A sensational late goal from Harry Novillo saw Melbourne City FC record a memorable 3-2 win over Western Sydney Wanderers in an enthralling clash at AAMI Park on Saturday night.
In a contest played at a ferocious pace and intensity, City made a dream start to the match in the eighth minute when Novillo lashed home a sensational free-kick from the edge of the penalty area.
League top scorer Bruno Fornaroli doubled City’s advantage in the 24th minute, dazzling the Wanderers defence with a series of twists and turns before curling an effort into the top corner to finish off a swift counter-attacking move.
Western Sydney pulled a goal back through Mitch Nichols in the 29th minute after the midfielders dipping effort squirmed through the gloves of Thomas Sorensen, and were on level terms on the hour mark when Aaron Hughes steered a dangerous ball into his own net.
Brimming with confidence after clawing back a two goal deficit, the Wanderers were relentless in attack but were met by a defiant Sorensen in the City goal. The goalkeeper continued his excellent run of form with another commanding performance, making a number of crucial second-half saves to keep the visitors at bay.
But it was Novillo who was the hero five minutes from time, completing his double with a sensational strike from outside the box to snap the Wanderers ten game unbeaten streak and move City within three points of the top of the table.
After registering a hard-fought 2-2 draw with a depleted squad against Sydney FC last week, Head Coach John van’t Schip welcomed the return of several key players to the starting line-up against the Wanderers.
Aaron Mooy and Erik Paartalu both returned to the starting line-up after recovering from their respective injuries, while Paulo Retre slotted in at right wing-back after completing his one match suspension.
Ben Garuccio also returned to the starting line-up at left wing-back, with Jack Clisby tucking in alongside central defenders Patrick Kisnorbo and Aaron Hughes as City persisted with a 3-5-2 formation.
Goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis also featured on the subsitutes bench for the first time since joining the Club from Western Sydney earlier this week.
Entering the clash as one of the form team's of the competition, it was the Wanderers who fashioned the first chance on goal in the fifth minute, with Dario Vidosic directing a tame effort into the arms of Thomas Sorensen after breaking clear in the penalty area.
The chance brought about an instant response at the other end when the dangerous Fornaroli found room to shoot on the edge of the penalty area, unleashing a curling effort just wide of Andrew Redmayne’s far post with the keeper well beaten.
City were full of verve and tenacity from the get-go and would find themselves ahead in sensational fashion after only seven minutes.
Given a free-kick in a dangerous position outside the penalty area after Wanderers skipper Nikolai Topor-Stanley was penalised for handball, most would put their money on dead ball specialist Aaron Mooy to be in charge of set-piece duties.
Instead it was mercurial Frenchman Novillo who stepped up to the plate, lashing a vicious free-kick past the Wanderers wall and Redmayne to give City a deserved 1-0 lead.
Redmayne had to be at his best only three minutes later to prevent City from doubling its advantage, showing excellent reflexes to tip Fornaroli’s header over the bar from close range, after Ben Garuccio’s pin-point cross found the Uruguayan unmarked in the area.
Western Sydney threatened in the final-third through evergreen striker Mark Bridge, who missed a golden opportunity to level the scores when he sprayed his free header wide of the far post, before forcing Sorensen to scramble backwards and tip an audacious chip over the crossbar.
The missed opportunities would prove to be costly for the visitors as City doubled its advantage with a sweeping counter-attack. A quick throw by Sorensen released Mooy in acres of space in the middle of the pitch, who played in Fornaroli with a neat through ball.
Isolated one-on-one with Wanderers right-back Jacob Pepper, the Uruguayan dipped his shoulder, twisted, turned and unleashed a curling effort past a despairing Redmayne into the top corner for his 12th goal of the campaign.
Despite finding themselves behind, the Wanderers were not disheartened and were soon back in the contest in the 29th minute. A neat through ball from Mark Bridge released Nichols one-on-one with Sorensen, whose dipping shot did just enough to evade the clutches of the goalkeeper before nestling in the back of the net.
Wanderers ‘keeper Redmayne was twice required to prevent his former side from extending its lead once more, first denying Fornaroli immediately after the goal with a superb save to push the Uruguayan’s header out of the bottom corner, before beating away a stinging drive from Mooy.
The second half proved to be more dominant for the Wanderers and could have been level in 52nd minute were it not for the awareness of Jack Clisby, who positioned himself well to make a crucial block from Nichols after some strong hold up play from Federico Piovaccari.
But the Wanderers persistence would ultimately pay off on the hour mark– albeit in unfortunate circumstances for City – when defender Aaron Hughes directed a difficult ball across the box past the stranded Sorensen to level the scores.
Western Sydney had the wind in their sails after equalizing but were unable to find a way past a determined Sorensen. The Danish shot-stopper made a sensational double save to keep the scores level, first parrying a thunderous effort from substitute Romeo Castelen, then recovering brilliantly to make a magnificent diving save at the near post from Bridge.
Sorensen and Castelen were engaged in an entertaining battle, with City’s number one making another brilliant save at his near post, before re-adjusting smartly to deny Vidosic’s deflected effort with a strong right hand.
Novillo came agonisingly close to putting his side in front once again in the 81st minute, but could only manage to fizz his effort into the side netting under pressure from the onrushing Redmayne.
But the Frenchman was wheeling away in celebration soon after, sending AAMI Park into raptures with the winning goal five minutes from time. It was another one of the winger’s trademark runs which worked wonders, jinking inside from the left and thrashing home a blistering effort past Redmayne and into the bottom corner.
Mooy nearly put the icing on the cake with an driving effort which sailed just wide of the post, but City had done enough to secure a memorable three points.
Hyundai A-League Round 14
Saturday, 9 January 2016
Melbourne City FC 3 (Harry NOVILLO 8’,85’, Bruno FORNAROLI 24’)
Western Sydney Wanderers 2 (Mitch NICHOLS 29, Aaron HUGHES 60’ [OG])
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Referee: Jarred Gillett
Melbourne City FC line-up: 1. Thomas SORENSEN (GK), 3. Aaron HUGHES (Jason TRIFIRO 74’), 6. Erik PAARTALU, 8. Aaron MOOY, 9. Harry NOVILLO, 18. Paulo RETRE, 19. Ben GARUCCIO (Michael ZULLO 57’), 22. Jack CLISBY, 23. Bruno FORNAROLI, 24. Patrick KISNORBO (C), 25. Jacob MELLING (David WILLIAMS 68’)
Substitutes not used: 20. Dean BOUZANIS (GK), 17. Wade DEKKER
Yellow cards: Novillo 28’ Clisby 34’, Zullo 69’, Retre 84
Red cards: nil
Western Sydney Wanderers line-up: 3. Scott JAMIESON, 4. Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY (C), 6. Mitch NICHOLS, 8. Dimas DELGADO, 9. Federico PIOVACCARI (Romeo CASTLELEN 57’), 10. Dario VIDOSIC (Golgol MEBRAHTU 77’), 17. Alberto AGUILAR, 18. ANDREU, 19. Mark BRIDGE, 20. Andrew REDMAYNE (GK), 21. Jacob PEPPER.
Substitutes not used: 30. Liam REDDY (GK), 15.Kearyn BACCUS, 22. Jonathan ASPROPOTAMITIS
Yellow cards: nil
Red cards: nil