Melbourne City FC’s strong season in the Liberty A-League has continued with a professional 2-1 win against Western Sydney Wanderers at AAMI Park. The home side started strong thanks to goals to Rhianna Pollicina and Holly McNamara, but a Wanderers strike right on half-time made for a tense contest overall.
The big ticket news item heading into the clash was McNamara’s return to the starting lineup after missing City’s past three fixtures while away on national team duties. Chelsea Blissett was the one to make way, with the defender moving to the bench as Tyla-Jay Vlajnic returned to left wing-back following a stint higher up the field.
The City backline nearly shot itself in the foot just eight minutes it, with Libby Copus-Brown latching onto an underhit backpass to Melissa Barbieri, but the City shot-stopper was able to make a crucial one-on-one save to prevent the early goal concession.
That 8th-minute opportunity was emblematic of an entertaining start to the contest, with spectators able to enjoy a free-flowing contest despite a lack of threatening moments.
The chances started to accumulate around the 20th minute though, and three minutes later it was Emma Checker’s storming run to the edge of the box and eventual striking of the woodwork that got City fans up off their seats as they anticipated the ball hitting the back of the net.
The home crowd wouldn’t have to wait much longer for the opener, however, with Rhianna Pollicina putting City 1-0 ahead in the 28th minute. The chance was created through McNamara from the left, with the forward’s cross initially met by Wanderers defender Danika Matos, only to be headed straight into the City midfielder’s path to rifle into the bottom corner.
City’s lead very well could have been doubled in the 37th minute when McNamara had a fantastic opportunity to capitalise on Sarah Langman’s vacated goal, but the striker curled her effort over the bar.
The opening half culminated in an action-packed final five minutes, beginning with a City attacking move in the 42nd that was brilliantly orchestrated by McNamara for Torpey to finish into an empty net, but the goal was disallowed as the defender had been deemed to have been offside at the time of the squaring pass.
The home side wouldn’t be denied, however, with McNamara herself getting on the scoresheet with a brilliant finish under intense pressure in the 45th minute.
Just when City fans thought the team had safely cruised to a two-goal half-time lead, the Wanderers were able to unexpectedly peg one back in stoppage-time through Teigan Collister, who ran onto a spilled ball inside the City defensive area and drove it low into the bottom corner.
With City needing a fast start to get some breathing room with an early goal, the second period instead saw a cagey opening 15 minutes with few chances, with City’s first arriving in the 60th minute when Leah Davidson struck a fierce shot straight at Langman in goal.
Another drought continued for another 15 minutes after that, when Hannah Wilkinson had a brilliant opportunity to seal the result for City when she was played in behind the Wanderers defence, but couldn’t beat Langman, who saved well.
The Wanderers keeper came up huge again just two minutes later, pulling off a big one-on-one save as Pollicina strode into the box with defenders chasing.
The chances kept coming for City, with possibly the best one of the period arriving for Wilkinson in the 81st, when a cross into the box wasn’t cleared properly and the ball fell to her feet at the edge of the six-yard box with time and space, but the eventual shot didn’t have the power or placement to beat Langman.
The missed opportunities made for a tense finish to the contest, but the home side was ultimately able to hang on for a 2-1 win.
The win ensures that City consolidates its second-place position on the table, with the team just four points behind league-leaders Sydney FC. Rado Vidosic’s side will look to close that gap when the team travels to face Perth Glory next Sunday.