Maclaren-less City go top after strong win over Phoenix
Melbourne City proved there is more to their team than striker Jamie Maclaren after coming from behind to beat Wellington Phoenix 3-2 at AAMI Park on Sunday.
Without their leading scorer through injury, City fans would have been fearing the worst when Gary Hooper put the visitors ahead midway through the first-half with a maiden Hyundai A-League goal.
But the goal seemed to spark City to life, scoring twice in quick succession soon after, first through impressive teenager Connor Metcalfe and then a howitzer from Scott Galloway.
Erick Mombaerts’ men weren’t at their clinical best after the break but added the killer blow just after the hour-mark through a controversial penalty, converted by Craig Noone.
Phoenix made things interesting with a stoppage-time goal from Ben Waine but ran out of time to find an equaliser.
The victory was enough to take City to the top of the Hyundai A-League ladder on goal difference from Western Sydney Wanderers after four rounds.
For Phoenix, they have now equalled their worst-ever start to a season, with four straight defeats matching the horror beginning they head three years ago.
Super Hooper puts Phoenix in front
After a cagey first 20 minutes, Wellington finally produced some quality in the front third and it results in a goal to their marquee man Gary Hooper.
Reno Piscopo’s corner to the near post was cleverly flicked on by David Ball.
The ball went across the face of goal where Hooper was waiting to stoop a header into the net from close range.
Metcalfe draws City level
Just two days short of his 20th birthday, Connor Metcalfe had early reason to celebrate with a fine header to get his side back on level terms just before the half-hour mark.
City carved out space on the right with Denis Genreau releasing Craig Noone, with the Englishman’s cross picking out Meltcalfe who turned in a composed header.
Stunning Galloway goal gives City the advantage
Scott Galloway doesn’t score many goals but when he does they are usually crackers, and this one was no different.
Just five minutes after Metcalfe’s equaliser, the right-back was given too much space outside the box as he cut in onto his left foot.
He was 30 metres out but still tried his luck, hitting a pin-point striker which glanced in off the post past a despairing Stefan Marinovic.
Noone extends City’s lead amid penalty controversy
Phoenix felt aggrieved when referee Ben Abraham – in his first Hyundai A-League game – adjudged Louis Fenton handled from Denis Genreau’s cross and awarded the hosts a penalty.
Replays showed the ball hit Fenton on the chest then may have glanced his arm, but the VAR felt there wasn’t enough evidence to overturn the on-field decision.
Craig Noone dispatched his penalty into the top corner for his first Hyundai A-League goal.
Waine gives Phoenix hope in stoppage-time
Phoenix continued to push hard for a route back into the match and finally got their goal in the third minute of injury-time.
David Ball did great work down the left and played an inviting ball across the face of goal where youngster Ben Waine had the simple task of tapping into the open goal.