Melbourne City FC maintained its position atop the NPL3 ladder with a strong performance away from home to Ballarat City on Saturday afternoon.
City found the back of the net twice in the first half before a Max Caputo second half double and an Emin Durakovic screamer saw it run away five-goal winners.
Head Coach John Maisano named an unchanged XI from the team that beat Western United a week prior, although Max Caputo did return via the substitutes bench after a couple of weeks off.
Starting XI: 42. Ahmad TALEB (GK), 4. Dom FOLINO, 27. Sebastian ESPOSITO, 13. Jordan DELLIDIS, 12. Harry POLITIDIS (C), 26. Justin PAOLILLI, 18. Matthew GRIMALDI, 6. Jordi VALADON, 8. Luke ORESTI, 14. Moonib ADUS, 11. Arion SULEMANI.
Substitutes: 41. Luke SAUNDERS (GK), 9. Max CAPUTO, 21. Emin DURAKOVIC, 23. Harrison SHILLINGTON, 33. Luqman HASSANI, 43. Joshua DAMEVSKI.
After making the trip down to Ballarat, City’s afternoon couldn’t have gotten off to a better start with Arion Sulemani extending his Golden Boot lead in just the sixth minute.
A beautiful long ball over the top from Sebastian Esposito played the young forward through on goal, and as he has done so often this season, Sulemani was able to coolly finish past the keeper.
City held majority of the possession and looked in control for much of the contest, with the likes of Jordi Valadon and Matthew Grimaldi creating plenty in attack.
Sulemani had a chance for a second when he was played in by Luke Oresti, but with the goalkeeper rushing out to meet him, was unable to get a shot on target from a tight angle.
His day then came to an unfortunate early end through injury, with Max Caputo making his first appearance in a few weeks to come on and replace him.
Valadon continued to be involved and showed some nice footwork in the 25th minute to get past his defender, before firing a long-range strike into the back of the net to double City’s advantage.
With all the momentum, City almost had a third just a minute later when Oresti teed up Caputo in the box and the striker was only denied by a great close range save from Ballarat goalkeeper David Carton.
Moonib Adus continued his strong recent form, looking lively down the left and forcing a good save from Carton in the 35th, while Grimaldi was also denied just moments before half-time.
After being great value for its 2-0 lead, City put the foot down in the second 45 minutes as its defence offered little to the Ballarat attack.
City continued to cause the home side problems up the other end of the pitch and Adus was able to win a penalty midway through the second half after forcing a clumsy challenge from the Ballarat defender.
Caputo stepped up to take the resulting spot kick and despatched his effort into the bottom right corner as the keeper chose the wrong way.
The duo was then again involved for City’s fourth less than ten minutes later, Adus crossing from the left and laying it on a platter for Caputo to tap home his second from close-range.
City continued to show its class in possession, repeatedly asking questions of a Ballarat defence that appeared to have little answers.
Substitute Emin Durakovic joined the party in the 82nd minute, getting his name on the scoresheet for the fourth time this season. He received the ball in midfield before turning, taking a couple of touches and firing home a rocket of a strike from outside the box that the goalkeeper could do little about.
City were able to professionally see out the result with Luqman Hassani almost adding his name to the scoresheet in the dying moments, only kept out by another fine save from Carton.
Just seven games remain in the NPL3 season and City will look to continue to strengthen its Premiership push when it returns home next Saturday afternoon to host eight-placed North Sunshine Eagles.