City’s 12-year streak comes to an end after dramatic penalty secures victory for Western

Catch the highlights as Melbourne City took on Western United in the Isuzu UTE A-League.

Noah Botic has helped Western United grab bragging rights over local rivals Melbourne City, firing home a late penalty to give them a 2-1 victory over the reigning Isuzu UTE A-League Premiers on Saturday evening.

Lachie Wales gave Western the lead on the hour mark, before new City signing Tolgay Arslan equalised only moments later with a brilliant first Isuzu UTE A-League goal at AAMI Park.

With minutes to go, Western were awarded a penalty after City defender Nuno Reis handled Ramy Najjarine’s cross in the area. Botic stepped up and cooly dispatched the winner from the spot, ensuring John Aloisi’s side would defeat City for the first time since the 2022 Grand Final.

Incredibly, it’s the first time City have lost in the opening round since 2011, when they were defeated 3-2 by Newcastle Jets.

It’s also their first loss in the A-Leagues as the home team at AAMI Park since the aforementioned decider against Western.

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It was a new look City and Western side on show for their A-Leagues clash of the season, as both sides unveiled a collective 11 new faces – including Arslan, Socceroo Aziz Behich, Daniel Penha and Riku Danzaki.

In a tight-first-half, City thought they had the opener when all-time leading A-Leagues goalscorer Jamie Maclaren had the ball in the back of the net, only to be denied by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR).

New City midfielder Hamza Sakhi fired a shot from range, which was saved by Thomas Heward-Belle, but Maclaren received the ball on the spill, dummied cleverly past Josh Risdon and popped it past the Western keeper.

However, on second viewing, Maclaren was only a matter of inches offside when Sakhi fired from range, which in turn, led to the goal being disallowed.

City continued to put pressure on Western’s defence after half-time, as Arslan continued to work his way into contest.

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The former Udinese midfielder rode some challenges, before playing through Maclaren, but the reigning Golden Boot winner was denied by a sensational one-handed save by Heward-Belle.

Western’s newest shot-stopper – who was lining up at the opposite goal to his predecessor Jamie Young – was again called into action to deny Sakhi minutes later.

But Aloisi’s charges would finally turn the tide.

Penha – in a moment of pure class – split the City defence with an inch-perfect pass from deep and found Wales, who did well to work his way around Curtis Good, before popping the ball past Young to open the scoring.

City responded immediately, as Arslan once again drove at the Western defence, playing a one-two with Maclaren and poking it past Heward-Belle to bring the scores level.

Rado Vidosic’s side continued to push, with Behich’s long-range effort first saved by Heward-Belle, before Maclaren missed on the follow up.

City debutant Leo Natel also threatened to blow the game open when he came on in the second-half, showing plenty down the left-hand side.

With the game seemingly destined for a draw, substitute Najjarine broke into the box and his cross struck the arm of Reis. Referee Jack Morgan pointed to the spot, giving Botic the chance to fire home the winner from the spot.

The Olyroo stepped up and dispatched the spot-kick, securing all three points.

The Talking Point

It was the moment that decided the contest on Saturday evening.

Nuno Reis went to the ground to try and block Ramy Najjarine’s cross towards teammate Michael Ruhs, but was deemed to have handled the ball after it was blocked by his trailing right arm.

Although he seemingly didn’t move his arm to block the Western substitute’s cross, referee Jack Morgan and the VAR believed Reis’ arm was in an unnatural position when he collected Najjarine’s ball.

With ice in his veins, Noah Botic cooly dispatched the penalty to give John Aloisi’s side the victory.

The Star(s)

Daniel Penha and Tolgay Arslan are going to be a lot of fun to watch this season.

The two attacking midfielders put on a show for their respective sides in their A-Leagues club debut, playing key roles in the opening goals for both teams. Brazilian Penha reminded the competition of his quality, putting the ball on a platter for Wales to open the scoring.

While he was at the Newcastle Jets, Penha led the league in assists with 11 for the campaign.

Minutes later, Arslan responded in style with a brilliant first A-Leagues goal, taking his tally to five in all competitions – after scoring four in the Australia Cup.

However, none of the four he scored before today were nearly as good the one he fired at AAMI Park, linking up with Jamie Maclaren brilliantly, before poking it past Thomas Heward-Belle.

What they said

Melbourne City coach Rado Vidosic said: “There were a lot of positives… We had patches (when) we controlled the game… but from a defensive point of view, we are still a little bit away from where we would like to be. Our aggressiveness was not at the level it really should be.

“Generally, when all 11 players jump up and start screaming penalty, there’s probably a handball something in there so that’s probably a good indication that the ball hit him in the hand.

“You get a couple of those throughout the season and someone else will complain.”

Western United coach John Aloisi said: “We didn’t get away with one. We created quite a few good openings and we limited their opportunities. They didn’t create a whole deal, so we were quite pleased with the performance.

“We know first game of the season there’s always a few nerves. Both sides would have been a bit anxious. They have played a few more games than us, they’ve had Asian Champions League and Australia Cup semis… In terms of our performance, a lot of positives and there’s thing we will improve on.”

What it means

It’s the exact sort of start Western United needed after a difficult beginning to last campaign, which ultimately had them playing catch-up from day one.

They’re straight back on the road next week to face Western Sydney Wanderers, in what shapes up to be yet another tough task for John Aloisi’s side.

Meanwhile, Melbourne City need to dust themselves off quickly, as they head to Thailand to face Burium United in the Asian Champions League on Wednesday night.

The job doesn’t get much easier in the league, when they face Adelaide United at Coopers Stadium on Sunday evening to round out a busy week.