Though not the desired result, Melbourne City FC’s unbeaten start to the 2021/22 Izuzu UTE A-League season has continued with the team held to a 2-2 draw away to Adelaide United.
Goals to Jamie Maclaren and Andrew Nabbout saw City take a 2-0 lead in the second half before a late Adelaide comeback stripped the three points away from the visitors in stoppage time.
Following City’s opening round win against Brisbane Roar, Patrick Kisnorbo named an unchanged starting lineup to face the Reds. The City matchday squad also featured an extremely young bench, with Jordan Hall the oldest outfielder as Jordan Bos, Raphael Borges Rodrigues, Anthony Lesiotis, Stefan Colakovski and Marco Tilio joined him alongside shot-stopper Matt Sutton.
Nathaniel Atkinson, Rostyn Griffiths and Manuel Pucciarelli were all notable absentees, the trio remaining in Melbourne and playing heavy minutes in a friendly with squad rotation becoming crucial on the night City played its first of four matches in ten days.
It was Adelaide who had the early superiority as City struggled to play through their press, with the Reds forcing several turnovers high in the visitors’ half.
City were the first to forge a big opportunity though, taking just three minutes before Jamie Maclaren was found from wide with enough time for a touch to set himself, though his eventual shot didn’t have the pace to beat Delianov in goal.
The pressure only mounted for City however, with Adelaide penetrating the opposition penalty area with concerning frequency throughout the opening 25 minutes as City struggled to implement its usual controlled possession.
The pressure gauge was released in the 28th minute when a cracking ball from Connor Metcalfe in midfield released Andrew Nabbout over the top of the Adelaide defence, with the winger able to steam in on goal and tee up Maclaren for an easy finish in front of an empty net.
The balance of play was much more even from there, City coming inches from doubling its first-half lead when Florin Berenguer’s back-post pass for Nabbout was nicked away from the winger’s toe by Adelaide’s Javi Lopez.
Back in the contest and creating chances more frequently, City were able to head into the half-time break with the one-goal lead intact and determined to put in a second-half performance to secure the result.
An early chance to extend that lead came in two for City, with Berenguer the first to test Delianov in the 55th minute. After being fed inside by Nabbout, City’s Frenchman had the chance to compose himself and place his shot past the Reds keeper, but the effort was tame and the ball claimed comfortably. In the subsequent move, Adelaide failed to get the ball clear and Nabbout was found inside the box with a clipped pass, but the winger’s on-target strike was saved sharply by Delianov to prevent the goal.
Unwilling to be denied, Nabbout would go on to produce an early goal of the season contender just six minutes later, picking up the ball outside the area and beating Delianov with an inch-perfect strike with the outside of his right boot to send City fans into raptures both in the stands and at home.
With Adelaide desperate to make up the deficit, it took an incredible 69th-minute save from Tom Glover to protect the two-goal lead, with City’s shot-stopper reflexively saving a ripping volley from Halloran following the cross from the left.
Perhaps a belated reward for their dominance early in the first half, Adelaide found their way back into the contest in the 78th minute through Stefan Mauk. The midfielder was able to pass the ball into an empty net from point-blank range after Kusini Yengi’s powered strike rocketed off the post and off the back of Glover to sit up favourably for the Reds’ captain.
The balance again swung in Adelaide’s favour following the goal, forcing another strong save from Glover and a subsequent goal-saving block in the 83rd before the equaliser came in the 91st minute.
In search of an equaliser, the Reds pressed high to force a turnover and Ben Halloran capitalised on Glover being off his line by chipping over the City keeper to find the back of the net.
The frustration was tangible following the final whistle, as the City boys were forced to settle for the single point following a good recovery to control the majority of the contest.
A quick turnaround awaits for City, with its next competitive fixture coming this Wednesday against Hume City in the FFA Cup.
The Round of 16 clash comes just days before City are next in action in the A-League Men competition, with a home fixture against Western United awaiting in Round 3. Click here to get your tickets!