City held by Wanderers

Melbourne City have missed the chance to solidify their A-League finals spot after they were held to a 1-1 draw by Western Sydney Wanderers on Friday night.

In a match played in driving rain at Pirtek Stadium, it was the Wanderers who started the brighter and got their reward midway through the first half via Yojiro Takahagi’s wonderful free-kick.

But City responded just before with an even better goal from Harry Novillo to ensure them a point which has them six points clear of Brisbane, although Roar have a game in hand.

WHAT THEY SAID

“It was definitely hard conditions for us and for them as well. With our busy schedule it doesn't help having a heavy pitch but I think maybe it's a fair result.” - Wanderers midfielder Mateo Poljak

“It was a really tough game especially after going behind in the first-half. I think the pitch was a bit slippery so we'll be happy with the one point.” - Melbourne City striker Josh Kennedy

GOALS

1-0 Takahagi (20’) – Nikita Rukavytsya’s pace won the Wanderers a free-kick in a dangerous area just outside the box. Takahagi nonchalantly stepped up to plant his shot up and over the wall into the top corner, with City goalkeeper Tando Velaphi rooted to the spot.

1-1 Novillo (39’) – An attack down the left found its way to Novillo and the winger cut back inside towards the Wanderers goal. Given too much space by the Wanderers defence, he decided to let fly with a shot from 25 yards out. It had too much power for Dean Bouzanis, skimming the crossbar on its way into the net.

KEY MOMENT

The Wanderers had a great chance to re-take the lead right on the stroke of half-time. Velaphi took a City free-kick just outside his own box but to the right of his goal. The ‘keeper scuffed his pass with the ball going straight to Wanderers striker Tomi Juric about 35 yards from goal. Juric’s first touch was good enough to allow him a left-foot shot with the goal wide open but it rolled agonisingly wide of the far post when he really should have hit the target. It would have been the perfect time to score but let City off the hook and neither side was able to find a winner in the second half.

OPTA DATA KEY STATS

The Wanderers dominance of Melbourne City [and previously Heart] continued as they have now lost just once in nine meetings between the two clubs. City have now gone five matches without tasting success at ‘Wanderland’.

HIGHLIGHTS REEL

Despite the tricky conditions, both sides contributed to an entertaining first half and both goals were of the highest quality. Takahagi’s free-kick was all about technique and precision placement while Novillo’s strike was all pace, power and a ferocious strike.  Two goals that are sure to be in the end-of-season highlights packages and worthy of winning any match. Velaphi’s incredible reflex save to tip Takahagi’s point-blank shot over the bar was simply stunning.

TREATMENT TABLE

On the half-hour mark, Rukavytsya made a lung-bursting 60-metre run forward but at the end of the move pulled up clutching his left hamstring and he had to be substituted.

THE FINAL WORD

The Wanderers ACL commitments return next week with a huge clash against FC Seoul at Parramatta on Tuesday night followed by a trip to Gosford to take on the Mariners next Saturday. City return home and can take a huge step towards wrapping up a top-six berth if they can beat Wellington Phoenix at AAMI Park on Sunday.

TEAMS:

Western Sydney Wanderers FC: Bouzanis, Gallaway, Aspropotamits, Topor-Stanley, Tanaka, Poljak, Takahagi, Castelen, Bridge (Trifiro 68’), Rukavytsya (Haliti 33’), Juric (Bulut 79’)

Melbourne City: Velaphi, Retre (Williams 58’), Jaliens, Kisnorbo, Clisby (Ramsay 75’), Paartalu, Germano, Mooy, Koren, Kennedy, Novillo (Dugandzic 70’)

Scorers: Takahagi 20’, Novillo 39’

Red cards: none

Yellow cards: Jaliens 19’, Clisby 57’, Tanaka 66’, Mooy 67’

Conditions: 18C, Wet

Attendance: 9054 @ Pirtek Stadium