Melbourne City has opened its 2022 NPL3 campaign with a 1-1 draw against last year’s runners-up, Doveton SC.
Luke Oresti opened the scoring with a pinpoint strike teed up by Max Caputo, before Samuel Catherine equalised for the visitors midway through the second half.
The first match of Season 2022 saw a change in Captains, with Matthew Grimaldi taking the armband from goalkeeper Ahmad Taleb who lead the team in 2021. Taleb started between the sticks with Jordan Dellidis and Sebastian Esposito ahead of him in central defence. Dellidis and Esposito were two of several fresh faces amongst the starting XI, with Emin Durakovic and Arion Sulemani also making their first appearances for City in the NPL3.
City’s first opportunity of the afternoon arrived in the 5th minute through Durakovic, who received in space outside the box but could muster only a tame strike that was easily dealt with by Colby Jones in goal.
Doveton came close to an 8th-minute goal when a long-range strike deflected into the path of Keegan Guy, whose first-time volley just about brushed the top of the crossbar.
City dominated the next 10 minutes with a trio of big chances, with two falling the way of Moonib Adus. The winger’s 13th-minute cross took a deflection that required a fingertip save from Jones to tip the ball away from Max Caputo who had snuck in toward the back post. Adus’ second chance arrived at the back post from a floated corner a few minutes later, but the winger volleyed wide of the mark. In between, Jones was called into action to tip Luke Oresti’s shot from a narrow angle over the bar.
With his first opportunity stolen at the last second earlier, Caputo finally got a sight on goal in the 33rd when he was fed into the box and was able to get a shot away, but the effort was tame and Jones got down to save comfortably.
The home side’s dominance would eventually be rewarded in the 39th thanks to a clinical effort from Oresti. Usually the goal scorer, Caputo turned provider on this occasion when he was fed through from midfield, stopping at the edge of the box and laying a pass off for Oresti to curl into the bottom corner first time, with that goal proving the difference as the teams headed in at half-time with the scoreline reading 1-0.
City started the second half brightly when Grimaldi spread the play wide to Adus in the 49th, with the winger then dancing his way inside before flashing a cross towards the back post which incredibly squeezed its way through the narrow gap between upright and an outstretched City boot.
Caputo was again fed through for a big chance on goal in the 52nd, but the striker’s toe-poke trailed wide and was ultimately collected by a defender before it could even crawl out for a goal-kick.
Caputo, City’s second-youngest A-League Men’s debutant ever, then looked to avenge that missed opportunity when he unleashed a left-foot rocket just three minutes later, striking the crossbar with venom but unable to find the back of the net.
Grimaldi came close to netting the winner in his first game as skipper, striking across his body at the edge of the area to drive the ball within inches of Jones’ left upright in the 70th minute.
Doveton clawed a goal back in the 72nd thanks to their dangerman from 2021, Samuel Catherine. The forward dashed toward the near post to meet a low cross with a flicked backheel, but scuffed his effort. Expecting cleaner contact, Taleb misjudged the ball’s path and failed to claim it, allowing Catherine to bundle the ball over the line anyway.
Substitute Jordi Valadon nearly became the hero off the bench in the 79th minute, flashing an effort across the keeper but narrowly past the upright when he was released wide into the box.
Samuel Maggs nearly became Doveton’s own super sub in the 86th when he tested Taleb with a low, driven effort that forced a sharp save from the City shotstopper.
Durakovic’s stoppage-time striking off the woodwork summarised City’s unrewarded persistence throughout the second half, with the scoreline remaining 1-1 as the boys had to settle for the solitary point.
John Maisano’s side will look to build on its opening round result when it hosts an NPL Melbourne Derby at Parade College next Sunday afternoon.