Melbourne City suffered its first defeat of the 2023/24 campaign, going down 1-2 to Sydney FC at AAMI Park on Sunday afternoon.
A late goal to captain Jamie Maclaren gave City fans some hope of sending the clash to extra time, but ultimately, it was a more clinical Sydney side on the day that advanced to the Australia Cup Final.
Head Coach Rado Vidosic stuck with a similar line-up to the team that took on Ventforet Kofu in the midweek AFC Champions League draw.
Just one change was made due to Curtis Good pulling up sore from that fixture, which meant Samuel Souprayen returned to the starting XI.
Starting XI: 1. Jamie YOUNG, 25. Callum TALBOT, 4. Nuno REIS, 26. Samuel SOUPRAYEN, 16. Aziz BEHICH, 6. Steven UGARKOVIC, 8. Hamza SAKHI, 10. Tolgay ARSLAN, 44. Marin JAKOLIS, 21. Alessandro LOPANE, 9. Jamie MACLAREN (C).
Substitutes: 40. James NIEUWENHUIZEN (GK), 2. Scott GALLOWAY, 17. Terry ANTONIS, 18. Jordon HALL, 35. Zane SCHREIBER, 37. Max CAPUTO, 38. Harry POLITIDIS.
Playing our second game in four days, City settled into the contest well at a sunny AAMI Park.
The afternoon’s first chance would come in the 14th minute after a lovely one-two in the build-up from Tolgay Arslan and Marin Jakolis. The latter was played in on goal but his shot was straight at Sydney FC goalkeeper, Andrew Redmayne.
City looked to be the better team for much of the first half but couldn’t quite find that final ball into the area.
Jamie Young was called into meaningful action for the first time just before the half-hour mark, getting his body in the way of a powerful effort from Robert Mak.
The visitors would find the opener against the run of play in the 38th minute, and there was little Young could do to keep out Patrick Wood’s strike after City gave the ball away in midfield.
The second half would play out much like the first with City enjoying a lot of the possession and getting into some good areas, but just struggling to find the incisive pass.
Young pulled out another good save in the 59th minute, but it was once again Sydney FC scoring against the run of play shortly after to double their advantage.
The 78th-minute change of full-backs saw City revitalised as Scott Galloway made his way onto the pitch, joined by Harry Politidis who became the latest City Academy product to make his debut.
Wearing the number 38 and playing as a left-back, Politidis provided some familiar memories for City fans with his willingness to take on his man and progress the ball forward.
City was able to get back into the clash in the 89th minute when Maclaren pounced on a stray back-pass, making no mistake in dinking his finish over Redmayne.
Unfortunately for City fans, it was a case of too little too late, with five minutes of stoppage time not enough to find the equaliser.
City’s next fixture will be its first away trip of the AFC Champions League campaign. The team will travel to China to face Zhejiang on Wednesday 4 October.
The team will then return to Melbourne to begin preparations for the A-League Men’s season, which kicks off at home to Western United on Saturday 21 October.