A record-breaking hat-trick to Bruno Fornaroli fired Melbourne City FC to an emphatic 3-0 win over Sydney FC at AAMI Park on Saturday night.
In a match critical to boosting City's hopes of achieving a Finals position, Fornaroli etched himself into the history books with a sensational match-winning treble, becoming the first player to score 20 goals in the Hyundai A-League regular season – eclipsing the previous record of 19 held by Besart Berisha and Shane Smeltz.
What is all the more impressive is the fact there are still five matches of the regular season to play.
After going goalless in his previous two matches, the Uruguayan was back to his devastating best against the Sky Blues, terrorising an inexperienced defensive line-up with his intelligent movement, expert hold up play and lethal finishing ability.
The result sees John van’t Schip’s side consolidate its position inside the top four of the league table, moving five points clear of sixth-placed Sydney ahead of a crucial away trip to in-form Adelaide United next week.
Harry Novillo was named in a near full-strength starting line-up after returning from a Club imposed suspension, while Jacob Melling returned to the centre of midfield as City lined up in an unfamiliar 4-4-2 diamond formation.
Defender Connor Chapman was named amongst the substitutes for the first time in three months after recovering from a MCL tear in his right knee.
van’t Schip’s men headed into the clash knowing a win would create a comfortable buffer over Sydney on the league table, but it was the visitors who were on the front foot early, enjoying the lion’s share of possession during a cagey opening to proceedings.
Graham Arnold’s men had the ball in the back of the net after only ten minutes when Filip Holosko fired past Matt Simon’s cushioned header past Thomas Sorensen, but the strike was correctly ruled out for offside.
Osama Malik was a towering presence as the defensive anchor of City’s midfield diamond, but spurned a golden opportunity to open the scoring only a minute later, skewing his volley wide after being found unmarked in the area by a pin-point cross from Bruno Fornaroli.
The Sydney defence had to be at their best to clear a wicked cut-back from the marauding Ivan Franjic out of danger as City looked to gain a foothold in the match, while Sorensen had to be alert to keep out a driven shot from Ali Abbas at the other end.
Abbas and Holosko then fired warning shots both high and wide of Sorensen’s goal as the Sky Blues crafted some dangerous opportunities in attack, but it was Vedran Janjetovic's intervention at the other end which proved to be pivotal for the visitors.
It was a fingertip save from the goalkeeper which diverted a stinging drive from Fornaroli away from the top corner, before a goal-line clearance prevented the Sky Blues from bundling home the resulting corner from Aaron Mooy for an own goal.
Scoreless for two consecutive league matches, Fornaroli was determined to find his name on the scoresheet once more; a feat he managed to achieve in superb fashion only four minutes before half-time as City executed an exquisite counter-attack.
A dangerous Sydney set-piece was hoofed clear by Novillo into the path of Fornaroli, who put the afterburners on when confronted with young defender Aaron Calver.
The Uruguayan then offloaded to the onrushing Mooy, who returned the favour with a teasing cross to the back post which Fornaroli buried home with a sumptuous first-time volley to give City the lead.
Holosko should have done better with a header that scraped the outside of the post from Abbas’s teasing cross, while Brandon O’Neill fizzed a free-kick wide on the cusp of half-time as City entered the break with a slender advantage.
The second-half proved to be a more open encounter as Sydney began to chase the game. Matt Simon directed a tame header into the arms of Sorensen only three minutes after the restart, while Janjetovic stood tall to smother Fornaroli’s attempted chip immediately at the other end.
Janjetovic had to be at his very best to claw out a stinging drive from Mooy after some neat link-up with Novillo outside the area, until Fornaroli sent AAMI Park in to raptures with a goal that typified pure centre-forward play.
Receiving a delightful pass from Novillo inside the penalty area, it was a moment where time seemed to halt as Fornaroli stopped, swivelled and buried an emphatic finish past Janjetovic to double the lead.
It was party time when Fornaroli completed his hat-trick eight minutes from time, coolly slotting home Michael Zullo’s cross at the back post to fire John van’t Schip’s side to a massive three points.
Hyundai A-League Round 22
Saturday, 5 March 2016
Melbourne City FC 3 (Bruno FORNAROLI 41', 71', 82')
Sydney FC 0
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Referee: Jarred Gillett
Melbourne City FC line-up: 1. Thomas SORENSEN (GK), 2. Alexander WILKINSON, 5. Ivan FRANJIC, 8. Aaron MOOY, 9. Harry NOVILLO (Paulo RETRE 89’), 19. Benjamin GARUCCIO, 23. Bruno FORNAROLI, 24. Patrick KISNORBO (C), 25. Jacob MELLING (Nick FITZGERALD 46’), 29. Anthony CACERES (Michael ZULLO 70’), 33. Osama MALIK
Substitutes not used: 20. Dean BOUZANIS, 4. Connor CHAPMAN,
Yellow cards: Malik 37’, Kisnorbo 39’, Garuccio 73
Red cards: nil
Sydney FC line-up: 1. Vedran JANJETOVIC (GK), 4. Zachary ANDERSON, 5. Matthew JURMAN, 7. Andrew HOOLE, 8. Milos DIMITRIJEVIC (C), 10. Milos NINKOVIC, 13. Brandon O’NEILL (Michael TAVARES 74’), 18. Matthew SIMON (Shane SMELTZ 70’), 21. Filip HOLOSKO, 22. Ali ABBAS (Robert STAMBOLZIEV 62’), 25. Aaron CALVER
Substitutes not used: 20. Ivan NECEVSKI, 16. Riley WOODCOCK,
Yellow cards: Hoole 80’
Red cards: nil