Melbourne City consolidated its place on top of Group H with another big three points on the road in the AFC Champions League on Wednesday night.
Alessandro Lopane and Jamie Maclaren were both on target in the first half, before a professional second 45 saw City see out an impressive win.
Following the result in the other game in Group H, we move three points clear on top at the end of the first round of fixtures.
Just one change was made to the starting XI from Saturday’s A-League Men’s clash, with Samuel Souprayen replacing Callum Talbot in defence. The change saw Nuno Reis shift to right back with the Frenchman slotting into the heart of defence.
City was without Head Coach Rado Vidosic for the fixture due to sickness. Assistant Coach Petr Kratky took the reins, with support from Scott Jamieson and Mike van Houten.
Starting XI: 1. Jamie YOUNG (GK), 4. Nuno REIS, 26. Samuel SOUPRAYEN, 22. Curtis GOOD, 6. Steven UGARKOVIC, 8. Hamza SAKHI, 10. Tolgay ARSLAN, 21. Alessandro LOPANE, 44. Marin JAKOLIS, 9. Jamie MACLAREN (C).
Substitutes: 33. Patrick BEACH (GK), 2. Scott GALLOWAY, 11. Leo NATEL, 17. Terry ANTONIS, 25. Callum TALBOT, 35. Zane SCHREIBER, 37. Max CAPUTO, 38. Harry POLITIDIS.
The contest didn’t get off to an ideal start for City, struggling to string meaningful chains of possession together and get a hold of the momentum.
A strong one-handed save from Jamie Young denied Goran Causic a big chance in the 11th minute, as City started to build into the contest from there after seeing off the early warning sign.
Hamza Sakhi and Steven Ugarkovic began to get more involved in midfield, allowing City to gain some momentum for the first time of the night.
It didn’t take long to show on the scoreboard either. Marin Jakolis was released down the left and showed his blistering pace before crossing in to meet the pinpoint run of Alessandro Lopane, who headed home a bullet of a header from close range.
City continued to build from there and looked much more solid in defence with Curtis Good as steady as ever.
Jamie Maclaren got in behind in the 36th minute and while forced wide to a tough angle, almost managed to find the bottom corner with a well-placed shot across goal which the goalkeeper did well to get a hand to.
Five minutes later though, the City Captain got himself on the scoresheet.
In what was certainly an even tougher chance, Jakolis once again did the damage on the left before crossing to Maclaren, who unleashed a perfect volley across goal to find the far bottom corner.
The second half almost got off to a dream start for City when – surprise, surprise – Jakolis whipped in a cracking ball for Maclaren. The striker got his header on target, but a brilliant save denied him his second of the evening, then smashing a follow-up effort into the side-netting.
Both sides traded spells of possession throughout the second half but neither really was able to create a clear-cut chance to change the score line.
The introduction of Leo Natel once again breathed some new life into City, the Brazilian winger breezing past his marker like he wasn’t there and putting in a threatening cross with his first touch.
A scramble in the box in the 83rd minute almost provided the third goal with substitutes Terry Antonis and Natel having neat touches to keep the ball alive, before the former and Maclaren both had shots on goal which would only result in a corner.
Nonetheless, the three points were all but secure as another impressive performance on the road came to an end minutes later.
City will return home via Adelaide, stopping over for our next A-League Men’s clash. We’ll face the Reds at Coopers Stadium on Sunday night, with kick off set for 7pm (AEDT).
Images: AFC Champions League