Melbourne City FC moved four points clear on top of the NPL3 ladder thanks to a strong 3-0 win over Premiership rival Western United at Parade College on Saturday afternoon.
A solid defensive performance across the 90 minutes paired with an Arion Sulemani goal and Luke Oresti brace saw City pick up the points as the pointy end of the season nears.
Head Coach John Maisano made just the one forced change to his starting XI with Ahmad Taleb returning in between the sticks in place of James Nieuwenhuizen.
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, Jordi VALADON, 8. Luke ORESTI, 14. Moonib ADUS, 11. Arion SULEMANI.
Substitutes: 30. Michael VONJA (GK), 21. Emin DURAKOVIC, 23. Harrison SHILLINGTON, 25. Rhys DUFTON, 33. Luqman HASSANI, 99. Giorgio SERDENES.
City got off to the better start and controlled the early possession, but despite this, it was Western who had the first clear sight at goal.
Jake Najdovski fired a sixth minute strike at Ahmad Taleb, who reacted quickly to pull off a great save from point blank range.
City’s pressing was a feature of its performance throughout the contest, with every player in the line-up executing their induvial defensive roles well.
This meant Western United’s defence were offered very little time on the ball as City were able to force turnovers in dangerous positions across the 90 minutes.
City found the most joy attacking down the left in the first half, with Moonib Adus and Harry Politidis involved in some nice combination play.
Jordi Valadon looked creative in midfield while Adus and Arion Sulemani threatened in the box as City searched for a way to unlock the green and black defence.
The chance came just moments before half time when Matthew Grimaldi was bought down in the box and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Sulemani stepped up to take the resulting spot kick and made no mistake, coolly placing his effort into the bottom left corner.
City continued its strong performance into the second half with the back four looking rock solid. Dom Folino had a few important interventions from right-back, ensuring Western would have little joy when transitioning to attack.
A well-placed cross from Luke Oresti in the 67th minute found Sulemani in the box, and he was able to beat his defender to the ball to finish past the keeper to double City’s advantage.
From there it took less than ten minutes to find a third, with Oresti this time on the finishing end.
Valadon spotted his well-timed run from the right wing and found him with a lovely ball through the defence, which Oresti comfortably controlled to finish past the keeper.
Western did see more of the ball in the final 15 minutes, but City were strong defensively to ensure the opposition wouldn’t get any clear shots at goal as the scoreline remained 3-0 when the final whistle sounded.
City will be looking to pick up another important three points this Saturday afternoon when it heads west to take on Ballarat City.