Warren Joyce's tenure as Melbourne City Head Coach got off to an ideal start as the defending Westfield FFA Cup champions advanced to the Round of 16 with a 2-0 win over Peninsula Power on Tuesday night.
Stefan Mauk capped off his return to the Club with a neat header to open the scoring on the stroke of half-time, before Bruno Fornaroli put the icing on the cake in the dying stages to seal City's progression to the next round of the tournament.
For Joyce's men, it's a passing grade in the first competitive test of the new-season against a Peninsula outfit who performed admirably in front of an electric 4,117 home fans at Dolphin Park.
A third consecutive clean sheet to start the campaign for City will no doubt inspire confidence, but sterner tests lie ahead between now and the beginning of the A-League season in October.
Joyce placed his faith in an experienced starting XI to mark his first competitive domestic fixture, making four changes to the team which triumphed 2-0 over Bentleigh Greens last week.
Goal-scorer Mauk lined up in an advanced midfield role for his first City start since returning to the Club on loan, joining Dean Bouzanis and Michael Jakobsen as inclusions into the side.
New signing Scott Jamieson made his competitive debut for the Club in his favoured left-back position, while Bruce Kamau also came in to the starting line-up on the right wing after returning from international duty with the Australian U’23’s.
Not surprisingly, City asserted its dominance right from the get go, firmly pinning the hosts inside their own half with a sustained period of possession.
The opening stages proved to be a little scrappy as Peninsula set their stall out to contain a dangerous City strike force consisting of Fornaroli, Kamau and the red-hot Nick Fitzgerald.
It was a tactic which worked for the most part as the hosts defended stoutly and restricted City to a flurry of corners and half-chances in the opening stages.
Backed by a vocal home support, the Power were always going to be a threat on the counter-attack and nearly gave the defending champions an almighty scare in the 15th minute as dangerman Charles Mendy found himself in acres of space in-behind the City defence.
A brilliant first touch took him into the penalty area, but a golden opportunity for the hosts went begging as the striker smashed his effort into the side netting.
City remained patient in possession and slowly began chipping away at the Peninsula defence. Fornaroli went close with a blistering effort that sailed over the bar before turning provider for Neil Kilkenny, who could only steer a golden chance into the arms of Power ‘keeper Jake Reesby from six yards.
The half appeared to be drifting towards a sedate close until City were eventually rewarded for their patience with the all-important goal on the stroke of half-time.
Kilkenny was the chief architect, looping a delightfully weighted ball into the path of Mauk. The midfielder then showed bravery to ride a collision with the onrushing Reesby and nod his header into the back of the net.
The goal proved to be Mauk’s final contribution for the evening, who was replaced by Luke Brattan at the break after coming off worse for wear in the aforementioned collision with Reesby.
City looked to hammer home the advantage after the break, with Reesby denying Fornaroli sharply with an outstretched boot, while Fitzgerald flashed another dangerous effort only inches away from the upright.
Holding on to a slender one-goal advantage, City breathed a sign of relief in the 77th minute when Dean Briggs rattled the crossbar with a thunderous effort that left Bouzanis stranded. The hosts piled on the pressure in the latter stages in search of a ticket back into the contest, but Fornaroli snuffed out any chances of a late comeback in stoppage time, sweeping home a swift counter-attack to send City into the next round.
Westfield FFA Cup – Round of 32
Tuesday 1 August 2017
Peninsula Power 0
Melbourne City FC 2 (Stefan MAUK 45+2, Bruno FORNAROLI 90+2)
Kick-off time: 7:30pm (AEDT)
Venue: Dolphin Stadium, Redcliffe
Referee: Lara Lee
Melbourne City FC: 1. Dean BOUZANIS (GK), 2. Manny MUSCAT, 3. Scott JAMIESON, 6. Osama MALIK, 7. Nick FITZGERALD (14. Daniel ARZANI 80’), 8. Neil KILKENNY, 11. Bruce KAMAU, 13. Stefan MAUK (Luke BRATTAN 46’), 21. Ruon TONGYIK, 22. Michael JAKOBSEN (C), 23. Bruno FORNAROLI (37. Nathaniel ATKINSON 90 +3’)
Substitutes not used: 20. Eugene GALEKOVIC (GK), 12. Braedyn CROWLEY,
Head Coach: Warren JOYCE
Peninsula Power: 1. Jake REESBY (GK), 3. Matthew BOYD, 4. Daniel CUNHA (17. Michael BAIRD 89’), 5. David SALIN, 8. Jared AUSTIN (25.Joshua WOOLLEY 65’), 9. Charles MENDY, 10. Thomas STRICKLAND, 11. Richard HURLIN, 18. Shaun FEUERRIEGEL (2.Myles CARSELDINE 46’), 21. Dean BRIGSS
Substitutes not used: 7. Andre BONOTTO, 22. Matthew Carr
Head Coach: Aaron PHILIP