ALM Report: Western Sydney 1-2 City

Melbourne City made it back-to-back A-League Men’s wins with a gutsy performance on the road, overcoming Western Sydney Wanderers 2-1 on Saturday afternoon.

First half goals to wingers Leo Natel and Marin Jakolis had us in a strong position at the break, but an improved Wanderers outfit ensured we’d have to be at our best defensively late to secure the all-important three points.

The win sees us jump Western Sydney on the ladder, controlling our Finals destiny with one Round remaining this season.

Team News

Aurelio Vidmar stuck with an unchanged matchday squad, keeping the same line-up from our record-breaking win over Perth across both the starting XI and substitutes bench.

City skipper Jamie Maclaren reached a big milestone, overtaking former Captain and now Assistant Coach Scott Jamieson to take outright second place on the all-time Club appearances list.

Starting XI: 1. Jamie YOUNG (GK), 6. Steven UGARKOVIC, 4. Nuno REIS, 26. Samuel SOUPRAYEN, 14. Vicente FERNANDEZ, 8. Jimmy JEGGO, 7. Mathew LECKIE, 10. Tolgay ARSLAN, 44. Marin JAKOLIS, 11. Leo NATEL, 9. Jamie MACLAREN (C).

Substitutes: 40. James NIEUWENHUIZEN (GK), 17. Terry ANTONIS, 21. Alessandro LOPANE, 22. Curtis GOOD, 35. Zane SCHREIBER, 37. Max CAPUTO, 38. Harry POLITIDIS.

What happened?

The hosts came out the stronger of teams in the first 10 minutes, but from there we were able to get our hands on the momentum for the next 10 or so.

We had a great chance within that period to open the scoring, Jakolis bringing down a Maclaren cross but not able to steer his shot on target.

The Wanderers would control proceedings for large parts of the remainder of the half, although other than a handful of corners – there weren’t any chances of note to show for it.

Leo Natel was full of confidence after four goal contributions (2G, 2A) last weekend, and this was on full show in the 28th minute.

The Brazilian winger drove into the box and unleashed a powerful strike bound for the top corner, and with the help of a small deflection from countryman Marcelo, he made it 1-0 in our favour.

Jamie Young was called into his first meaningful action of the day a few moments later, pulling off a comfortable but necessary save to deny Zac Sapsford.

Our second would come from the opposite wing 10 minutes after the first, with Jakolis making up for his earlier miss with a fine finish.

Some nice City build-up play down the right saw him receive in plenty of space, taking every metre the Wanderers defence gave him to waltz into the box and poke the ball into the top corner – well out of the reach of Lawrence Thomas.

The momentum swung back and forth throughout the first 20 minutes of the second half, both sides eager to keep their seasons alive with so much at stake.

Steven Ugarkovic put in another fine shift in an unfamiliar position of right back, while Nuno Reis and Vicente Fernandez snuffed out several dangerous Wanderers counterattacks.

Jakolis had the chance to put the game out of reach in the 67th minute when he used some quick feet to dribble his way until the box but then put his venomous strike inches the wrong side of the upright.

Some sloppy defending from City allowed the hosts to pull one back in the following moments, Marcus Younis heading home at the back post to make it 2-1 and breathe plenty of life back into the contest.

The final 20 minutes was edge-of-the-seat stuff for City fans as the Wanderers launched attack after attack, but once again – it was the likes of Nuno Reis and Fernandez who continued to stand up in defence.

The hosts came close to an equaliser in the 83rd minute when Dylan Pierias fired towards the top corner after a set-piece, but Young was equal to the challenge, acrobatically getting up to tip the ball over the bar.

It was then Younis’ turn to attempt to draw level, the youngster rattling the crossbar in the 89th, unable to find his second of the night.

The tension was palpable right up until the final whistle but eventually after seven minutes of added time, the contest came to an end and the three points were safely on their way back to Melbourne.

What’s next?

Just one game is left in the regular season, your City boys returning home to AAMI Park to host Western United next Sunday in a 5pm kick-off.

We’ll have to wait for other results the night before to know whether a result is required to qualify for Finals, but regardless of the permutations – it’ll be a huge day at AAMI Park.

The action will get underway with our City Women at 1:00pm, looking to qualify for their first A-League Women’s Grand Final in four years in the Semi Final second leg against Newcastle.