Melbourne City FC continued their excellent pre-season form with a dominant 5-0 win over NPL Victoria side North Geelong Warriors at JL Murphy Reserve on Friday night.
A long-range thunderbolt from Marc Marino fired City into an early first-half lead, as John van’t Schip’s men seized total control of the match against a defensive-minded North Geelong outfit.
Connor Chapman doubled the advantage with a back-post header five minutes after the restart, before Christopher Cristaldo, Wade Dekker and Stefan Mauk each netted in a frenetic three minute burst to seal a comprehensive win.
With a Westfield FFA Cup Quarter-Final against Heidelberg United in just three weeks’ time, van’t Schip opted to field a starting XI with a blend of youth and experience.
Experienced goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen made his eagerly anticipated debut between the posts, while youngsters Marino, Ali Eyigun, Stefan Zinni and trialist Callum Richardson all started alongside a host of first team regulars.
And it only took 15 minutes for City to assert themselves on the scoreboard. A neatly worked short corner from Zinni found Marino with space to shoot outside the area, who superbly fired a thunderbolt past the hapless Daniel Zilic into the top-corner.
Despite dominating possession throughout the first half City had to be wary of the counter-attacking threat posed by their NPL opponents, with Richardson making a superb last-ditch tackle to deny a rare North Geelong attack inside the penalty area.
Marino was a constant thorn in the side of the North Geelong defence, linking up brilliantly with Robi Koren and forcing Zilic into an excellent save at the near post as City looked to hammer home their advantage.
Defender Jack Clisby was nearly rewarded with a bursting attacking run in the 37th minute, receiving a neat pass from Koren inside the penalty area before rattling the post with a stinging effort.
City had a golden chance to double the lead in the 37th minute when a superb dinked pass from Bruno Fornaroli sent Stefan Zinni clear on goal, but the youngster couldn’t keep his feet after rounding goalkeeper Zilic with ease.
And City were nearly made to pay for their error on the stroke of half time when Juso Julardzija was played through on goal, only to blast his effort high and wide of Sorensen’s goal despite being in an excellent goal-scoring position.
van’t Schip made multiple changes during the second half, with Cristaldo, Chapman, Tando Velaphi, Stefan Mauk, Denis Genreau, Wade Dekker, Steve Kuzmanovski and Dylan Pierias all entering the fray as substitutes.
Mauk made an impact only minutes after coming on the pitch, directing a header straight into the arms of Zilic, before teeing up Chapman at the back-post to make it 2-0 in the 50th minute.
Cristaldo wasted a golden opportunity to make it 3-0 only moments after, blazing over the crossbar from close range after Zilic made an excellent save, then came agonisingly close to turning home Fornaroli’s chipped pass at the back post.
But it proved to be third time lucky for Cristaldo in the 77th minute, latching on to an excellent through ball from Mauk and burying his effort past Zulic, before Dekker finished in similar fashion to make it 4-0 and cap off a scintillating three minute period.
Mauk capped off an impressive second half-cameo with a goal ten minutes from time, coolly sending Zilic the wrong way from the penalty-spot to secure another impressive pre-season win.
North Geelong Warriors 0
Melbourne City FC 5 (Marc MARINO 15’, Connor CHAPMAN 50’, Christopher CRISTALDO 77’, Wade DEKKER 79, Stefan MAUK 80’ [pen])