Melbourne City FC marked its return to Hyundai A-League action with an entertaining and dominant 2-1 win over Western Sydney Wanderers on Sunday afternoon at AAMI Park.
Following a break in competition due to the AFC Asian Cup and the day following Australia’s triumph on the national stage, the domestic league recommenced in Round 15 for Melbourne City in front of a 7561 eager home fans.
Despite falling behind early to a Wanderers’ set piece, Melbourne City recorded a deserved 2-1 win as Jacob Melling first equalised , before man-of-the-match Aaron Mooy found a superb winner against his former Club.
It was only after conceding that Melbourne sprung to life, but never looked back as they dominated possession (58 per cent to the Wanderers’ 42) and registered 22 shots to the Wanderers’ 3.
Key to the home side’s dominance was a solid team performance and a number of outstanding individual performances, especially from Mooy – who set up the first and scored the second .
The result closes the gap on fifth-placed Sydney FC to three points, with Melbourne City FC a game in hand over Graham Arnold’s side.
John van’t Schip made a number of forced changes with Mate Dugandzic, Robbie Wielaert and James Brown out injured, while Tando Velaphi was suspended after he received his marching orders against Central Coast Mariners in Round 14.
Connor Chapman came back into central defence and Ben Garuccio occupied the left full back position, while van’t Schip had further defensive options in transfer window recruits Jack Clisby and Singaporean Safuwan Baharudin on the bench.
But it was the winless Wanderers, who arrived at AAMI Park with four points from 12 matches, who took a surprise early lead, as a curling Yojiro Takahagi free-kick evaded everyone in the six yard box and nestled into the far corner past ‘keeper Andrew Redmayne.
Melbourne City came into the match shortly afterwards and Damien Duff forced a decent near post save from Ante Covic’s in the 18th minute.
Shortly afterwards Melling handed Melbourne City a well-deserved equaliser, first working well to win a challenge in midfield before feeding Koren through, who in turn passed to Mooy and provided a perfect cross for Melling to rise in the box and head home.
By the 20 minute mark City were purring stage and created more chances, as Koren swivelled in the box and forced a fine save from Covic, before a succession of corners led to more chances in the Wanderers box, as Koren again tested Covic, this time from a close-range header.
The home side lost Garuccio in the 34th minute, following a positive run from the left-back ended in a jarring tackle with Brendon Hamil and the youngster was forced off as van’t Schip introduced Clisby for his Melbourne City debut.
That set-back failed to prevent Melbourne creating more chances as Chapman headed wide from a Duff cross, before Ramsay skied a shot from the penalty spot.
City entered the break with the momentum after 10 corners in the first period and a plethora of chances, and 27 seconds into the second stanza, the team started where they left off as Koren just failed to connect with a Ramsay cross.
Ramsay then forced another reaction save from Covic in the 47th minute, before the ever present Ramsay fired wide after a sensational deft back-heel from Mooy sent the winger through on goal.
Goal-scorer Takahagi gave Melbourne City another scare with a teasing set piece in the 57th minute, before a great effort from Koren beat an outstretched Covic, but not a back-peddling Tanaka, who headed clear off the line.
Substitute David Williams then cut back another chance for Ramsay who missed the chance to net an open goal in the 68th minute, but Mooy came to the rescue five minutes later.
After another dangerous build-up Williams squared to Mooy who took a touch and set himself to execute a fantastic curling shot past a helpless Covic.
Despite City creating further chances through a deflected Mooy effort and a rasping Koren shot in the dying stages, there were still nervous moments as four additional minutes were added and the Wanderers pushed for a late equaliser.
It was not to be for the visitors as the home side held on for a well-deserved three points.