Melbourne City played out an entertaining 3-3 draw against Ventforet Kofu in Tokyo on Wednesday night.
We led twice in our penultimate AFC Champions League Group Stage match but were forced to settle for a draw which sets up a mouth-watering Matchday 6.
Callum Talbot was on the scoresheet for his first City goal in the opening minutes before a Tolgay Arslan penalty and Marin Jakolis’ first for the Club came within minutes in the second half.
Aurelio Vidmar made one change to the starting XI that faced Wellington Phoenix in the A-League Men’s last weekend.
Alessandro Lopane was preferred over Hamza Sakhi in midfield, while Mathew Leckie was included on the bench for his long-awaited return.
Curtis Good was named in the heart of defence for his 161st Club appearance, equalling the all-time record set by former Captain and now Assistant Coach, Scott Jamieson.
🤝 𝗪𝗲 𝗵𝗮𝘃𝗲 𝗮 𝗻𝗲𝘄 𝗲𝗾𝘂𝗮𝗹 𝗮𝗹𝗹-𝘁𝗶𝗺𝗲 𝗮𝗽𝗽𝗲𝗮𝗿𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝗹𝗲𝗮𝗱𝗲𝗿!— Melbourne City FC (@MelbourneCity) November 29, 2023
A big congratulations to Curtis Good who tonight joins Scott Jamieson on 161 Club appearances 👏 pic.twitter.com/AkATg5G2eR
Starting XI: 1. Jamie YOUNG, 25. Callum TALBOT, 22. Curtis GOOD, 26. Samuel SOUPRAYEN, 16. Aziz BEHICH, 6. Steven UGARKOVIC, 21. Alessandro LOPANE, 10. Tolgay ARSLAN, 11. Leo NATEL, 44. Marin JAKOLIS, 9. Jamie MACLAREN (C).
Substitutes: 33. Patrick BEACH (GK), 2. Scott GALLOWAY, 7. Mathew LECKIE, 8. Hamza SAKHI, 17. Terry ANTONIS, 18. Jordon HALL, 38. Harry POLITIDIS, 43. Sebastian ESPOSITO, 58. Ben MAZZEO.
After Kofu came out of the blocks, things quickly turned thanks to a moment of brilliance from Callum Talbot.
The City full back received from Marin Jakolis on the right wing and took a few touches to get around his man and drive inside, before firing a lethal strike into the near top corner to score his first goal for the Club and give us the lead inside 5 minutes.
Unfortunately though it didn’t last long with Kofu quickly answering back after Shion Inoue found space in the box a few minutes later.
The hosts had the momentum in the exchanges following that goal and with a little more polish, could’ve gone ahead, but City hung on and withstood the pressure.
Jamie Maclaren was just inches away from giving us the advantage in the 33rd minute after a pinpoint cross from Talbot, but the City Captain’s glancing header hit the post.
A pair of City challenges in the box had the home fans screaming for a penalty but after a lengthy VAR review, the referee decided to stick with his on-field calls of no penalty.
Just when it looked like we’d be heading into the break level at 1-1, City failed to deal with a Kofu ball over the top and Yoshiki Torikai was able to capitalise and give the hosts the lead.
Tolgay Arslan fired an early warning shot from range a couple of minutes into the second half, but the keeper was quickly down low to his left to deal with the danger.
VAR was on City’s side once again in the 54th minute. After the referee missed what seemed to be a clear handball in the box, the decision was reversed upon review and a penalty awarded.
Arslan was the man to step up from the spot and coolly sent the keeper the wrong way and found the bottom corner.
Less than five minutes after Arslan had equalised, we found ourselves in the lead after a beautiful piece of play.
Steven Ugarkovic threaded a ball through the midfield to Leo Natel on the right who whipped in a perfect ball to Jakolis who had found space in the box and thrashed it home on the half-volley to make it 3-2.
It continued to be a back-and-forth affair as neither side looked rock solid in defence, and chances came at both ends of the pitch.
Mathew Leckie made his long-awaited return from injury in the 73rd minute, entering the pitch as a substitute in place of Leo Natel.
Just minutes after making a fantastic diving save to keep us ahead, Jamie Young had to pick the ball out of the back of his net with Kofu once again equalising in the 85th minute.
Five minutes of stoppage time wasn’t enough for either team to find a winner, setting up a fascinating Matchday 6 in a couple of weeks’ time.
Prior to returning home to Melbourne, your City boys will detour via Newcastle for a clash against the Jets on Sunday afternoon.