Melbourne City FC led twice but were held to a 2-2 draw by a resilient Perth Glory outfit at nib Stadium on Saturday night.
With a win in Perth enough to push John van’t Schip’s side into second place on the Hyundai A-League table, City opened the scoring in the 31st minute through midfielder Erik Paartalu, only for Diego Castro to level proceedings with a superb free-kick on the stroke of half-time.
City regained the lead immediately after the restart when Aaron Mooy fired home following a neat pass from Bruno Fornaroli, but the Glory showed great determination to fight back once more when Chris Harold bundled home the equaliser on the hour mark.
Three minutes after the equaliser, City were given a boost when Perth defender Jacob Collard received his marching orders for a second bookable offence, but were unable to capitalise on the numerical advantage as both sides earned a share of the spoils.
After an impressive 3-2 win over Western Sydney last week, Head Coach van’t Schip only made a solitary change to the starting line-up that faced the Wanderers, with Michael Zullo making his first start since Round 2 in place of Ben Garuccio on the left side of defence.
Looking to register a first win on Western Australian soil in five matches, City nearly made the perfect start after only five minutes through the damaging combination of Fornaroli and Novillo
Receiving possession on the edge of the area, Novillo played a neat one-two with his strike partner before releasing the Uruguayan on goal with a clever through-ball, but Perth keeper Ante Covic stood up tall to make a crucial save.
The Glory threatened immediately down the other end when Gyorgy Sandor released full-back Josh Risdon inside the penalty area with a perfectly weighted through ball, only to be denied by City stopper Thomas Sorensen, who raced out bravely to smother the danger.
Both sides exchanged goal-scoring opportunities in the opening ten minutes, with City defender Aaron Hughes flashing a free header wide of the target, before Sorensen showed great awareness to punch a dangerous cross from Risdon away from the oncoming Aryn Williams.
In-form winger Diego Castro was proving to be a nuisance on the left hand side for Perth and nearly broke the deadlock in spectacular fashion after 15 minutes, cutting inside the challenges of Patrick Kisnorbo and Paulo Retre before curling an effort narrowly wide of the post.
Despite City’s dominance of possession, the Glory were a constant threat on the counter attack and created a number of clear-cut chances to open the scoring – two of which fell to speedy attacker Harold.
The Glory winger wasted a golden opportunity to open the scoring in the 28th minute when he blazed a shot over the crossbar following some excellent hold up play from Andy Keogh in the penalty area, before being denied by a superb one-on-one save from Sorensen after latching on to a clever ball from Castro.
Perth would rue their inability to finish in-front of goal only three minutes later when Erik Paartalu ghosted into the penalty area to fire City into the lead.
After seeing an initial free-kick cleared by the home side, midfield maestro Mooy played in a delightful first-time ball with his left foot, catching the Glory defence off guard and allowing Paartalu to toe-poke an effort past a stranded Covic.
A superb last-ditch tackle from Collard prevented City from doubling its advantage in the 37th minute when the Glory defender threw himself in the path of Fornaroli’s goal bound effort, while the Uruguayan was a studs length away from latching on to Novillo’s driven cross a minute before the interval.
But a moment of magic from Castro ensured that both sides would enter the half-time interval on level terms, with the Glory midfielder curling home an unstoppable free-kick past Sorensen and into the top corner with virtually the last kick of the half.
While the home side may have struck a cruel blow at the end of the opening period, it was City who restored its advantage immediately after the restart.
A brilliant piece of hold up play from Fornaroli saw the striker twist and turn away from the Perth defence, before playing a superb chipped through ball into the path of Mooy. Under immense pressure from Williams, the Socceroos midfielder showed great composure to bring the ball down and fire his effort home past Covic via the outstretched leg of Risdon.
Despite being on the receiving end of a number of heavy challenges, wounded City ‘keeper Sorensen showed no signs of weakness and played a pivotal role in keeping the scores level, closing down the angle superbly to block a powerful shot from Mitchell Oxborrow.
Determined to extend his lead at the top of the golden boot chart, Fornaroli was a dangerous threat whenever he received possession in the final third. Such is the Uruguayan’s confidence at present, he nearly produced the goal of the season with an audacious effort from half way which had a relieived Covic scrambling back towards his goal.
The home side continued to fight for a way back into the match and their resilience paid off with the equalizing goal before the hour mark. Keogh displayed his ability once again with a nice piece of control inside the penalty area and launched an effort which cannoned into the thigh of Harold, who bundled home the rebound to level the scores.
However the Glory’s joy would be short lived when defender Collard received his marching orders for a second yellow card for kicking the ball away after the whistle.
But aside from a powerful Paartalu header that was scooped off the line by Marc Warren in stoppage time, City were unable to make its numerical advantage count against a spirited Perth outfit playing to keep its finals hopes alive.
Hyundai A-League Round 15
Saturday, 16 January 2016
Perth Glory 2 (Diego CASTRO 45’, Chris HAROLD 60’)
Melbourne City FC 2 (Erik PAARTAU 31’, Aaron MOOY 47’)
Venue: nib Stadium, Perth
Referee: Ben Williams
Melbourne City FC line-up: 1. Thomas SORENSEN (GK), 3. Aaron HUGHES, 6. Erik PAARTALU, 8. Aaron MOOY, 9. Harry NOVILLO, 11. Michael ZULLO (Ben GARUCCIO 69’), 18. Paulo RETRE (David WILLIAMS 75’), 22. Jack CLISBY, 23. Bruno FORNAROLI, 24. Patrick KISNORBO (C), 25. Jacob MELLING (Jason TRIFIRO 77’)
Substitutes not used: 20. Dean BOUZANIS (GK), 17. Wade DEKKER.
Yellow cards: Clisby 23’, Paartalu 45’, Garuccio 80’, Trifiro 86’
Red cards: nil
Perth Glory line-up: 1. Ante COVIC, 3. Marc WARREN, 7. Gyorgy SANDOR, 9. Andy KEOGH (Jamal REINERS 68’), 13. Diogo FERREIRA, 14. Chris HAROLD (Richard GARCIA 77’), 17. Diego CASTRO, 18. Mitchell OXBORROW, 19. Joshua RISDON, 25. Jacob COLLARD, 29. Aryn WILLIAMS
Substitutes not used: 12. Jerrad TYSON (GK), 15.Hagi GLIGOR, 10. Nebojsa MARINKOVIC
Yellow cards: Collard 30’, 63’, Williams 78’
Red cards: Collard 63’