ACL Report: Zhejiang 1-2 City

Melbourne City will return home from China with three points after recording a hard-fought win against Zhejiang Professional FC on Wednesday night. 

Early goals to Aziz Behich and 18-year-old Max Caputo got the visiting City side off to a perfect start, although the hosts were able to pull one back immediately after the second goal. 

Despite a crazy opening to the game, City was able to see out the result to return home to Melbourne on top of the Group H table. 

Team News 

Head Coach Rado Vidosic made two changes to the starting XI that took to the pitch a week and a half ago in the Australia Cup. 

Curtis Good made his return in the heart of defence after missing the last match due to soreness, while Max Caputo came in for just his second senior start. They replaced Callum Talbot and Alessandro Lopane respectively, with the defensive change meaning Nuno Reis moved out to right back. 

Image Credit: AFC Champions League

Starting XI: 1. Jamie YOUNG (GK), 4. Nuno REIS, 22. Curtis GOOD, 26. Samuel SOUPRAYEN, 16. Aziz BEHICH, 6. Steven UGARKOVIC, 8. Hamza SAKHI, 10. Tolgay ARSLAN, 37. Max CAPUTO, 44. Marin JAKOLIS, 9. Jamie MACLAREN. 

Substitutes: 33. Patrick BEACH (GK), 40. James NIEUWENHUIZEN (GK), 2. Scott GALLOWAY, 17. Terry ANTONIS, 21. Alessandro LOPANE, 25. Callum TALBOT, 35. Zane SCHREIBER, 38. Harry POLITIDIS, 58. Ben MAZZEO. 

What happened? 

It was a chaotic start to the contest, which would prove to be an accurate reflection of the entirety of the first half. 

Hamza Sakhi and Caputo were both involved in the opening exchanges with a pair of sights on goal before the opener came for City in just the fourth minute. 

Aziz Behich won the ball back on the byline with a strong challenge and took a couple of touches into the box before unleashing a lethal curling strike which made its way into the back of net via the inside of the post. 

Image Credit: AFC Champions League

City pressed hard early on and was able to repeatedly force Zhejiang into mistakes. 

The hosts were able to find the back of the net following what initially seemed to be a well-worked corner routine, but the equaliser didn’t stand with VAR correctly ruling it out for offside. 

Just four minutes later it would be City finding the back of the net thanks to a second senior and first AFC Champions League goal to the 18-year-old Caputo. 

Image Credit: AFC Champions League

Marin Jakolis had been lively down the left hand side but this time, he lifted a perfectly waited pass for the young attacker to find City’s second with a great header. 

That two goal lead would stand for barely a minute as the script flipped once again. Almost immediately from kick off, the hosts went forward and a small tug of the shirt from Samuel Souprayen was enough for the referee to point to the spot. 

The penalty was converted although plenty of questions were asked from goalkeeper Jamie Young and his defence after Leonardo appeared to take a pause and take a backward step in his run-up, but there would be no VAR intervention this time around and the score remained 2-1. 

While all three goals would ultimately come inside the first 20 minutes, the end-to-end action would continue for the remainder of the half with either team looking every bit as likely to score next. 

Curtis Good was a rock in the City defence, continually putting himself in the right place at the right time to block and clear a number of Zhejiang attacks. 

Up the other end of the pitch it was Jakolis doing plenty of damage, burning defenders time and time again with his quick feet and skilful dribbling. 

The second half didn’t quite reach the heights of the first but there were still plenty of big moments throughout. 

The Behich-Jakolis link-up on the left-hand side had some nice moments and gives City fans plenty to look forward to this season. 

Jamie Maclaren had the ball in the back of the net midway through the half after a ball from Steven Ugarkovic, but the linesman was quick to raise his flag and rule offside. 

After making an impressive second senior start, Caputo had another great chance to head home with under 20 minutes to play. 

This time around he was found by Behich who put a perfect ball into the box, but the header was well saved by Zhejiang goalkeeper, Bo Zhao, before Sakhi’s follow-up went just the wrong side of the post. 

The final 15 or so minutes would’ve had fans on the edge of their seats back home in Melbourne as Zheijang went close on a number of occasions but the rock-solid City defence repelled them time and time again. 

Image Credit: AFC Champions League

Young came up with a huge fingertip save, Souprayen a crucial block and Good was everywhere before the final whistle eventually came, signalling a hard-earned three points for City on our first away trip of the ACL campaign. 

What’s next? 

City will return to the pitch in two and a half weeks’ time to begin our A-League Men’s season against Western United on Saturday 21 October. Click here to get your tickets if you haven’t already! 

We’ll be back in ACL action in Thailand away to Buriram United on Wednesday 25 October. 


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