Melbourne City secured a spot in the final eight of the Australia Cup in Oakleigh on Sunday afternoon, controlling the fixture against Wellington across the 90 minutes to run away 3-0 winners.
Steven Ugarkovic’s volley opened scoring in the 37th minute, before two goals in as many minutes from Jamie Maclaren secured the result in the second half.
Rado Vidosic named a strong line-up for the clash against the Phoenix, making two changes to the team that defeated Oakleigh Cannons to progress from the Round of 32.
Hamza Sakhi was named in midfield for his debut City appearance, while Aziz Behich took up the left full-back slot for his first club outing since 2014.
Starting XI: 1. Jamie YOUNG, 25. Callum TALBOT, 4. Nuno REIS, 22. Curtis GOOD, 16. Aziz BEHICH, 6. Steven UGARKOVIC, 10. Tolgay ARSLAN, 8. Hamza SAKHI, 44. Marin JAKOLIS, 7. Mathew LECKIE, 9. Jamie MACLAREN.
Substitutes: 40. James NIEUWENHUIZEN, 15. Andrew NABBOUT, 17. Terry ANTONIS, 18. Jordon HALL, 26. Samuel SOUPRAYEN, 35. Zane SCHREIBER, 37. Max CAPUTO.
After a disappointing start in the Round of 32 saw City concede in the opening moments, Vidosic’s side was much more switched on against Wellington.
City was able to control the possession and momentum throughout the early stages of the contest. Steven Ugarkovic’s work rate in midfield was crucial to this, with the new City signing playing a key role.
Despite controlling the tempo throughout the first half, the first proper sight at goal wouldn’t come until the 37th minute.
A failed Wellington clearance fell perfectly for Ugarkovic at the edge of the box, who struck his volley sweetly and found the back of the net following a slight deflection from midfield partner Tolgay Arslan.
City took this momentum into the second half which we began strongly. Hamza Sakhi tested Wellington goalkeeper Alex Paulsen twice in the space of a few minutes, the second time around forcing a great fingertip save from his half-volley after a deflected Maclaren strike.
A number of set-pieces followed as City continued to mount the pressure in search of a second goal to gain a bit of breathing space.
Some great work from Maclaren on the byline saw him beat his man and tee up Tolgay Arslan, but the midfielder fired over the bar from close range.
A few minutes later Maclaren turned receiver when he – as always – was in the right spot at the right time, and finished from close range after some lovely final third build-up play involving Arslan, Terry Antonis and Mathew Leckie in the 76th minute.
Full of confidence after finding the back of the net for the first time in the new campaign, it took just two minutes for him to get his second.
Nuno Reis won the ball back in the middle of the park as Wellington attempted to play out from the back, before Antonis found Maclaren on the left side of the box.
Our number nine took a couple of touches to sum up the situation, then fired hard past Paulsen into the top corner at the near post.
City was only really troubled in the final minutes of the contest when Nuno Reis and Curtis Good both made spectacular goal-line clearances within a few seconds to ensure a clean sheet was maintained.
We’ll find out our quarter-final opponents on Wednesday night following the competition of the remaining Round of 16 fixtures.