Melbourne City FC has claimed another vital away win, downing Macarthur FC 1-0 thanks to Jamie Maclaren’s 64th-minute strike on his return to the squad.
Following success on the road with a starting lineup plagued by absences midweek, Patrick Kisnorbo was able to strengthen his XI with the returns of Maclaren and Carl Jenkinson in place of Stefan Colakovski, who missed for personal reasons, and Jordon Hall. Mathew Leckie also returned to the match day squad via the bench.
There was plenty of drama seven minutes in when a lengthy goalmouth scramble culminated in Ulysses Davila bundling the ball over the line for the apparent Bulls opener. Upon VAR review, however, the Mexican was shown to have kicked the ball whilst it was under Tom Glover’s control, resulting in a foul and eventual goal-kick.
The City shot-stopper was a feature of that first major moment and took centre stage in the next one in the 21st minute when he pulled off an incredible double reflex save to deny Davila from close range.
Kerrin Stokes came up with his own massive moment in the 34th when he misjudged the flight of a cross which was met with a ferociously-struck Craig Noone volley, with the young defender inadvertently blocking it whilst on the half-turn tracking back.
There was a late chance for Maclaren from a corner, with City’s #9 flicking a good header towards the gap at the near post, but Nick Suman reacted well to claim the ball just seconds before the whistle blew for half-time.
Kisnorbo wrung the changes at half-time with his team struggling to create chances and three of his back four on yellow cards. Mathew Leckie replaced Raphael on the wing whilst Jordon Hall slotted into centre-back with Jenkinson shifting wide to replace the booked Stokes.
The changes proved pivotal with City looking much-improved in the second half and the visitors were eventually rewarded for their dominance with a crucial 64th-minute opener. The play was spread wide to Leckie just inside the area who was able to tee up his Socceroos teammate Maclaren for an outstretched sliding finish.
Second-half Bulls substitute Michael Ruhs was presented with a massive opportunity to equalise for the home side in the 86th minute when the ball leaked out to the winger inside the six-yard box, but he slipped over the ball as he set up for his shot allowing City to clear.
An enthralling climax to the contest ensued, with desperate defending, goal line clearances and even the opposing goalkeeper sending himself up for stoppage-time corners all making for tantalising viewing, but the City boys were able to hold on for another crucial three points on the road.
City’s three-point lead at the top of the A-League has been restored and the team will now seek out an even larger buffer when it travels to face Wellington Phoenix next Saturday evening.