Scintillating City see off struggling Wellington

by Jeremy Ruane:
with the compliments of

Hyundai A-League – Season 11 – 2015/2016 – Round 16
7:30pm, Monday 25 January, 2016 – Melbourne Football Stadium (AAMI)

Melbourne City FC 3  (Fornaroli 11′, Novillo 31′, 49′)
Wellington Phoenix FC 1 (Bonevacia 66′)

Melbourne City produced some at times scintillating football in overcoming Wellington Phoenix 3-1 at AAMI Park on January 25 to climb into a share of second spot on the Hyundai A-League table.

10,825 fans were treated to an enterprising display from both teams, with Wellington’s attacking play offering plenty, but all too often coming up short in the final third of the park, that lack of an end product something which is proving crucial to their hopes of turning round a formline which now reads one win in ten matches.

How they must wish they had the attacking riches of a City side which gave debuts to three experienced new signings in this match. Nonetheless, the visitors were the first team to threaten, Albert Riera’s well-struck volley forcing a smothering save from Thomas Sorensen in the second minute.

Melbourne were soon into their stride, however. Only a vital Andrew Durante tackle thwarted Bruno Fornaroli in the fourth minute, after the league’s leading marksman had outmuscled Manny Muscat, while seconds later a stunning run past four players from half-way by Michael Zullo culminated in Glen Moss tipping the winger’s eighteen yard drive over the bar.

After Wellington threatened again through Roly Bonevacia – Aaron Hughes blocked his shot after Tom Doyle and Michael McGlinchey had combined down the left, City opened the scoring in the twelfth minute.

It was a splendid solo strike from Fornaroli, who dashed down the left then cut inside Muscat before sweeping across the top of the penalty in order to curl a low shot round the diving figure of Moss into the far corner of the net to complete the set – he has scored against every A-League club, and it’s only taken him sixteen games to do so.

The sixteenth minute was when City next threatened, and it was a fabulous move which deserved better fate. Fornaroli and Mooy combined superbly, the latter’s delightful reverse pass supplemented by the former’s “rabona”, which invited Erik Paartalu to shoot first time. Moss saved superbly, and Wellington eventually scrambled the ball to safety.

The visitors threatened again, this time through captain Andrew Durante, who met McGlinchey’s free-kick with a powerful downward header which Sorensen saved well at the base of his right-hand post in the nineteenth minute.

The Danish ‘keeper raced out to prevent Bonevacia from exploiting a move which featured McGlinchey and Blake Powell seven minutes later, Fornaroli having just failed to get on the end of a teasing cross from Novillo, after Paartalu had spread play to the striker on the right in between times.

Sorensen then smothered a twenty-yarder from Bonevacia, who was yet again the victim of some crude fouls in this match, about which referee Peter Green did very little – and even less re the dubious challenges Patrick Kisnorbo unleashed throughout proceedings, none of which was punished in the manner they should have been.

The ‘keeper sparked a counter-attack, Mooy leading the charge down the left before angling the ball back to Fornaroli. He squared it to Novillo, who steered it into the stride of the overlapping figure of Ivan Franjic. The fullback’s low cross ricocheted off Vince Lia into the side-netting, with Moss looking on gratefully having been deceived by the deflection.

When Melbourne next attacked, in the 31st minute, they doubled their lead in superb fashion. Franjic and Paartalu combined to spread play wide to Zullo on the left, from where he angled in a perfectly flighted cross to the near post. Arriving on cue was Novillo, whose first-time cushioned volley flashed past Moss – 2-0.

Wellington were stunned, but they didn’t let up, and in the 37th minute came desperately close to halving the deficit. Bonevacia and Powell worked a one-two on the right which allowed the Dutchman to power past Jacob Melling before whipping in a cross to the near post. Sorensen spilled it, the ball ricocheting off the incoming figure of Powell and inches past the upright – a real let-off for City.

The home team swiftly regained the upper hand, with a Fornaroli shot being blocked by Muscat before Mooy’s resulting corner was headed over the bar by Hughes to ensure Melbourne went to the dressing rooms two goals to the good.

Four minutes into the second half, they made it 3-0. Anthony Caceres, one of the aforementioned trio of newcomers, did brilliantly to beat three opponents before bringing Mooy into play.

He opened up the defence with a pass which played in Novillo, whose thunderous finish into the top far corner from fifteen yards was worth the admission price alone – a terrific goal from a team whose enterprising attacking play is a real pleasure to watch.

Five minutes later, only Moss’ anticipation prevented them from adding a fourth goal, Caceres, Novillo and Fornaroli combining to invite a low cross from Franjic which the league’s leading scorer was racing in to meet on the far post before the goalkeeper’s intervention.

Still City pressed, the woodwork coming to Wellington’s rescue, much to Novillo’s chagrin, after Paartalu, Fornaroli and Franjic had carved open the visitors in the 56th minute.

Sixty seconds later, Zullo chased down a lost cause and surged into the penalty area before pulling the ball back for Fornaroli, who was only able to shoot after two Wellington defenders had failed to clear their lines.

The striker’s effort was the most deft of chips, but Moss, arching backwards, produced a stunning save to turn the ball over the bar and keep his team in the contest. Because Wellington were certainly contributing to this game in an attacking sense, and the introduction of substitute Joel Stevens only enhanced that threat – the youngster played well.

Melbourne were different gravy attack-wise, however. In the 62nd minute, Melling, Mooy and Novillo joined forces to create a chance for Fornaroli, flying in on the far post. He was just unable to guide it the right side of the upright as far as City were concerned.

The visitors pressed again, and this time gained reward for their endeavour with a goal of the season contender. Paartalu gifted possession to McGlinchey, who combined with Alex Rodriguez to guide the ball into the stride of Bonevacia.

From thirty yards, he unleashed a simply unstoppable swerving drive which arced into the top corner of Sorensen’s goal, right where you’d put the postage stamp if the goal were an envelope – stunning strike.

Novillo responded with a rasping drive which sped past Moss’ left-hand post, after which City eased off as an attacking force, sensing the job was done. And it was, by and large, although they had to stave off one Wellington attack of note in the time remaining, with Riera and Doyle linking with Powell in the 82nd minute – Sorensen wasn’t having a bar of being beaten at his near post on this occasion.

Melbourne’s 3-1 win fired them into an overnight share of second spot on the table, and they look very much like title contenders, something which can’t be said for Wellington, who have now slumped to eighth in the table, and are now seven points off the play-off places with eleven games to go.

Match details

Crowd: 10,825

Melbourne City FC:    Sorensen (gk); Kisnorbo, Hughes, Melling; Frantic (Retre, 62), Caceres (Malik, 69), Mooy, Paartalu (Fitzgerald, 79), Zullo (booked, 61); Fornaroli, Novillo

Wellington Phoenix FC:     Moss (gk); Ridenton (Stevens, 58), Muscat, Durante (booked, 14), Doyle; Lia (booked, 52) (Fenton, 52), Riera, Rodriguez (Appiah-Kubi, 70); Bonevacia, Powell, McGlinchey

Referee:    Peter Green

Points and ratings

Match  7/10
Pitch  7/10
Referee  2/10

Player points
3.  Novillo
2.  Zullo
1.  Mooy

By Jeremy Ruane