Melbourne City’s NPL senior side was unable to capitalize on a strong opening half on Saturday night, going down 4-1 to high-flying NPL2 West side Altona Magic. The news was better for City’s other academy sides, however, with City’s U20, U18 and U15 squads all recording wins.
Coming off a heavy defeat at the hands of rivals Melbourne Victory in the Youth Melbourne Derby last week, Joe Palatsides’ senior NPL side started brightly against Altona; defender Mitch Graham’s through ball in only the games 3rd minute springing Yusuf Ahmed for a one-on-one on goal before the linesman raised his flag.
The Magic would then respond, going close on goal through Troy Ruthven and Melvin Becket; before City would once against be punished by the linesman, with his flag this time canceling out a City goal.
Breaking towards the byline in the game’s 14th minute, Dalibor Markovic swung a low ball into the penalty area, finding an open Yasin Nur.
The youngster, who started on the wing up front with Ahmed and Marko Delic, was able to turn the ball in to cheers from the City sideline, only for the grim realization that he had been adjudged to have been just offside sink in.
The Magic would soon capitalize on City’s misfortune.
Scottish import Jon McShane sounded the warning when he sprang Robert Stambolziev in the 19th minute with a dangerous through ball, Stambolziev blasting just wide, before the Magic went one up two minutes later.
Breaking down the right, the Magic whipped a ball into the penalty area, where McShane was waiting. With a clear height, weight and strength advantage over the incredibly young City defence, McShane was easily able to win enough space to turn the ball in.
City refused to be cowered, however, finding themselves on level terms only nine minutes later after some sublime work by Connor Metcalfe and Seb Kis set up Nur to – fairly – put the ball into the net.
Receiving the ball in the middle of the park as City played out from the back, Metcalfe would deftly flick a pass for Kis to run onto down the right.
The young Kis, who has transitioned to senior NPL football well after last year playing a key part in City’s U20 NPL2 Eastern Conference title, would then get to the byline before slicing a low cross into the are for Nur, who tapped in at the back post to give City the lead.
The Magic would have their chances to retake the lead in the later stages of the first half, James McGarry blazing wide in the 33rd minute and James Delianov producing a world-class reaction save to deny McShane from close range only a minute later.
City also would also have a chance to take a late lead, Delic turning his man brilliantly in the game’s 45thminute before advancing to the edge of the Magic penalty area; only to put his shot wide as the game went into the break locked at one apiece.