Melbourne City FC ramped up preparations for its upcoming Australia Cup campaign with a 3-2 pre-season friendly win against Dandenong Thunder on Tuesday night.
All five goals were scored in the first half as City played its first competitive match after returning to training little over two weeks ago.
Patrick Kisnorbo’s first starting line-up of the pre-season was a mixture of youth and experience, with the likes of Scott Jamieson, Florin Berenguer, Nuno Reis and Marco Tilio all involved, while recent Scholarship signing Emin Durakovic appeared for the City senior team for the first time.
Starting XI: 1. Tom GLOVER (GK), 2. Scott GALLOWAY, 4. Nuno REIS, 22. Curtis GOOD, 3. Scott JAMIESON (C), 16. Taras GOMULKA, 39. Emin DURAKOVIC, 10. Florin BERENGUER, 23. Marco TILIO, 37. Max CAPUTO, 38. Jordan BOS.
Substitutes: 33. Matthew SUTTON (GK), 5. Sebastian ESPOSITO, 6. Harry POLITIDIS, 18. Jordon HALL, 20. Matthew GRIMALDI, 30. Luke ORESTI, 34. Arion SULEMANI, 44. Jordan DELLIDIS, 47. Jordi VALADON, 48. Justin PAOLILLI.
While there may’ve been a few key names missing, it would take City just four minutes to find the back of the net.
A typical defence-splitting ball from Berenguer played Tilio in behind the Thunder defence down the right wing, and the Socceroo made no mistake with a perfectly placed cut-back for Max Caputo to tap home.
City fans got familiar with Jordan Bos’ talents through last season – the versatile 19-year-old able to play as a full-back or winger on the left-hand side – and he would continue to show signs of his upward trajectory on Tuesday night.
Perhaps City’s best performer across the contest, Bos too found himself on the scoresheet in the opening ten minutes.
It was a case of two of City’s brightest young talents combining, Emin Durakovic – City’s NPL3 assist leader – found the gap to play Bos through, the winger then receiving, driving forward, cutting inside, and hitting the back of the net via a deflected shot.
City would continue to control play for the opening half hour, before the hosts would pull one back via an unfortunate City own goal.
While it did look well set-up for much of the contest, the signs of pre-season rustiness were shown less than 10 minutes after the own goal when the City defence was caught out of position allowing Scott Lochhead to equalise for Dandenong.
In what would’ve been a pleasing sign for Kisnorbo, it didn’t take his men long to restore the advantage. Taras Gomulka joined his partners in City’s midfield trio in creating a first half goal, spotting Scott Galloway’s run down the right and playing the crucial ball after also doing similar down the other wing in the previous phase of play.
It was again a cut-back intended for Caputo, while this time a scramble in the box resulted in Berenguer finishing simply into an empty net from a metre out.
Although the second 45 minutes may not have lived up to the action of what was a five goal first half, there were plenty of positive signs for City’s coaching staff and fans alike.
Kisnorbo rang the half time changes, with Jordon Hall, Jordi Valadon, Luke Oresti and Arion Sulemani all getting their chance.
While perhaps not of quite the same significance, Nuno Reis had a similar moment to his famous 2021 Semi Final goal-line clearance, denying Sanih Zijai’s potential equaliser in the 53rd minute.
Valadon, a player City fans familiarised themselves with throughout the Club’s inaugural AFC Champions League campaign, came closest of any player to breaking the second half deadlock.
He got on the end of what was a delightful attacking move in the 63rd and was only denied City’s fourth by what a brilliant diving reaction save from Thunder goalkeeper Noah James.
After securing promotion to NPL2 last weekend, City’s line-up by the final whistle resembled what fans have been used to seeing from the John Maisano coached outfit throughout the season.
While ultimately neither side would score in the second half, City’s young talents showed it won’t be out of place making the step up the rungs of the NPL ladder the next season, looking resolute against NPL1 opposition.
The likes of Luke Oresti and Matthew Grimaldi had nice moments, while Durakovic (subbed off at half time) and Arion Sulemani showed glimpses of the quality and potential that saw them recently win Scholarship contracts.
City will play its first competitive match of season 2022/23 next Tuesday night when it faces Newcastle Olympic FC away from home in the Australia Cup Round of 32.
The fixture will kick-off at 7:30pm and will be streamed live and free on 10play.