley past a despairing Moss and into the top corner.
The second-half began as the first had ended as City continued to make inroads in the final third. Moss prevented Fornaroli from doubling the lead with another fine reaction save, while Thomas Sorensen was called into action for the first time to keep out a stinging drive from Hamish Watson.
Wellington’s misery was compounded in the 64th minute when Albert Riera conceded a penalty for a foul on Michael Zullo. Fornaroli blasted his initial effort at Moss, who managed to keep it out, only for the striker to tap home the rebound.
With all three points arguably sewn up, Fornaroli continued his record-breaking exploits in stunning fashion 10 minutes from time, controlling Nick Fitzgerald’s pass before burying a curling effort into the top corner to give City a crucial advantage in the race for the Premiers’ Plate.
Hyundai A-League Round 25
Monday, 28 March 2016
Melbourne City FC 3 (Harry NOVILLO 43’, Bruno FORNAROLI 64’, 80)
Wellington Phoenix 0
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Referee: Chris Beath
Melbourne City FC line-up: 1. Thomas SORENSEN (GK), 4. Connor CHAPMAN, 5. Ivan FRANJIC, 9. Harry NOVILLO, 11. Michael ZULLO, 19. Benjamin GARUCCIO (Jack CLISBY 72’), 23. Bruno FORNAROLI, 24. Patrick KISNORBO (C), 27. Nick FITZGERALD, 29. Anthony CACERES (Paulo RETRE 86’), 33. Osama MALIK (Jacob MELLING 55’)
Substitutes not used: 20. Dean BOUZANIS (GK), 26. Marc MARINO
Yellow cards: Chapman 84’
Red cards: nil
Wellington Phoenix line-up: 1. Glen MOSS (GK), 2. Manny MUSCAT, 4. Roly BONEVACIA, 10. Michael MCGLINCHEY, 13. Albert RIERA (Alex RODRIGUEZ 73’), 16. Louis FENTON, 17. Vince LIA, 18. Benjamin SIGMUND (Dylan FOX 12’), 21. Roy KRISHNA (Blake POWELL 46’), 22. Andrew DURANTE (C), 26. Hamish WATSON
Substitutes not used: 20. Lewis ITALIANO (GK), 3. Justin GULLEY, 5. Troy DANASKOS,
Yellow cards: Krishna 31’ Riera 40’, Bonevacia 69’
Red cards: nil