Melbourne City has begun 2023 with three points away to Wellington in what was an entertaining contest at Sky Stadium.
A Mathew Leckie header quickly cancelled out the Phoenix’s early lead, before Jamie Maclaren struck twice in the second half and Tom Glover pulled off some important saves to secure all three points.
Head Coach Rado Vidosic stuck with the same line-up that has started City’s last three fixtures.
Maclaren once again took the armband – on a day where he had the chance to re-write the history books and take the outright record in having scored in the most consecutive A-Leagues matches.
Starting XI: 1. Tom GLOVER (GK), 25. Callum TALBOT, 6. Thomas Lam, 22. Curtis GOOD, 38. Jordan BOS, 13. Aiden O’NEILL, 8. Richard VAN DER VENNE, 14. Valon BERISHA, 23. Marco TILIO, 7. Mathew LECKIE, 9. Jamie MACLAREN (C).
Substitutes: 33. Matthew SUTTON (GK), 2. Scott GALLOWAY, 3. Scott JAMIESON, 4. Nuno REIS, 15. Andrew NABBOUT, 16. Taras GOMULKA, 35. Raphael BORGES RODRIGUES.
It was a shaky start to the contest with plenty of misplaced passes due to both teams intense pressing, but it was far from a sign of what was to come.
Things began to open up after the first quarter of an hour, with Aiden O’Neill and Valon Berisha seeing plenty of the ball in midfield.
Despite this, it was Wellington who would open scoring thanks to a classy back heel from David Ball in the 16th minute.
City almost had an instant reply in what would have been extraordinarily similar fashion, Mathew Leckie almost scoring a back heel of his own but denied only by the post, while Maclaren’s follow-up was blocked on the line.
City wouldn’t have to search for that equaliser for much longer though, and it was once again Leckie involved.
Marco Tilio picked out the City number 7 with a lovely cross from the right, which Leckie was able to put into the back of the net thanks to a perfect glancing header.
City began to control a little more of the possession from there, although Wellington were still able to create some good opportunities – particularly on the counter.
Thomas Lam and Curtis Good were important in defence to ensure these didn’t lead to anything, but the latter would unfortunately not return following half time after picking up a knock late in the first.
Little changed for City though as his replacement Nuno Reis stepped in with no fuss and played one of his best halves for the club.
Tilio was lively early in the second 45 down the right-hand side, almost giving City the lead after using some quick feet to get into the box, only to see his shot saved by an onrushing Oli Sail.
The Wellington defence didn’t have any answers moments later though, with Tilio brought down in the box as Maclaren stepped up to take the penalty just five minutes into the second half.
Normal service resumed as he slotted it home, also securing the A-Leagues record for most consecutive matches scored in.
Reis put his body on the line and made a crucial block in the 74th minute to deny a great chance for Wellington, then he and Lam stood up under pressure with a great piece of last ditch defending to clear the danger again just a couple of minutes later.
As it was all day no matter who was making it up, City’s defence continued to be at the top of its game for the remainder of the contest, which also saw Tom Glover forced into the save of the day in added time.
Already having a great match himself, Glover pulled off a superb reflex save to deny a close-range effort from substitute Oskar van Hattum.
It would prove to be a crucial moment as City put the icing on the cake in the dying stages.
A swift counter attack seeing both Leckie and Andrew Nabbout involved, before who else but Maclaren timed his back-post run perfectly to tap home his second of the day.
That marked Maclaren’s 12th goal in just nine games this season as he edges closer and closer to Besart Berisha’s all-time league scoring record.
City will return to AAMI Park for its first home fixture of 2023 this Saturday night when it hosts Western United. Click here to get your tickets!