Melbourne City FC were denied a gritty away win in heartbreaking fashion as Western Sydney Wanderers struck late to secure a 1-1 draw at Spotless Stadium on Friday night.
It was a highly anticipated clash between two of the competition’s most fluent footballing sides. Combine City’s free-scoring attack with the Wanderers recent woes in defence, and the crowd at Spotless Stadium were anticipating goals, goals and more goals.
Yet the first half couldn’t have turned out any more different. Clear goal scoring opportunities were few and far between for both sides as the Wanderers retained majority of possession during the opening half.
City remained a danger with every foray forward and had a first sight on goal inside the opening 15 minutes as Osama Malik blazed a volley over the crossbar.
Ivan Franjic was a constant outlet on the right side of defence and stung the palms of Jerrad Tyson with a thunderous effort soon after, but the match lifted in the dying seconds of the first half as both sides had golden opportunities to find the back of the net.
An unconvincing punch from Tyson saw the ball fall to the feet of Bruce Kamau, who saw his shot cleared off the line by the Wanderers defence, before Neil Kilkenny made a crucial intervention at the other end to prevent Scott Neville’s header from reaching its target.
A knock to the ribs saw Dean Bouzanis’ night come to an early end, with Thomas Sorensen coming on at half-time to make his first appearance since the opening day of the season.
The Great Dane appeared to have been beaten in the 51st minute as Wanderers striker Kerem Bulut wheeled away in celebration after finding the back of the net, but his goal was ruled out for offside.
Replays may have suggested the Wanderers striker to be harshly adjudged offside, and it proved to be a critical point in the match as City opened the scoring only four minutes later.
A lovely ball from Fernando Brandan found Tim Cahill at the back post, who took the ball past Tyson with an expert touch before tapping the ball home into an empty net to score the Club’s 250th Hyundai A-League goal.
The goal proved to be an instant settler as City seized control of the match. It looked like Cahill’s winner would be the decisive moment, until the unfortunate Kilkenny turned the ball into his own net with just seconds remaining.
The result sees City remain in second place, five points from the summit ahead of a home clash against Wellington Phoenix next week.
It was written in the stars for Tim Cahill to score on his return to his hometown. With the scores locked at 0-0, the Socceroos striker found space at the back post to latch on to a teasing cross from Fernando Brandan.
An expert touch took Cahill around Wanderers stopper Jerrad Tyson, before he steered the ball into an empty net to give City the lead.
It was a knockout blow for the Wanderers, who had just seen Kerem Bulut’s goal ruled out for offside only minutes before.
Man of the Match
Neil Kilkenny was the hub of the City engine room with another tireless display in the centre of the park.
The midfielder was outstanding in the holding midfield role, dropping in to cover for his central defenders and providing an effective shield in-front of the back four.
His eye for a pass didn’t go unnoticed, either, with a passing accuracy of 90% displaying his efficiency in recycling possession during City’s most dominant periods.
It was another polished display from Kilkenny, who was desperately unlucky to have turned home the Wanderers equalising goal at the death.
It’s a return to home comforts next week as City prepare for its first double header of the season at AAMI Park.
The Club’s record-breaking Women’s team will battle it out for local bragging rights in the W-League Melbourne Derby, before John van’t Schip’s side aim to return to winning ways against Wellington Phoenix.
Match Stats thanks to SAP
Hyundai A-League – Round 7
Western Sydney Wanderers 1 (Neil KILKENNY OG 92’)
Melbourne City FC 1 (Tim CAHILL 55’)
Venue: Spotless Stadium, Sydney
Referee: Chris Beath
Melbourne City FC: 20. Dean BOUZANIS (GK) (Thomas SORENSEN 46’), 2. Manny MUSCAT, 5. Ivan FRANJIC, 6. Osama MALIK (Connor CHAPMAN 61’), 8. Neil KILKENNY, 10. Anthony CACERES, 11. Bruce KAMAU, 17. Tim CAHILL (Luke BRATTAN 65’), 22. Michael JAKOBSEN, 23. Bruno FORNAROLI (C), 27. Fernando BRANDAN (Nick FITZGERALD 86’)
Substitutes: 12. Nick FITZGERALD, 18. Paulo RETRE
Yellow cards: Muscat 8’, Malik 47’
Red cards: nil
Western Sydney Wanderers: 1. Jerrad TYSON (GK), 3. Jack CLISBY, 6. Mitch NICHOLS, 8. DIMAS, 9. Kerem BULUT, 10. Nicolas MARTINEZ, 12. Scott NEVILLE, 13. Bruno PINATARES, 14. Jumpei KUSUKAM, 17. Artiz BORDA, 22. Jonathan ASPROPOTAMITIS
Substitutes not used: 20. Andrew REDMAYNE (GK), 5. Brendan HAMILL, 15. Kearyn BACCHUS, 16. Jaushua SOTIRIO, 23. Lachlan SCOTT
Yellow cards: Bulut 67’
Red cards: nil