Advantage City in the battle for sixth after monumental away win over the Wanderers

Check out the highlights from the Round 25 Isuzu UTE A-League clash between Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne City

It’s advantage Melbourne City in the race to secure the last remaining spot in the Finals Series after they defeated Western Sydney Wanderers 2-1 at CommBank Stadium to move above their opponents and into sixth on the table.

The away side took the lead in the 28th minute of the contest as Brazilian winger Leo Natel’s powerful shot from the edge of the box deflected off the head of Marcelo and into the back of the net.

The Wanderers then almost equalised through Zac Sapsford but while goalkeeper Jamie Young produced a save at one end there was nothing his opposite number Lawrence Thomas could do to stop winger Marin Jakolis from making it 2-0 to city in the 39th minute.

Clearly unhappy with his side’s first half showing, Marko Rudan made two changes at the break and it was one of those substitutes, Marcus Younis, who dragged his side back into the game with a perfectly placed header to make it 2-1 in the 69th minute.

Western Sydney dominated the last twenty minutes of the game and had several good chances to snatch a late equaliser but it wasn’t to be as Melbourne City held on for an enormous win which moves them two points above the Wanderers, and crucially, into the last remaining finals position with one game to go.

“Since last week we’ve really been playing finals football,” said City head coach Aurelio Vidmar in his post-match press conference. “Tonight was another final for us and we got over the line.

“I thought we were pretty good first first half, but probably could have had a third goal and probably put it to bed. But we lost the courage.

He continued: “We turned over the ball way too much. We’d find a way to put ourselves under pressure most of the second half and to be to be honest, Western Sydney they came at us and they had to being 2-0 down at halftime, but those moments, we probably didn’t handle as good as we should have.”

The win though was City’s second in a row and speaks volumes of their character according to Vidmar, who sighted a recent change he believes has helped galvanise them for the run-in.

“There’s just a different vibe. You can see it in their eyes, you can see it in their body language.

“As I said probably three months ago, this game would have been a lot more difficult for us and we just found a way. You know what finals are like, you have to find a way to win even when you’re not playing at your very best.”

The win now puts City in the driver’s seat to secure a top six finish and they now know that should they match the Wanderers’ result in the final round then they will book their spot in the Finals Series.

Despite the Wanderers controlling the early possession it was City who should have taken the lead in the 15th minute.

A sloppy pass from captain Marcelo gifted City possession in the Wanderers defensive third and after a quick exchange of passes the cross was clipped in by Maclaren and onto the chest of Jakolis, but while the winger’s first touch was excellent his second let him down as he dragged his shot wide of the post from inside the six yard box.

The visitors then had several half-chances, both of which fell to the influential Tolgay Arslan while the Wanderers looked dangerous on the break as they tried to utilise the electric pace of Dylan Pierias.

However City looked the more menacing in front of goal and made it count in the 28th minute via a vicious strike from winger Natel.

Picked out by a precise cross-field ball from Mathew Leckie, Natel darted towards the left edge of the box before unleashing a powerful effort which flicked off the head of Marcelo and beyond the despairing dive of goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas.

Western Sydney were almost back on level terms within a matter of minutes after Pierias picked out Sapsford inside the box but the young forward’s effort was well-saved by Jamie Young at his near post.

However City were finding space far too easily in the middle of the park and they soon had their second thanks to a magnificent solo effort from Jakolis.

After drifting into the space between the Wanderers’ midfield and defence, Jakolis received the ball from Steven Ugarkovic and, under no pressure whatsoever, took his time before despatching a powerful effort in off the far post to make it 2-0, much to the delight of the City bench.

Having clearly seen enough at the break Western Sydney boss Marko Rudan made a double change, bringing on Marcus Younis and Nathan Barrie in place of Marcus Antonsson and Alex Bonetig.

Showing signs of improvement, the Wanderers began to control the tempo in the second half as they pushed for a way back into the contest and came close to pulling one back when midfielder Sonny Kittel warmed the gloves of Young with an effort from inside the box.

A quick break from a throw-in then saw Maclaren fire over from inside the box while Jakolis then fired over from a tight angle in the 67th minute as City now looked contempt to soak up the pressure and hit the home side on the counter.

However it was game on in the 69th minute and it was two substitutes that combined well to drag the Wanderers back into the game.

Brought on in place of full back Aidan Simmons, attacker Dylan Scicluna made an impact almost immediately as he delivered a deep cross to the back post which was headed back across goal and into the far corner by Younis to make it 2-1.

Younis then came close to bagging his and the Wanderers’ second in the 79th minute, but his curling effort from the right edge of the flew narrowly wide of the far post.

Pierias then came close to making it 2-2 in the 84th minute but the winger slipped as he pulled the trigger inside the box, firing his effort into the ground which enabled Young to tip the ball over the bar.

Now piling on the pressure, Younis was inches away from finding the equaliser in the 89th minute but the youngsters dipping effort from inside the box just didn’t dip enough as it found the crossbar rather than the back of the net.

Defeat for the Wanderers at CommBank Stadium means they now have the worst home record in the league this year having lost seven of their 12 home matches, leaving Rudan scratching his head as to why they’ve struggled in front of their own fans.

“I don’t know, maybe younger players feel the pressure a little bit more at home,” said Rudan in his post-match press conference. “I don’t know. I can give you a million different reasons why.

“It’s not like I speak to them individually because I know with this particular group, if you make mention ‘boys we’ve been to Perth and the club hasn’t won there in 10 years’ that my play on them, but then you look at certain individuals that might love that challenge.”

Furthermore, the result sees them drop outside of the top six for just the second time all season and in real danger of missing the Finals Series, however Rudan doesn’t believe a failure to play finals football means the club has failed in it’s objectives.

“Not from my perspective,” said Rudan when asked if it would be a failure if they finished outside the top six. “So I’m not sure why that same question keeps coming up.

“It’s a different team than last year. That’s all I’m going to say, we’ve got a lot of young players this year. Could we be better? Yeah, could we be more consistent? Yeah, of course.

“Did we want to play at a bare minimum finals football? Yeah, we did. But there were things that have happened this year that didn’t happen last year and that’s reality.

He went on to say: “We had a lot of depth last year. You know, it’s a different year this year. For sure we could all be better you know no one’s happy about the position we’re in but I’ve been in the game long enough to know that there’s no guarantees in football.

“There are absolutely no guarentees. We’re going to fight right until the end, we’ve got another week to go. So as far as I’m concerned, it ain’t over!”