Sakhi and Antonis stunners help Melbourne City sink Western United

A brilliant late goal from Terry Antonis has helped Melbourne City come from a goal down to defeat Western United 2-1 at AAMI Park.

John Aloisi’s Western took the lead in the 13th minute as Michael Ruhs finished off a good team move from close range before a stunning half-volley from City midfielder Hamza Sakhi pulled the away side level soon after half-time.

Both teams had a string of good chances from then on in but it was the reigning Premiers who walked away with the three points after another brilliant half-volley, this time from substitute Terry Antonis, which proved to be the difference between the two sides.

The win moves Melbourne City up in to fourth on the ladder and extends their unbeaten run to six league matches while defeat leaves Western propping up the ladder after suffering their ninth loss of the campaign.

City conjured up two early chances in the rain at AAMI Park with Jamie Maclaren forcing Western shotstopper Thomas Heward-Belle into a smart save at his near post before Hamza Sakhi then sent a dangerous freekick narrowly over the bar.

The away side continued their early pressure and this time it was Leo Natel’s turn to test Heward-Belle in the 9th minute but the gloveman was equal to the Brazilian’s stinging shot.

But against the run of play it was Western United who took the lead in the 13th minute and it came from a well-crafted move as the hosts opening the scoring in a game for just the third time this season.

Angus Thurgate’s intelligent run into the penalty area was picked out by Ben Garuccio and the former Newcastle midfielder then turned his man before curling a beautiful pass across the six-yard box and into the path of the on-rushing Michael Ruhs who couldn’t miss from a metre out.

City almost handed their opponents a second goal but thankfully for Curtis Good and Jamie Young their lack of communication didn’t cost them as Thurgate’s cross was cleared in front of the goalline after both got in each other’s way and missed the ball.

Aurelio Vidmar’s side were proving to be unusually sloppy at the back, with Sakhi this time guilty of hitting a weak pass across his own box and into the feet of Lachie Wales, who shot straight at Jamie Young.

Looking to up the ante, City full-back Callum Talbot tested Heward-Belle from the edge of the area before the Western goalkeeper was then called into action once again, this time in the 36th minute to deny Alessandro Lopane what would have been a second A-League goal.

Western then wasted a glorious opportunity to double their lead two minutes into the second half with Daniel Penha and Noah Botic combining well inside the box before the Brazilian produced an air-shot when trying to connect with Botic’s excellent cut back.

And that miss would come back to haunt them as City pulled themselves level in the 52nd minute care of a stunning strike from midfielder Hamza Sakhi.

A Tolgay Arslan corner was well cleared by the Western defence but before they could apply any pressure on Sakhi the Moroccan’s dipping half volley from outside the box looped over the despairing dive of Heward-Belle and the reigning Premiers were back on level terms.

Western responded well as Lachie Wales saw his shot from inside the box well saved by former teammate Jamie Young in the City goal while the experienced shot-stopper then denied Daniel Penha from a tight angle.

Young was then called into action in the 71st minute as Western’s press forced City to turn the ball over on the edge of their own box before Penha unleashed a curling left-footed effort which was well saved by the veteran keeper.

But as the game became more stretched it was Melbourne City who eventually found the winning formula in the 83rd minute and it came from the boot of substitute Terry Antonis.

Again it was a Tolgay Arslan delivery that caused havoc inside the Western box as the home side battled to clear their lines. With the ball bouncing around the box, Curtis Good stabbed a pass out to Antonis who pulled the trigger on a stunning half-volley which swerved away from Heward-Belle and into the top corner.

What they said

Melbourne City were forced to do it the hard way at AAMI Park, relying on two brilliant goals to seal victory over a spirited Western United side and Head Coach Aurelio Vidmar was far from impressed by his team’s first-half performance.

“To be honest nothing really pleased me at half-time,” said Vidmar when speaking to Paramount+. “Our first half was very, very poor. We were not a team that wanted to win and a lot of credit (goes) to John and Western United because they really were aggressive.

“We regrouped and at the end, a bit of an ugly win, but we found a way to win and that’s important.”

The manner of the win will no doubt be extra-pleasing for Vidmar given he introduced Terry Antonis to the action for fellow goalscorer Hamza Sakhi in the 73rd minute.

“When you look at the game before you would think just on paper that we should win this game easily but it’s not like that.” said Vidmar. “Anyone can beat anyone on any given day so if you don’t turn up you’re going to find difficulties.

“We were second to just about every ball in that first half and we became more aggressive and had a lot more intensity about our performance in the second half and we were in the right position to score two great goals.”

As for Western, despite causing City plenty of problems it’s ultimately another defeat for John Aloisi’s men who have now lost nine games this season, including their last three-in-a-row.

“It’s fairly frustrating,” said Western midfielder Angus Thurgate when speaking to Paramount+. “especially the position we’re in, you know the way we’re playing, we don’t feel we’re playing that bad we just can’t get the results at the moment.

He continued: “All we can do is keep sticking to our structures and keep the belief that performances like that first half will put ourselves in positions to get the results that we’re looking for.

The star

At a time when Western United were pushing for a second it was Hamza Sakhi who dragged Melbourne City back into the game with a piece of individual brilliance.

With Daniel Penha having just missed a guilt-edged chance at the other end the Moroccan pulled a strike right out of the top drawer to inspire his side to victory in what may well have been his best performance in a City shirt before he was withdrawn due to a possible injury.

Much like the rest of his teammates, the 27-year-old stepped up his game in the second half to give City extra impetus going forward whilst remaining diligent in his defensive duties.

What it means

For Melbourne City it’s a result that moves them up into fourth spot on the ladder and level on points with Western Sydney Wanderers in third.

Aurelio Vidmar will now be hoping their current unbeaten run of six league matches will extend to seven when they travel to Sydney to take on the aforementioned Wanderers at CommBank stadium as part of Unite Round.

Meanwhile it’s back to the drawing board once again for John Aloisi after his side succumbed to their ninth defeat of the season.

Western are left propping up the rest of the ladder having garnered just six points from 11 matches however they may take some comfort from the fact they face an injury-stricken and out-of-sorts Macarthur FC next up in Unite Round.