Melbourne City march on with hard-earned win

by Jeremy Ruane
with the compliments of

Hyundai A-League – Season 13 – 2017/2018 – Round 3
7pm, Saturday 21 October, 2017 – Melbourne Football Stadium

Melbourne City FC 1 (Ross McCormack 37′)
Wellington Phoenix FC 0


Melbourne City made it three wins from as many matches in the Hyundai A-League on October 21, but they had to work hard to eke out a 1-0 victory over a Wellington Phoenix combination which is improving by the week under new coach Darije Kalezic.

9,091 fans inside AAMI Park saw the visitors dominate possession against the early pace-setters, playing a patient style of football foreign to most New Zealand teams, one which only regular FIFA Club World Cup Finals contenders Auckland City have managed to master over the last decade – it certainly hasn’t done their cause any harm!

Wellington had held onto the ball for the thick end of two minutes when Goran Paracki fired a thirty yarder over the top just six minutes into the contest, to which City responded with a trio of openings inside the next seven minutes.

Former Wellington fullback Manny Muscat led the first raid in the tenth minute, linking with Stefan Mauk, who played a delicious reverse pass into the stride of Bruce Kamau, coming inside off the right flank.

Clear of the defence, he opted not to shoot but to pass, and the opportunity was lost. But when Muscat curled in a cross two minutes later which had Ross McCormack’s name written all over it, Daniel Mullen’s vital intervention prevented the Scottish striker from opening his account for the season.

After Nick Fitzgerald’s rising twenty yarder had been grabbed by a confident Keegan Smith, Mauk and Muscat combined on the right for Kamau’s benefit. His first-time pass inside found Fitzgerald dashing into the penalty area, from where he sent the ball soaring over the bar with a shot which should have at least hit the target.

Wellington, having gone close with an Andrija Kaludjerovic header just shy of the half-hour mark, produced their first shot on target in the 32nd minute, following a lovely move featuring Ridenton, Roy Krishna, Dario Vidosic and Paracki.

He spread play wide to Ali Abbas, who cut inside off the left and sent a twenty yarder sizzling towards the top far corner of the net, only for Eugene Galekovic to produce a flying save to his left to maintain the scoreless scoreline.

Abbas and Ridenton got their wires crossed three minutes later, and Fitzgerald wasn’t slow on the uptake, scooting clear of the duo before failing to find Mauk with his cross on the run.

Muscat then showed his speedy team-mate how to do it, a delightful deep cross from the right inviting McCormack to unleash a flying hip-turn volley. Had he been able to direct the ball on target, this would surely have been an early contender for ‘goal of the season’.

Unperturbed, City pressed again soon after, Mauk and Kamau – a sharp turn – engineering an opening for the charging figure of Fitzgerald to exploit. Ridenton’s timely intervention ensured Melbourne’s most effective player in the first half wouldn’t have a goal to show for his efforts.

Two minutes before half-time, the visitors produced a captivating length-of-the-pitch move from which they went within inches of breaking the deadlock. Smith played the ball short to Mullen, who brought Paracki into play.

Scott Galloway and Michael McGlinchey also chimed in, the latter’s through ball sending Vidosic dashing through the inside right channel, from where he hit a fierce drive across the diving figure of Galekovic and just past the far post.

The home team began the second spell with far greater urgency, Michael Jakobsen engineering a 47th minute opening which McCormack lashed over the bar before Scott Jamieson got in on the left and sent a low cross careering across Wellington’s six-yard box, with no-one in a sky blue shirt on hand to tuck the ball home.

Wellington’s response was inspired by Krishna, whose mazy run in off the right just shy of the hour mark saw him dribble past half the Melbourne team before spreading play wide to Abbas, who cut inside only to thrash his shot wildly across the face of goal.

Seconds later, Ridenton intercepted a pass and slipped the ball to Paracki, who uncorked a gem of a forty yard pass through the City rearguard, unleashing the pace of Kaludjerovic in the process. With Iacopo La Rocca in hot pursuit, the striker checked his run, then directed his shot against the heel of the defender, in doing so squandering a great chance to take the lead.

From McGlinchey’s resulting corner, Vidosic saw his eight yard header grabbed at the second attempt by Galekovic, who looked on twelve minutes from time as Kaludjerovic directed a flying header past the far post after half-time substitute Thomas Doyle had combined with Abbas on the left.

By this time, Wellington were chasing an equaliser, for McCormack had blasted City in front in the 69th minute with a stunning thirty-two yard free-kick which careered past both the wall and the diving figure of Smith, ricocheting into the net off the far post.

They came desperately close to scoring what would have been a deserved equaliser with six minutes to go. Paracki played a super pass to release substitute Adam Parkhouse on the left, from where he played the ball inside to fellow replacement Hamish Watson.

Luke Brattan swiftly stepped into dispossess his fellow newcomer, but only succeeded in directing the ball into the stride of Krishna. He let rip from twenty yards with a piledriver which cannoned off the post into the goalmouth. Kaludjerovic instinctively headed the rebound goalwards, only for the ball to strike Galekovic – he knew nothing about it – and ricochet to safety.

It was a real let-off for City, who came under concerted Wellington pressure inside the final five minutes. Smith, Galloway and Parkhouse combined with the overlapping figure of Doyle three minutes from time, only for the last-mentioned’s shot to be blocked by Bart Schenekeveld.

Seconds later, Krishna and McGlinchey combined, only for Kaludjerovic to head over as the game entered stoppage time, during which City carved out a couple of openings in which substitute Tim Cahill – who earned the biggest cheer of the night when coming on – was involved.

Neither proved fruitful, but McCormack’s 69th minute free-kick had done sufficient damage to ensure Melbourne march on at the top of the table, just the seventh team in A-League history to win their first three matches of the season.

Match details

Crowd: 9,091

Melbourne City FC: Galekovic (gk); Muscat, La Rocca, Schenkeveld, Jamieson; Jakobsen, Mauk (Brattan, 82), Malik; Kamau, McCormack (booked, 81) (Cahill, 82), Fitzgerald

Wellington Phoenix FC: Smith (gk); Galloway, Mullen, Rossi (Doyle, 46), Abbas (Parkhouse, 84); Ridenton (booked, 68) (Watson, 76), Vidosic, Paracki; Krishna, Kaludjerovic, McGlinchey

Points and ratings

Referee: Jonathan Barreiro 6/10
Match 6/10
Pitch 8/10

Players points
3. Fitzgerald
2. Paracki
1. Muscat