Melbourne City have have started their Foxtel Y-League defence in style after being awarded the three points against Brisbane Roar in a match that was abandoned after 50 minutes of play due to a combination of pitch conditions and nearby lightning.
City dominated the first half of the game prior to its abandonment, finding themselves up three goals to nil at the time of abandonment thanks to goals from Denis Genreau, Braedyn Crowley and Ramy Najjarine and not allowing Brisbane to challenge City goalkeeper James Delianov in the first half.
It is the second time in two seasons that a Y-League game between the two sides has had to be abandoned due to adverse weather conditions, after last year’s clash between the two sides in Brisbane was also abandoned due to the hostile weather.
Coach Joe Palatsides ran out a strong side for City’s opening Y-League game, highlighted by the presence of a strong cohort of Australian U19 representatives in Daniel Arzani, Nathanial Atkinson, Josh Cavallo, James Delianov, Genreau and Najjarine.
Senior players Crowley and Ruon Tongyik, unused in the senior sides loss to Brisbane Roar on Friday night, were also starters for City.
With City’s senior head coach Warren Joyce watching on after flying back from Brisbane that morning, City came out firing from the opening whistle, immediately pressing high and putting the Brisbane defence on the back foot.
And the intense pressure bore fruit just three minutes into the contest, when Najjarine broke down the wing and crossed the ball into the Roar’s penalty area.
Throwing themselves in front of efforts from a City attack that was queuing up for shots on goal, the Roar defence eventually deflected the ball into the path of City captain Genreau.
The Australian U/19 Representative had his first shot on goal blocked, but his follow up effort stayed low and snuck into the bottom corner of the goal to give City the best possible start to the Y-League title defence.
The early goal set the tone for the game, with City establishing dominance quickly over their Roar opponents.
Rare Roar attacks failed to gain much momentum against the City defence, with their efforts at overloading the middle of the park and playing balls through the City lines either cut off or forced wide by Tongyik and fellow centre back Lucas Portelli and eventually cleared.
Up the other end, City wingers Arzani and Najjarine were giving the Roar defence nightmares, combining magnificently with wing-backs Atkinson and Jaiden Madafferi and frequently cutting inside and launching probing shots of their own.
Najjarine would go close to scoring twice, launching efforts in the 8th and 13th minutes that appeared destined for goal if not for some stellar goalkeeping from Roar keeper Macklin Freke, and Arzani would launch a 18th minute thunderbolt that would clatter off the bottom of the crossbar and somehow bounce back into play.
The pressure applied to the Roar defence was immense, and despite the best efforts of Freke and Roar left back Finn Beakhurst, who at times appeared to be the only thing preventing Najjarine from completely taking over the game, City eventually grabbed their second.
The move started with City Portelli. Collecting the ball just inside the Roar half the young centre back played a perfectly weighted lob across the length of the pitch to Arzani on the left wing.
Beating his man with a lovely bit of skill, Arzani then played the ball to Connor Metcalfe, who in turn was able to play the ball to the senior listed Crowley.
Crowley made no mistake with his opportunity, putting the ball past Freke and doubling City’s advantage.
Five minutes later it was Najjarine on the scoresheet for City, pouncing on a loose ball that the Roar were unable to clear in their own six-yard box and poking it home, getting the goal he had been threatening to grab all game, albeit in a significantly less spectacular method than he had threatened.
Najjarine’s goal also coincided with the beginning of a downpour that was as violent as it was sudden.
Forcing onlookers, both from of the Senior Sides staff and the assembled crowd, running for cover, the pitch was soon waterlogged.
The game was slowed as control became difficult and players began slipping and sliding around the field of play, with long range efforts by Metcalfe in the 37th and 41st minute the only notable developments up until half time.
With conditions worsening as play resumed in the second, the skidding ball and control became even more of an issue for both sides.
This prompted Cavallo, who played in a central midfield role during the match, to launch an effort from at least 30 yards out which appeared to have Freke beaten in the Roar goal, only for the ball to flash just wide.
It would prove to be the most notable moment remaining in the game, as three minutes later when a bolt of lightning was clearly visible nearby the referee called a halt to proceedings and forced both sides to the rooms.
With the pitch becoming completely waterlogged, and lightning still visible in the CFA’s surroundings, FFA officials and the referees made to abandon the match in the interest of the young players safety.
City’s youth side will travel to Adelaide, where they will continue the defence of their Youth League title against Adelaide United. Kick-off is slated for 4.30pm at the Marden Sports Complex.