Melbourne City FC got back to winning ways in the NPL3 with its 1-0 home win against Ballarat City.
It was Arion Sulemani’s 26th-minute goal that proved the difference, with the forward making the most of his return to the starting lineup to ensure all three points for his side.
It was a starting XI heavily impacted by suspensions and unavailabilities that John Maisano was forced to name, with Ahmad Taleb, Jordan Dellidis, Kerrin Stokes, Jordi Valadon, Raphael Borges Rodrigues and Max Caputo all missing the clash. Respectively, they were replaced in the starting lineup by James Nieuwenhuizen, Justin Paolilli, Kur Arob, Domenic Folino, Matthew Grimaldi and the aforementioned Sulemani.
The quality of either side was on display early as the crowd in attendance was treated to several great flowing moves from the competing teams, but the contest’s first shot on target didn’t arrive until the 19th minute. It was an opportunistic first-time effort from Moonib Adus that drew a comfortable save from David Carton in goal as the Ballarat defence failed to clear.
The contest sprung to life in the 25th as Ballarat’s first big chance of the game kicked off a succession of highlight moments. The visitors would have fancied their chances of opening the scoring when dangerman Michael Trigger met a well-weighted cross with a header from close range, but the forward flicked his effort too far across Nieuwenhuizen in goal, missing the target altogether.
This miss proved pivotal as City went up the other end and scored from what was pretty much the game’s next sequence, with Harry Politidis found over the top from midfield and able to square a brilliant ball for Sulemani to finish with ease.
Adus nearly doubled City’s lead just two minutes later when he fired a first-time effort that forced a good reflex save from Carton, with the winger finding good space for that shot after intelligently reading the flight of a cross that had been flicked towards the back post.
City had another good chance in the 37th when Sebastian Esposito rose highest to meet a corner-kick at the back post, but glanced his header the wrong side of the upright.
Nieuwenhuizen was called into action for the first time in the 53rd minute, palming away a curling effort that appeared bound for the top corner. He then followed that up with another big save from the ensuing corner, smothering a close-range strike that arose from City’s failure to clear initially.
Giorgio Sardenes nearly made an impact off the bench in the 67th minute, striking across the keeper and narrowly wide of the post after being released into the area, whilst fellow substitute Lucas Byrns came close just a handful of minutes later when he flashed a strike over the crossbar.
Byrns continued his lively cameo when he called Carton into action again in the 81st minute, with the Ballarat keeper needing to get down quickly to claim the driven effort.
City’s right winger then had a huge chance in the 87th when he was found at the back post by Politidis, but as the ball tailed away from his outstretched boot he just couldn’t make the decisive contact as he instead fired wide of the upright, with that opportunity serving as the game’s final highlight as City ran out 1-0 winners.
The win takes City to seven points from its opening four fixtures, a tally which the team will look to build on next Saturday when it travels to face North Sunshine Eagles FC.
Image: Captured By Kas