Melbourne City FC have started their NPL season with a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to Preston Lions in front of a vocal crowd at B.T Connor Reserve Friday night. First half goals to both sides had the game heading towards a stalemate before a 94th minute goal to Preston’s Alex Schiavo delivered the Lions all 3 points.
In an entertaining start to the contest, both teams looked dangerous in front of goal, with City’s Bernardo Oliveira looking dangerous on the left wing, whilst Preston’s Chris Davies thought he scored the opener past Matt Sutton but was ruled offside.
City had a penalty chance for a harsh tackle denied in the 20th minute, but City’s disappointment was short lived as a minute later, a free kick from Oliveira was flicked on by Taras Gomulka onto the post, before Raphael Borges Rodrigues’ header was deflected by Preston’s Karl Baricevic for an own goal to give City an early lead.
City had the chance to make it 2-0 in the 28th minute as another cross from Oliveira was parried by Preston goalkeeper Matt Symes into the path of Borges Rodrigues, who couldn’t hit the target from close distance. 7 minutes later City were made to rue their missed chance as James Poole made his way into the box, before his cross found Chris Davies for the equaliser. In the 44th minute Preston could’ve made it 2-1 as Matt Cundari’s shot was strongly saved by Sutton to keep the match level at half time.
City started the better of the two sides to begin the second half, as Oliveira cross-cum-shot was tipped away by Symes before Borges Rodrigues and captain Sam Morrison worked a wonderful one-two to deliver the former another chance to make it a second for City but was denied by another strong save from Symes. The second half was a much more physical affair with strong tackles from both sides, as City dropped back and looked to use their young legs to catch Preston on the counter attack.
In the 69th minute Poole’s left foot shot from the edge of the box was destined for the top corner if not for a diving save from Sutton, who then made a remarkable reflex save to keep things level. Tension levels hit boiling point in the 75th minute as a tackle from Lucas Byrns led to a coming together with both Byrns and Preston’s Andrija Roksandic both receiving yellow cards.
City thought they had a late penalty as a move between Jordi Valdon and Max Caputo led to substitute Charbel Shamoon being brought down in the box, but a penalty was not given.
A minute later Lucas Byrns was brought down just outside the box and Gomulka’s resulting free kick flew just over the bar. Byrns was almost the hero for City as the 90th minute approached as his 30-metre run into the box led to his shot hitting side netting.
Deep into injury time Preston had the chance to steal the 3 points as Davies’ through ball hit Alex Schiavo, who put it past Sutton to give the Lions the win.
City now turn their attention to Nunawading FC this Saturday at Mahoney’s Reserve, with kick off set for 3pm.
Preston 2-1 Melbourne City FC
Chris Davies 35’
Alex Schiavo 90+4’
Robert Stambolziev 12’
James Haran 20’
Chris Davies 72’
Andrija Roksandic 76’
Alex Schiavo for Robert Naumoski 46’
Bradley Blumenthal for Robert Stambolziev 70’
Geun Kim for James Poole 78’
Karl Baricevic 21’ (OG)
Lucas Byrns 76’
Lucas Byrns for Bernardo Oliveira 58’
Charbel Shamoon for Daniel Lucente 59’
Max Caputo for Raphael Borges Rodrigues 80’