Melbourne City FC shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw with Sydney FC on Saturday night as David Villa scored off the bench in his debut for the Club.
In the opening match of the season for Melbourne City FC, there were plenty of positive signs in the first half, with James Brown rattling the crossbar in the early minutes and Damien Duff registering a solid display.
But it was Graham Arnold’s Sydney FC who opened the scoring early in the second half, when Corey Gameiro curled in a stunning goal less than 10 minutes after the restart.
However, substitute and World Cup winner Villa demonstrated his exquisite ability and eye for goal, coolly slotting home a Duff cutback to draw the sides level and earn Melbourne City FC a point away from home.
Missing Jason Hoffman through suspension, and Jonatan Germano, Connor Chapman, Robert Koren and David Williams through injury, Head Coach John van’t Schip had four Melbourne City FC debutants in his starting XI – with Erik Paartalu, Brown, Aaron Mooy and Duff, while Ross Archibald was handed his first start for the Club.
With Villa commencing the match on the bench, van’t Schip utlised Brown, Mate Dugandzic and Duff across the front three.
And those three combined early in the first half to create a number of fantastic openings, but failed to find the opening goal.
The first opportunity arose through some quick thinking from central defender Robbie Wielaert, who unleashed an unmarked Duff down the right wing in the fourth minute.
Travelling with the ball to the by-line, the former Irish international cut back to Brown who fired in a great shot, which beat Sydney FC ‘keeper Vedran Janjetovic – but not the cross bar – and ricocheted back into play.
Shortly afterwards, Mooy won the ball with a tackle, sliding it out to Massimo Murdocca and the diminutive midfielder broke out from midfield, slipping in Brown who chipped a ball over Sydney FC’s defence.
Mooy – who had played the initial pass – just failed to connect to Brown’s clever ball, after running over 60 metres for the return pass as Melbourne City FC looked to dominate early.
It was Sydney’s turn to threaten down the other end in the 11th minute, as in-form 21-year-old striker Corey Gamerio looked to curl an effort in from the left on his right boot, but Melbourne City FC ‘keeper Andrew Redmayne was equal to it.
Mooy then went close, firing in a low free-kick which bounced awkwardly in front of Janjetovic and the Sydney keeper was forced to push the ball wide.
Melbourne City FC’s best chance of the first half fell to Dugandzic in the 20th minute as Sasha Ogenovski swung and missed a forward pass and the Melbourrne City FC striker snuck behind the defence.
But Dugandzic, playing as a central striker, dragged his effort wide of the mark.
Dugandzic tested Janetovic shortly afterwards, as the keeper dived to his left to save a stinging half volley from just outside the area.
Sydney FC captain Alex Brosque looked to slice open Melbourne City FC’s defence in the 33rd minute but Nick Carle blazed his effort over the bar.
The home side conjured another half-chance in the 39th minute as Brosque again broke down the left, whipping a dangerous ball into the penalty area for George Blackwood, but Melbourne City FC captain Patrick Kisnorbo cleared with a diving header.
The first half fizzled out as both sides entered the break at 0-0, but the second half came to life as Villa entered the fray for Brown eight minutes into the second half.
But Sydney FC were the first to take control of the match as Carle broke through the midfield and fed Gameiro. The young striker then found space and curled in a superb effort into the far top corner of the net, with an outstretched Redmayne unable to deflect the effort away from goal
Villa responded less than 10 minutes later, with Murdocca and Duff combining to set up the Spanish World Cup winner.
Duff’s clever work on the right wing saw him play a ball to the top of the penalty area, where the energetic and eager Villa controlled superbly with his first touch, before burying the chance low past Janjetovic with a clinical finish.
More chances fell to both teams, with Terry Antonis going closest on two separate occasions – once with a powerful strike in the 65th minute that Redmayne required two bites to take the sting out of the ball and cover it safely - and then in the dying minutes of the match, crashing an incredible shot from distance onto the crossbar.
Hyundai A-League Round 1
Saturday 11 October 2014
Sydney FC 1 (Corey GAMERIO 54’)
Melbourne City FC 1 (David VILLA 63’)
Attendance: 25, 525
Referee: Peter GREEN