Report: City survive late Sydney push to secure much-needed win

Melbourne City 3 – Jamie Maclaren (‘8, ‘53) Adrian Luna (28’)
Sydney FC 2 –
Milos Ninkovic (‘72) Patrick Wood (’90)

 After storming to an early lead, Melbourne City has survived a late scare to ease pressure on coach Patrick Kisnorbo with a 3-2 win over Sydney FC.

178 days since the Sky Blues downed City in extra-time of the 2019-20 Grand Final, the vanquished enacted some measure of revenge on Tuesday evening: Jamie Maclaren firing in a pair of point blank efforts and Adrian Luna adding another to ensure that Milos Ninkovic’s and Patrick Wood’s late goals weren’t enough.

City produced a master-class in high-pressure football early on in the evening; consistently forcing turnover after turnover after turnover and springing forward in numbers to create yet another chance on goal. Had Redmayne not produced a series of lightning-fast reaction saves and City had their goalscoring boots on, Sydney may have been in no position to stage a comeback.

But the home fans were forced to sweat as the contest entered its final stages after a series of second-half substitutions by Corica helped swing momentum back towards Sydney and open the door for a potential fightback led by Ninkovic.

It was not too be, though, and City held on for their first win since January 16.

Now just two points adrift of the top six, the three points sees City leapfrog Western United into ninth position on the A-League table and breaks a run of three straight defeats. With three wins to their name, they will enjoy a week off before travelling to face Western Sydney Wanderers next Tuesday. 

Sydney, conversely, missed out on the chance to vault cross-town foes Western Sydney Wanderers with a draw, as well as new-rivals Macarthur FC with a win, but still retain games in hand over those around them on the ladder. Having now brought up their second loss of the season, the Sky Blues will host Macarthur on Sunday night. 

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It didn’t take City long to break the deadlock, with Socceroo striker Maclaren bringing up his fourth goal of the season in just the eighth minute of play. 

The ball falling to Luna after a contest between Andrew Nabbout and Joel King saw it careen into the middle of the park, the Urugyuan let loose with a shot that Andrew Redmayne – seeing it late as it cleared two defenders – was forced to punch clear. The resulting loose ball fell for Maclaren, however, who swept it in on the half volley. 

Things got even worse for the Sky Blues, who had won ten of eleven games in Victoria prior to Tuesday’s contest, soon after when a collision between Florin Berenguer, Connor Metcalfe and Luke Brattan left the latter on the ground and nursing a head injury that forced his substitution for youngster Calem Nieuwenhof. 

City made it 2-0 in the 28th minute after they worked from right to left with a series of sharp passes and sprung Noone into space on the left. The Englishman then drove inside and whipped in a cross that, after taking a faint touch off Maclaren, landed at the feet of Luna to caress home. 

Both sides were seeking to press their foes when they took possession in their defensive third, but City was getting far more opportunities to do so and it was taking its toll on the Harboursiders; Rhyan Grant booked for a lunging challenge on Maclaren as he attempting to win a loose ball back after being challenged near his own penalty area. 

Nonetheless, over half a decade of evidence has shown that Sydney, no matter how poorly they are playing, is capable of turning games on their heads with their lethality and Kosta Barbourouses gave Kisnorbo a reminder of this in the 40th minute when, played through by Ryan McGowan, he hit the bar from the edge of the City area.

But that chance didn’t augur an rapid turnaround, as less than ten minutes into the second half Maclaren secured his second after Nabbout was picked out with a long ball from Metcalfe, cut inside and found out his number nine with a low cross that he tucked in from close range. 

Sydney coach Steve Corica swinging a triple change to introduce Jordi Swibel, Wood and Ninkovic in the 58th minute, he was subsequently rewarded with a glimmer of hope when the latter poked home from the edge of the six-yard box after an Anthony Caceres pass deflected off Jamieson and straight into his path.

Ninkovic then turned provider in the 90th minute when he was played through by McGowan, who had been thrown up forward in a desperate late gambit, and cut the ball back for Wood to send into an open net.

A penalty shout turned down, Sydney were unable to find another in the scant remaining stoppage time as City ran out the clock for a three points that were much more hard earned than they should have been.

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Melbourne City: Tom Glover (GK), Scott Jamieson, Rostyn Griffiths, Curtis Good, Nathaniel Atkinson, Connor Metcalfe (Gomulka, ’91), Florin Berenguer, Adrian Luna (Reis, ‘64), Andrew Nabbout (Tilio, ’94), Craig Noone, Jamie Maclaren
Subs: Matthew Sutton (GK), Nuno Reis, Naoki Tsubaki, Taras Gomulka, Stefan Colakovski, Ben Garuccio, Marco Tilio
Coach: Patrick Kisnorbo

Sydney FC: Andrew Redmayne (GK), Rhyan Grant, Ryan McGowan, Alex Wilkinson, Joel King, Luke Brattan (Nieuwnhof ‘22), Paulo Retre (Warland ’87), Anthony Caceres, Alex Baumjohann (Ninkovic ‘58), Kosta Barbarouses (Swibel ‘58), Bobo (Wood, 58’) 
Subs: Tom Heward-Belle, Patrick Flottman, Ben Warland, Benjamin Warland, Milos Ninkovic, Jordan Swibel, Calem Nieuwnhof, Patrick Wood
Coach: Steve Corica 

Referee: Stephen Lucas VAR: Kris Griffiths-Jones

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