City have suffered a disappointing loss to Perth Glory on Friday night, going down 3-1 in an eventful affair.
Goals to Mitch Nichols, Xavier Torres and Mitch Mallia did the job for the Glory, with Ross McCormack’s fifth dead ball goal of the season not enough to spur City on to a win.
It was a game of two halves, with a back and forth opening half giving way to a second that City dominated.
City were unable to convert the dominance to goals on the score sheet however, seeing their winless streak extend to four weeks.
Despite the loss, City retain third position on the A-League table, with the Glory jumping up to fourth after the win.
— Melbourne City FC (@MelbourneCity) November 24, 2017
Ross McCormack returned to head coach Warren Joyce’s starting XI after missing last weeks match. He was joined in the starting line-up by Luke Brattan, with the two replacing Iacopo La Rocca and Manny Muscat.
After his heroics as part of the Socceroos qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, Tim Cahill made his return to the City squad, being available off the bench.
Despite having to make the long trip across the Nullarbor, it was Perth Glory that started the game the brighter of the two sides.
Kenny Lowe’s side almost turned their bright start into an early lead when in the sixth minute a bouncing ball fell perfectly for Andy Keogh on the edge of the area, however the Irish striker could only launch his volleyed effort over the bar.
Six minutes later however, Perth did grab that early lead through Nichols.
Collecting the ball in defence, the Glory’s Brandon Wilson distributed the ball to the dangerous Italiano on the left wing.
Running at Fitzgerald, Italiano was able to eventually cut the ball back to Keogh at the top corner of the penalty area who opened the door for the midfielder to shoot on goal..
Nichols launched a shot goalward that deflected of City captain Michael Jakobsen, completely wrongfooting Eugene Galekovic, and bounced into the goal.
City would begin to show life after the restart however, as Fitzgerald began to settle into the game and launch himself forward.
Getting to the byline in the fifteenth minute, he was able to slide the ball across the penalty area in an attempt to find Marcin Budzinski, only for Perth to clear.
After a period of back and forth play in which key players from both City and the Glory went down with injury, Jakobsen in the 19th minute after collecting a knee in the back from Galekovic and Keogh in the 24th minute with a groin complaint that would eventually force him off six minutes later, City would make a break through.
It came, as it has so many times before this season, from a set piece by McCormack.
Looking to cut inside in the 31st minute, Bruce Kamau was crudely brought down on the corner of the penalty area by Glory defender Alex Grant.
Stepping up, McCormack curled a magnificent free kick over the assembled Perth Glory wall and past a diving Liam Reddy to grab his fifth goal of the season, all of which have come from set pieces.
Remonstrating with referee Daniel Elder after the goal, Perth Glory coach Kenny Lowe made a bit of A-League history when he became the first official shown a card, in this case a yellow one, under the FFA’s new system of cautions for coaches.
Controversy would soon strike however, as a 39th minute attack by the Perth Glory led to a VAR review, straight red card and the Glory retaking the lead from the penalty spot.
The passage of play started with a cross into the box from the right by the Glory’s Chris Harold, that flashed across the face of goal and was destined for a goal kick were it not for Joe Knowles, who had replaced Keough earlier in the affair, leaping after the ball and flicking it back into play.
Italiano and Osama Malik scrambled for the loose ball, with Italiano getting to it first and putting a shot wide, with Malik collecting the young winger on the follow through.
Initially awarded a goal kick by Elder, the VAR sprung into action and after review Malik’s follow through, which saw the defender collect Italiano with a studs up challenge to the thigh, was deemed worthy of a straight red and a penalty was awarded to the Glory.
Torres stepped up to take it for the Glory and made no mistake as he sent Galekovic the wrong way and gave the Glory back the lead.
Controversy would continue to brew as the half ended, as a City attack in injury time had a number of clear calls for fouls, which culminated in Shane Lowry tackling Bart Schenkeveld in the area that was ignored.
Despite it appearing to be a clear-cut penalty to the eye, VAR review would not bring the play back, and City went into the break fuming, reduced to ten men and down two goals to one.
This pressure was almost rewarded when Budzinski cheekily stepped in front of a pass initially intended for McCormack at the top of the area and gave himself a clear look at goal, only for his effort to slide across the face of goal and go out for a goal kick.
City’s push for an equaliser came to an end when – in the 83rd minute – Glory stole a third.
A clearance from the Perth defence was collected by Fitzgerald on the half way line, the diminutive winger having dropped back to serve as the last man as City launched a set piece goalward, only to be dispossessed by Perth substitute Mitch Mallia.
With nobody in front of him, Mallia ran the length of the half and slid the ball to the left of a charging Galekovic to make it three and seal the game for the Glory.
City will next week travel to Newcastle to take on the Jets in a highly-anticipated clash at McDonald Jones Stadium, kick-off 7.50pm on Saturday 2 December. City’s next home game will come against the Central Coast Mariners in Round 10 at 7.00pm on Sunday 10 December.