Melbourne City enters the World Cup on just the note it was aiming for, claiming another three points with a 2-1 away win over Newcastle Jets.
Now with six games of the season in the books, City has dropped points just once to sit top of the table after a fast start.
Scores were locked at 1-1 after 45 minutes on Saturday, but Jamie Maclaren’s eighth – yes, eighth – goal of the season proved to be the difference, despite City finishing with 10 men.
Head Coach Patrick Kisnorbo was forced into two changes to his starting XI for Saturday’s clash, both coming in the heart of defence.
Nuno Reis missed through concussion after a heavy knock last week, while Curtis Good – as well as Andrew Nabbout – were unwell and didn’t make the trip with the team.
This meant City’s early season central defensive partnership of Thomas Lam and Scott Jamieson were reunited, the former returning from suspension and the latter making his first start after overcoming a groin tweak.
Starting XI: 1. Tom GLOVER (GK), 25. Callum TALBOT, 6. Thomas LAM, 3. Scott JAMIESON (C), 38. Jordan BOS, 13. Aiden O’NEILL, 8. Richard VAN DER VENNE, 14. Valon BERISHA, 23. Marco TILIO, 7. Mathew LECKIE, 9. Jamie MACLAREN.
Substitutes: 33. Matthew SUTTON (GK), 2. Scott GALLOWAY, 16. Taras GOMULKA, 18. Jordon HALL, 35. Raphael BORGES RODRIGUES, 34. Arion SULEMANI, 36. Kerrin STOKES.
It was a relatively uneventful beginning to the contest, with nothing worthy of the highlight reel happening until the 20-minute mark.
Midfield duo Aiden O’Neill and Richard van der Venne combined, with a perfectly placed O’Neill ball over the defence meeting a perfectly timed van der Venne run.
The Dutchman’s job was made easier by an error in judgement from Jets keeper Michael Weir, which meant all he had to do was roll the ball into an empty net for his first A-League Men’s goal.
City looked to make it two in quick succession with a Jamie Maclaren header going close a minute later, before the remainder of the first half turned into a transition-style game.
Despite a couple of big changes, City’s defence held up strong other than an unfortunate own goal which came in the 38th minute.
Trent Buhagier’s cross looked to be one that could be easily cleared, but unfortunately it hit the wrong part of Jamieson’s boot and ended up in the back of the net.
van der Venne had a golden chance for his second of the night in the early stages of the second half, once again played in from a lovely ball from O’Neill. The dynamic midfielder took his shot on the half-volley, forcing a good save out of Weir.
After barely putting a foot wrong all season, Tom Glover was again at the top of his game in between the sticks for City, pulling off a number of important stops throughout the 90 minutes.
The decisive moment of the game came in the 59th minute, with a lofted Jamieson ball from defence unlocking the key chance.
Tilio received on the right and left his man for dead, before playing a millimetre-perfect ball across the Jets ‘keeper to find a perfectly positioned Maclaren at the back-post for a simple tap-in.
City had a pair of great chances to kill off the game in the 63rd and 65th minute, Tilio only denied from finding the top corner by a fingertip save from Weir, before van der Venne saw his attempt smothered.
A second yellow card of the match saw O’Neill given his marching orders in the 75th minute, meaning a nervy finish as City looked to see out the three points with 10 men.
While it may’ve been battling against an extra man and an increasingly vocal home crowd, City fought hard in the dying stages to ensure all three points were coming back to Melbourne.
The A-League Men’s competition is set to pause for the 2022 FIFA World Cup over the next few weeks, with City next in action away to Sydney FC on December 10.
Your City boys will return home for a huge Melbourne Derby the following week, and you can click here to get your tickets!