Melbourne City FC has started its season with three points after knocking off Western United in a Grand Final re-match at AAMI Park on Friday night.
A Western own goal following a scramble in the box saw City go ahead after 38 minutes, before Jamie Maclaren doubled the advantage a tick before the hour mark.
The visitors would pull one back in injury time to deny a clean sheet, but ultimately it was a strong first up performance from City.
There were plenty of talking points to come out of Patrick Kisnorbo’s first starting XI of the season. Valon Berisha, Thomas Lam and Callum Talbot all made their City debuts from the first whistle, and injuries in defence meant Scott Jamieson was deployed as a centre back on the night he would make his 300th A-Leagues appearance.
A minor knock meant no Curtis Good, while Nuno Reis and Florin Berenguer both missed through hamstring injuries.
Starting XI: 1. Tom GLOVER (GK), 25. Callum TALBOT, 6. Thomas LAM, 3. Scott JAMIESON (C), 38. Jordan BOS, 16. Taras GOMULKA, 13. Aiden O’NEILL, 14. Valon BERISHA, 15. Andrew NABBOUT, 7. Mathew LECKIE, 9. Jamie MACLAREN.
Substitutes: 33. Matthew SUTTON (GK), 3. Scott GALLOWAY, 8. Richard VAN DER VENNE, 18. Jordon HALL, 23. Marco TILIO, 35. Raphael BORGES RODRIGUES, 36. Kerrin STOKES.
Disaster almost struck just seconds into the contest for City, but it was the man between the sticks, Tom Glover, who came up big.
Western went forward before City could take a breath, and all of a sudden an unmarked James Troisi fired low to Glover’s right, but the City shot-stopper reacted quickly to get a strong hand to the attempt.
Some strong pressing saw Mathew Leckie win the ball off Josh Risdon in the 7th minute before going on a driving run towards goal, but ultimately hit his effort straight at Western goalkeeper Jamie Young.
Maclaren, the winner of the leagues Golden Boot for the last three seasons, looked to have the new campaign off to a perfect start in the 13th minute.
A lovely cross-pitch ball from Scott Jamieson found Valon Berisha who controlled it effortlessly and teed up Leckie for another shot on target, with Maclaren there to finish it off after Young made the initial save. Ultimately though, the goal was chalked off after a questionable VAR review.
Berisha showed his class throughout the contest, but was particularly lively in the first half, impressing with his delivery into the box and composure on the ball.
Glover continued a good first half of the season in the 35th minute, denying a Leo Lacroix header following a set-piece.
It wasn’t long after that the action shifted to the other end of the pitch, a Leckie cross originally causing danger in the box, before a goal line scramble saw the ball eventually go over the line with the last touch coming from Lacroix.
Good value for its 1-0 first half lead, City begun the second half in much the same fashion.
The work-rate was right up, as City’s hunger saw it win majority of the 50/50 balls and control play as a result.
Aiden O’Neill and Taras Gomulka both played key roles in the middle of the park for City, putting in strong shifts after there were plenty of questions pre-game on how City’s midfield would look.
After being denied in the first half, Maclaren would get his name onto the scoresheet for good in the 59th minute. The hard-working striker didn’t relent all night and got his reward after pressing Lacroix who’d dawdled on the ball, before lifting it over the on-coming keeper for his first of the season.
Leckie would get better as the game progressed and caused plenty of issues for the Western defence who struggled to deal with City’s many attacking options.
City’s back four and Glover would’ve been disappointed not to walk away from the contest with a clean sheet after looking rock solid for majority of the contest.
A goal from substitute Nicolas Milanovic in the dying minutes was all that denied them, but ultimately all that mattered was City walked away with the three points.
Your City boys will travel to take on Brisbane away from home next Friday night, before returning for our away Melbourne Derby the following week. We’ll play our next home match against Wellington on Sunday 30 October and you can click here to get your tickets!