Melbourne City’s Youth staged a monumental comeback against Adelaide United on Sunday afternoon to keep their pursuit of a third straight Y-League Grand Final appearance alive.
City’s prospects at one point looked bleak at C.B Smith Reserve, with Adelaide United leading 2-0 after half an hour of play thanks to two goals in two minutes from Reds attacker Carlo Armiento.
Head Coach Joe Palatsides’ side refused to be curtailed, nevertheless, and cut the deficit in half just before halftime thanks to a fantastic solo effort from defender Dylan Pierias.
The momentum shifted City, despite losing Josh Varga to a second yellow card, then stormed home in the second half; goals to Stefan Colakovski and Moudi Najjar completing the come-from-behind victory.
After spending significant time training with the senior A-League side, Dylan Pierias returned to the Y-League in order to build up some match fitness.
Ahmad Taleb returned to the starting XI after making way for the now absent James Delianov the previous week.
In a back-and-forth opening, Adelaide fired the first shot in anger following when Yared Abetew played Ninko Beric through in just the third minute of play, only for the resulting shot to fly across the face of goal.
Pierias then created City’s first half-chance in the seventh minute of play, storming to the touchline and whipping a low cross that was frantically cleared by the Adelaide defence.
Beginning their best period of the contest as tensions between the two sides grew on 20 minutes, Adelaide almost took the lead in the 22nd minute when young attacker Pacifique Niyongabire deftly flicked a short corner over his head for Beric to head on goal; his resulting effort flying just over the crossbar.
Just a minute later, though, Adelaide did take the lead when Armiento stuck true.
Breaking through City’s lines, the attacker – who earned a call-up to Marco Kurz’s Boxing Day senior A-League squad off the back of the performance – slid his one-on-one effort past Taleb to make it 1-0.
Then, just 60 seconds later, he had a double; receiving the ball after the Reds forced a turnover deep in City’s half, spotting Taleb off his line and lobbing the young goalkeeper from long-range.
Staggered by the one-two combination thrown by Adelaide, City clamped down on proceedings in order to prevent further damage being inflicted, neither side able to create a clear chance on goal for almost 15 minutes.
Eventually, it was City that created that chance, and Pierias made sure it counted.
Collecting the ball on the halfway line and storming down the right, the young defender found his path to the byline blocked by a gaggle of red shirts.
In response, the 18-year-old cut the ball inside onto his left foot and lashed out with a shot from long-range that took a deflection – confounding Adelaide keeper Isaac Richards – and nestled in the back of the net to make it 2-1 heading into halftime.
Colakovski and Beric would both create early chances for their sides following the resumption of hostilities in the second half before City found a vital equaliser in the 53rd minute.
Picking the ball up in the centre of the park, Young Socceroo Josh Cavallo spied Colakovski – sporting newly blonde locks that he insists emerged prior to A-League player Luke Brattan’s – steaming down the right wing.
Letting loose with a pin-point cross-field lob, Cavallo put the ball on a plate for Colakovski in behind the Reds defence. The youngster, making great progress since returning from a serious ACL injury prior in the campaign, made no mistake with his resulting chance; sliding the ball past Richards to restore scores to an equilibrium with just under 40 minutes left to play.
Though they were increasingly in the ascendancy, City’s task was made harder in the 59th minute, nevertheless, when Varga – who had been booked late in the first half – received a second yellow card after sliding in late with a challenge; receiving his marching orders and forcing City to play the remaining half an hour with ten men.
Despite this numerical disadvantage, City continued to finish over the top in search of a winner: Pierias creating several chances and Cavallo and Colakovski also launching speculative efforts on goal.
Despite its brave efforts, Adelaide’s rear-guard action was unable to sustain itself under this City onslaught and broke in the 76th minute when caught on its heels by a swift counter-attack.
Bursting forward after an Adelaide free-kick was cleared, Pierias and Najjar found themselves moving towards the goal of Richards with only a single defender in their path.
Neutralizing him with a perfectly placed diagonal ball into the path of Najjar, Pierias then watched on as the City number nine calmly placed his a shot past the Adelaide custodian to complete the turnaround.
Fate almost threw up one last twist in the contest, nonetheless, when a desperate Reds attack in the 89th minute resulted in a ball floated into the penalty area for Aladdin Irabona.
For all intents and purposes, it appeared as the second-half substitute's header was set to find the back of the net until City goalkeeper Majak Mawith, who had entered the game as a half substitute for Taleb, leapt to his right and tipped the ball around the post for a corner – denying the Reds at the last.
With a week off to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s, City will next be in action on Friday, 4 January when they meet Melbourne Victory for the season’s second Y-League Melbourne Derby.
City won the first meeting between the two sides in convincing fashion, running out 4-1 victors.