Melbourne City began an international road trip with a 1-0 defeat to Wellington Phoenix in Auckland on Saturday afternoon.
In a back-and-forth affair, a goal to the hosts early in the second half was the difference between the two teams.
Aurelio Vidmar made two changes to his starting XI that took on Macarthur prior to the international break.
Curtis Good replaced the injured Nuno Reis (quad) in the heart of defence, while Callum Talbot was preferred at right back over Scott Galloway.
Starting XI: 1. Jamie YOUNG (GK), 25. Callum TALBOT, 22. Curtis GOOD, 26. Samuel SOUPRAYEN, 16. Aziz BEHICH, 6. Steven UGARKOVIC, 8. Hamza SAKHI, 10. Tolgay ARSLAN, 11. Leo NATEL, 44. Marin JAKOLIS, 9. Jamie MACLAREN (C).
Substitutes: 33. Patrick BEACH (GK), 2. Scott GALLOWAY, 17. Terry ANTONIS, 18. Jordon HALL, 21. Alessandro LOPANE, 38. Harry POLITIDIS, 46. Ben MAZZEO.
Wellington came out firing from the first whistle and Jamie Young was called into action just 60 seconds into the contest, getting down low to his right to deny David Ball the perfect start.
It continued to be a shaky first 10 minutes for City, with both Callum Talbot and Aziz Behich forced to make important interventions to keep it 0-0.
We’d eventually work our way into the contest and enjoyed some longer spells of possession, able to test the Wellington defence in the process.
Samuel Souprayen was forced to come up with a huge goal line clearance on the half hour mark though, the highlight of what was an impressive first half from our French centre back.
Hamza Sakhi was just inches away from his first City goal ten minutes later, forcing a great save out of Alex Paulsen with a perfectly struck free kick that seemed destined for the top corner.
The crucial moment of the contest came in the 48th minute when David Ball found Bozhidar Kraev at the back-post for a tap-in to make it 1-0.
Less than 10 minutes later City came agonisingly close to equalising, Leo Natel first seeing his close-range effort saved, before a pair of deflections off Paulsen and Lukas Kelly-Heald somehow didn’t cross the line.
Wellington seemed happy to sit back and hold the lead as City controlled the tempo for the majority of the second half, keeping possession and patiently waiting for an opening.
Jamie Maclaren went close on a swivelling attempt at goal in the 66th minute and forced an acrobatic save, then Sakhi was brought down in the box a few minutes later and won a penalty.
Maclaren stepped up to take it but Paulsen pulled off another great save – this time onto the post – before substitute Ben Mazzeo saw his follow-up go just over the bar on his A-League debut.
City continued to push and push for an equaliser and it almost came with the last touch of the game.
Scott Galloway’s recycled ball from a short corner was whipped into the box and nodded on by Curtis Good, finding Terry Antonis whose diving header required Paulsen to quickly get one hand up to stop and concede City to defeat.
City will be off to Japan first thing on Sunday morning, travelling to Tokyo to face Ventforet Kofu in a huge AFC Champions League clash midweek.
Following that, we’ll return to Melbourne via Newcastle as we take on the Jets in the next round of ALM action next Saturday afternoon.