Melbourne City FC suffered a 2-1 loss to league-leaders Sydney FC at Nestrata Jubilee Stadium on Sunday evening.
Connor Metcalfe opened the scoring with a towering header before Adam Le Fondre equalised before the half time break.
With 10-men, the Sky Blues found a late winner as Kosta Barbarouses found the back of the net in the 84th minute.
City will look to return to winning ways when they return to Melbourne to host Western United at AAMI Park on Friday 3 January.
Head Coach Erick Mombaerts made two changes to the starting XI, with Nathaniel Atkinson replacing captain Scott Jamieson at left back after the skipper was ruled out of the clash with illness. Rostyn Griffiths donned the captain’s armband, replacing Adrian Luna in midfield.
— Melbourne City FC (@MelbourneCity) December 29, 2019
In warm conditions at Nestrata Jubilee Stadium, the top of the table clash started with a heavy head clash as Nathaniel Atkinson and Rhyan Grant received treatment.
After a three-minute stoppage, both players returned to the field of play as the two sides looked to find their rhythm in the match.
The first chance of the match fell to City youngster Connor Metcalfe in the 11th minute. The attacking midfielder picked up the ball on the edge of the box before curling an effort which looked headed for the top corner only to be tipped behind for a corner by Sydney shot-stopper Andrew Redmayne.
After half chances fell at both ends, first to Jamie Maclaren and then Kosta Barbarouses, City found the opener through Metcalfe in the 22nd minute. A short corner saw Craig Noone whip in a dangerous cross which was met by the youngster who soared highest before thundering home his header.
Moments later the hosts were reduced to 10-men as a VAR review saw Grant receive his marching orders following a reckless challenge on Atkinson.
Despite going down to 10-men the Sky Blues responded strongly as Adam Le Fondre equalised in the 29th minute with an opportunistic finish.
In the 38th minute City had a golden opportunity to restore the lead as Noone combined with Maclaren before beating three Sydney defenders and breaking clear in the box, only to place his curling effort from close range wide.
On the cusp of half time it was Sydney who had an opportunity to restore the lead when Harrison Delbridge was deemed to have fouled Milos Ninkovic in the penalty area. Le Fondre stepped up to take the spot kick only to be denied by a brilliant save from City gloveman Tom Glover who managed to get a strong boot to it and ensure that the teams went into the break at 1-1.
City looked to capitalise on their numerical advantage in the early stages of the second half but a resilient Sky Blues defensive unit saw a number of City’s attempts come from outside the penalty area.
In the 56th minute, Uruguayan attacker Adrian Luna entered the field of play and looked to make an immediate impact when he met Javier Cabrera’s cross with an acrobatic effort that went just wide. Two minutes later it was the attacker again who had a chance to break the deadlock, this time meeting Atkinson’s pin-point cross with an effort that drifted across the face of goal.
With eight minutes of regulation time remaining, Cabrera struck a well-timed half volley which flew inches high of the crossbar. Second half substitutes Lachie Wales and Ramy Najjarine then combined but were unable to get a meaningful effort on goal.
After a flurry of half chances, the hosts responded on the counter attack as Barbarouses perfectly placed finish saw Sydney FC secure the win with six minutes remaining.
Melbourne City FC will look to open the New Year with three points when they host Western United FC for the first time on Friday 3 January at AAMI Park, kick off 7:30pm, don’t miss it!