Melbourne City FC has started its inaugural AFC Champions League campaign with a draw, contesting a 1-1 scoreline against BG Pathum United FC in its opening group stage fixture.
Andrew Nabbout opened the scoring with a scorching strike from the edge of the area in the 22nd minute, but the scores were soon equalised when Teerasil Dangda headed home in the 35th.
City’s first-ever Champions League lineup featured just two changes from the team that contested last Saturday’s Melbourne Derby. Nuno Reis made his return to the starting XI following a stint on the sidelines, slotting into the heart of defence whilst Rostyn Griffiths was shifted further afield. Marco Tilio also featured from the first whistle, replacing the injured Florin Berenguer in midfield.
The contest got off to a tense opening 20 minutes in which few chances were created for either team, with Tom Glover’s sweeper-keeper intervention to deny a BG Pathum breakaway being the highlight of those early minutes.
That all changed in the 22nd minute when Andrew Nabbout netted City’s first-ever goal in the competition when he cut inside and rifled a strike into the far corner past a stranded Kittipong Poothawchuek in goal.
BG Pathum had a fantastic opportunity to equalise seven minutes later when Worachit Kanitsribumphen was found in space with a squared ball across the face of goal, but the midfielder blazed his shot over the bar in a big let-off for City.
City wouldn’t be afforded a second chance, however, with Teerasil Dangda equalising for the home side in the 35th when he was able to meet a cross in from the right and head the ball past Glover and into the back of the net.
Patrick Kisnorbo’s side was nearly able to find a second at what would have been an opportune time in the 42nd. Taras Gomulka’s corner-kick was floated long and eventually found its way to Rostyn Griffiths, who was able to loop a header towards goal, forcing a great diving save from Kittipong.
The City boys made a good start following the break with a big double chance in the 49th minute that was thwarted by a pair of important defensive blocks from the home side inside the six-yard box.
Central to that moment for City, Mathew Leckie was then involved again two minutes later when he fired a strike that required some composed handling to deal with from Kittipong.
The chances kept coming for City, with Griffiths again getting a headed chance in the 63rd when he fired over the bar from a corner.
Despite their fast start to the second half, the scorching 37-degree heat began to take a toll on the City boys, with the chances drying right up over the remainder of the half.
Amidst a raft of youthful substitutions, including a senior professional debut for Jordi Valadon, the City boys had enough fight and energy to hold on for the 1-1 draw by the time the final whistle blew.
The result sees City take an important point from its inaugural group stage fixture, but the team will hope for an even better result when it takes on United City FC early on Tuesday morning.