It wasn’t the three points they would have preferred, but Melbourne City’s senior NPL side was nonetheless able to snap a seven-game losing run on Saturday evening; drawing 1-1 with NPL2 Eastern Conference foes Langwarrin SC.
Playing their first game in their new home surrounds of the Veneto Club, City weathered an early storm of Langwarrin attacks to take the lead in the 27th minute when Moudi Najjar and Stefan Colakovski combined on a quick counterattack to take the lead.
Langwarrin, however, was able to respond in the 54th minute of the contest when a scuffed shot from former Melbourne City prospect Lucas Portelli bumped across the box and found the head of a waiting Max Etheridge.
The big Langy attacker made no mistake with his gilt-edged chance and headed home to make it level.
Though they finished strong over the top of their opponent’s thanks to a combination of fitness and the additions of A-League stars Ramy Najjarine and Connor Metcalfe, City was unable to bounce back and secure the win.
The solitary point means that, for another week at least, City will remain at the foot of the NPL2 Eastern Conference table.
Three points against Murray United next week, though, could see Petr Kratky’s boys rise to eighth place and sit just a point off seventh.
Ravaged by injury, player departures and layoffs in recent times, City began to welcome back some of its more senior players for the contest against Langwarrin.
Colakovski and Mark Karlic both started their first games after returning off the bench against Victory the week prior whilst Idrus Abdulahi returned from an illness.
On the bench, Najjarine and Metcalfe also returned to the side. Though on a minutes limit in their first game back, the pair will add a not insignificant amount of flair for the side going forward.
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City started the contest well enough: Josh Varga sliding a ball into Giovani Stellitano on the edge of the area in the 5th minute with the winger in enough space to turn and shoot, only for the effort to slide wide left of the goals.
Langwarrin then responded just a minute later with a chance of their own as Jordan Templin let loose with a long-range effort that just sailed wide of the posts.
It harboured a blistering early spell where the Southeastern side refused to give City any respite in their half of the pitch; pressing fiercely and allowing the defence of Karlic, Dalibor Markovic, Mitch Graham and Daniel Lucente not a moment of peace as they tried to play the ball out.
Though Langy was able to make a number of chances, none were of the nature that would clearly deserve a goal – perhaps the best coming in the 20th minute when Portelli went on a windy run before setting up a shot from Damir Stoilovic that went straight into the breadbasket of Ahmad Taleb – and they were soon made to pay.
Taking a goal kick in the 26th minute of play Taleb, perhaps forced by the Langwarrin press, hoofed the ball up the field in the direction of Najjar.
Using his body to maneuverer his opponent under the ball in a manner that would not draw the referee’s ire, Najjar was able to ensure the ball bounced onwards and into the path of a waiting Colakovski.
Collecting the ball and bounding forward, Colakovski then slid a pass to his left as he approached the penalty area for Najjar, who had sprinted after him following his piece of body work in support.
Receiving the pass, Najjar turned his man inside out as he cut back inside before launching an unstoppable effort into the bottom corner to give City a 1-0 lead.
Langwarrin had a final chance to equalise with the last kick of the first half when Templin floated a free kick into the area, but their subsequent headed effort just went wide; ensuring that City took a lead into the rooms at half time.
They had much more luck in the 54th minute, though, when a poor clearance out of their own penalty area by the City defence bounced straight to a waiting Portelli.
Winding up a half volleyed effort, Portelli failed to make proper contact with the shot and it appeared set to bounce harmlessly across the face of goal, only for a waiting Etheridge, just played onside by the City defence to wander into its path and head into the bottom corner to make it 1-1.
The momentum well and truly back in their corner, Langwarrin pressed hard for another and may well have done so had it not been for the introduction of Metcalfe in the 58th minute and Najjarine in the 61st.
Despite the clear rust that affected some of their attempts to kickstart their side into action, the presence of the two A-League capped players served to shift the game back in City’s favour and allowed Kratky’s side to begin to create some clear chances of their own.
The pick of the bunch came in the 89th minute when Najjarine fed a ball to Metcalfe on the edge of the area that the midfielder just put high and wide of the goal.
Nonetheless, in the end, the two sides were unable to be split after 90 minutes and were forced to settle for a point apeice.