Melbourne City continued their stellar run of form on Sunday evening, romping home to defeat Adelaide United 5-0 in front of 8,103 fans at AAMI Park.
A Daniel Arzani masterclass combined with a double from Marcin Budzinski to give City a 2-0 lead going into half time, before a three minute brace from Dario Vidosic and a 97th minute, 25-yard peach from Ross McCormack saw City storm home for the 5-0 win.
Despite the heavy score line, Adelaide were not completely dominated throughout the contest, occasionally threatening; but for the most part the Reds lacked a killer edge going forward.
City's win was soured however, by what appeared to be a significant injury to Nathaniel Atkinson late in the second half. The budding star being stretchered off with what appeared to be a serious injury to his left leg.
Head Coach Warren Joyce made two changes to the side that took a point off the Central Coast Mariners in Gosford last time out.
Nick Fitzgerald and City's late game hero Budzinski returned to the Starting XI, replacing Harrison Delbridge, who was suspended after receiving a straight red card for his challenge on the Mariners Blake Powell last week, and McCormack, who didn’t train all week after suffering an Achilles injury against the Mariners.
City had the first chance of a tepid opening in the seventh minute of the contest, Dario Vidosic sliding a ball in behind the Reds defence and into the path of Fitzgerald, only for the City left winger to be prevented from shooting by a magnificent sliding challenge from the Reds’ Jordan Elsey.
That it was the best chance of the opening stages spoke to the timidity of the games start, with neither side showing much sense of dare or dashing in the early stages, instead showing caution as they probed each other for an opening to exploit.
It was not until the fifteenth minute that the game would see another clear chance, Reds’ striker Apostolos Stamatelopoulos charging down and dispossessing Michael Jackobsen as the City captain was caught waiting under a high ball in the City defence, before finding himself one-on-one with City keeper Dean Bouzanis.
Stamatelopoulos shot was poor however, directed directly at Dean Bouzanis who collected the ball between his legs.
It would then be the turn of the Reds to commit a defensive lapse, Ersan Gulum slipping at a crucial moment in the 19th minute to allow Budzinski to get clean through on goal.
Gulum would show great hustle in his recovery however, sliding in at the last possible moment with a pinpoint tackle to prevent City’s Polish marquee from shooting.
Four minutes later some clever work by Vidosic in the centre of the park would free Fitzgerald on the left to run at the Reds’ defence.
Fitzgerald would run free to the edge of the box, before launching a shot that flashed across the face of goal and out for a goal kick.
Building on their early promising attacks, City would finally make the breakthrough in the 30th minute, when teenage superstar Daniel Arzani would prove the catalyst for yet another City goal.
Collecting the ball on the right, the 19-year-old would dazzle two Reds’ defenders before squaring the ball to Budzinski at the top of the penalty area.
Budzinski would take a touch before blasting an effort goalward, the ball taking a deflection that left Reds’ keeper Daniel Margush completely out of position before eventually nestling itself in the back of the net.
City’s Polish marquee wasn’t done however, and five minutes later the striker would grab his second.
The move to create it started after Fitzgerald broke down the left wing, cutting inside before looping a cross towards a waiting Vidosic at the top of the six-yard-box.
Opting not to shoot, Vidosic would instead direct a header in the direction of an onside Budzinski inside the six yard box.
Budzinski’s first effort would be deflected back into play by Margush, however the Reds’ shotstopper could do nothing about Budzinski’s follow up effort that found the back of the net and made it 2-0 to City.
The Reds were clearly coming off second best as the first half progressed, lacking a creative spark going forward that appeared capable of breaking down the City backline of Nathaniel Atkinson, Bart Schenkeveld, Jakobsen and Scott Jamison.
In contrast, Arzani was proving to be an absolute dynamo for City going forward in attack.
Making just his fourth A-League start, Arzani was giving the Adelaide defenders fits every time he went near the ball, twisting and twirling in possession and looking like creating something every time he went forward.
Adelaide would muster one late chance going into half time, Daniel Adlung launching a curling effort goalward, only to be denied by Bouzanis.
Seconds after the second half restart, Arzani would reaffirm that tonight was definitely the Daniel Arzani Show, bursting down the right wing past a sluggish Adelaide defence before squaring a ball into the penalty area that deserved better than Fitzgerald's mishit shot.
The Red’s would have their first attack of the half in the 53rd minute, 20-year-old Ryan Strain all too easily waltzing through the centre of the City defence before launching a shot that was too close to Bouzanis, who saved easily.
Beginning to get themselves somewhat back into the contest, the Reds would go close again in the 66th minute, Strain playing a ball through the City defence to substitute George Blackwood – who’s shot was tipped wide for a corner by Bouzanis.
What was shaping as one of City’s brightest performances of the season took a dark turn two minutes later, when Atkinson went down following an awkward landing as he leapt to clear an Adelaide corner.
Play was held up for several minutes as City trainers rushed to the side of the 18-year-old, who had only recently signed a senior contract with City after his breakthrough performances over the past two months.
In distressing scenes, Atkinson was clearly in severe pain as he lay on the pitch, covering his face with his hands between puffs on the green whistle anesthetic as trainers immobilized his left leg before he was carried straight into the tunnel to a waiting ambulance to applause from the City and Adelaide fans in attendance.
Despite Vidosic going close to adding a third goal for City almost immediately after the restart of play, City appeared flat following the injury to Atkinson, the opportunity clearly there for the Reds to potentially pinch a late result.
Unable to capitalize however, the Reds instead found themselves put to the sword when City emerged from there stupor and added three late goals in the game’s final ten minutes.
Vidosic would grab the first, launching a world class shot from a Fitzgerald pass that gave Margush no chance as it screamed into the top corner.
He would follow it up moments later with his second, securing his first multi-goal game in a City shirt as he found himself with room at the edge of the box before sliding an effort into the bottom corner.
McCormack would put the cherry on the Sunday mere moments from the final whistle, receiving a ball from Mauk before launching an absolute gem of a shot from 25-yards-out into the top corner of the goal to make it five and grab his 14th goal in a City shirt.
City will have a short turnaround following tonight’s contest, returning to AAMI Park on Thursday night for an Australia Day Eve meeting with the Newcastle Jets, with kick-off slated for 7:50pm.
It’s shaping as a veritable six pointer for the two clubs, with four points separating the two sides on the table heading into the contest.