Despite recording an away, 2-1 win over Adelaide United, Melbourne City’s Y-League campaign has come to an end after results elsewhere conspired to deny them progression to yet another Y-League Grand Final.
A goal from the Reds A-League capped Young Socceroo Apostolos Stamatelopoulos after just three put City behind the eight ball on Friday afternoon, Head Coach Joe Palatsides’ side needing to secure points to stand any chance of advancing to the youth league’s decider.
Veteran A-League player Dario Vidosic – playing in the Y-League as part of his ongoing rehabilitation from a hip injury – was able to restore parity in the 17th minute, however, giving City everything to play for as they headed into the halftime break locked at 1-1.
Labouring diligently in search of a winner, City was rewarded for their efforts in the 85th minute when Dylan Pierias knocked in a cross from Stefan Colakovski to secure the win.
Nevertheless, it proved not enough for City, as Brisbane Roar’s 2-0 defeat of Melbourne Victory in their meeting on Friday evening ensured that it was the Queenslanders, and not City, that advanced to the campaign’s decider on goal difference.
With Moudi Najjar and Ramy Najjarine called up for City’s A-League clash with Wellington Phoenix, Palatsides was forced to reshuffle his XI for the trip to the City of Churches.
James Delianov returned to the XI between the posts, while Vidosic took up a position in the attack.
Young midfielders Gianluca Iannucci and Luke Duzel also returned to City’s XI for the do-or-die clash.
Making a rehabilitation start of his own, Stamatelopoulos gave the Reds the best possible start at the Marden Sports Complex, meeting a set piece lofted into the penalty area from 2017/18 Y-League Player of the Year Louis D’Arrigo with a super volley in just the third minute of play.
City, though, responded with quickfire chances in the ninth and 11th minute of play, but neither Pierias or Iannucci were able to bring the game back level with their efforts.
Stamatelopoulos created another chance for the Reds in the 11th minute of play when he broke through on goal, only for Delianov to tip his resulting shot out for a corner.
Nonetheless, refusing to be denied, City forced the game back into equilibrium six minutes later when Vidosic pounced on a wayward shot inside the penalty area and poked in from close range.
Noah Smith would attempt to fire the Reds back into the lead with a headed effort from a corner in the 24th minute before City responded with chances to Lucas Portelli, Pierias and Iannucci.
Carlo Armiento had a golden chance to give his side the lead when he found space at the top of the six-yard box in the 40th minute, only to direct his effort straight at Delianov.
Duzel, Vidosic and Portelli would create further chances for City early in the second half, with the newly introduced Aladdin Irabona creating the best chance for Adelaide up the other end.
Making a big impact after his introduction, Irabona thought he had put his side ahead in the 70th minute of play when he received a ball from fellow substitute Domenic Costanzo, rounded Delianov and poked home.
However, the referee promptly waved the goal way; declaring that Irabona had inadvertently carried the ball over the touchline as he rounded City’s goalkeeper.
It proved to be a costly mistake from Irabona, as 15 minutes later it was City, not Adelaide, that took the lead when Pierias smashed a low cross in from Colakovski to win the game for Palatsides’ boys.
Thanks to the Roar’s win over Victory, City’s Y-League season has come to an end, finishing second on the table thanks to the Queenslanders superior goal difference.
City’s thoughts will now turn to the upcoming NPL Victoria season; opening their NPL2 Eastern Conference campaign against Langwarrin SC on 16 February.