Melbourne City FC's best spell of the Hyundai A-League season to date continued on Friday, as they held league leaders Perth Glory to a 1-1 draw at AAMI Park.
John van 't Schip's side, fresh from beating fierce rivals Melbourne Victory in the derby last time out, were aiming to make it three wins in succession and looked on course to do so after taking Aaron Mooy gave them a deserved lead early in the second half on Boxing Day.
The competition's frontrunners had other ideas though, conjuring an equaliser out of nothing - scored by former City player Richard Garcia - to escape with a share of the spoils and extend their advantage to seven points at the top of the standings.
What they Said
"The first half wasn't up to scratch but second half the team did well and we created a lot more chances. Perth pushed on and made it really difficult for us. They played lots of balls into the box and credit to them, they got back into the game." - Melbourne City FC's Aaron Mooy
1-0 (Mooy, 49')
David Williams did well to hold the ball up from a throw-in before turning, driving toward the Glory goal and slipping in Aaron Mooy. The midfielder did the rest, guiding a well-taken finish over Danny Vukovic to break the deadlock and give the hosts a deserved lead.
1-1 (Garcia, 62')
Scott Jamieson launched a free-kick from deep with a somewhat flat trajectory, the ball arriving at an awkward height that proved ideal for a stooping Garcia to head downwards. It then bounced up and over the wrong-footed City goalkeeper Tando Velaphi and into the back net.
City laid siege to the Perth goal for a brief spell from the 70th minute onwards, Erik Paartalu heading just behind at the back post and Mooy, with a vicious drive from outside the area, forcing Vukovic to fist the ball over the bar to concede a fifth corner in succession. The home side couldn't make the pressure count though.
The fact Glory got themselves back on level terms despite not having a shot on target until they equalised is a testament to the resilience and opportunism of the Western Australian side under Kenny Lowe so far this season. You've all heard the cliche about championship-winning teams grinding out wins and draws when they're not playing well. Time will tell if Perth prove the adage right in 2014-15.
In a messy, error-strewn first half, the commitment of Jacob Melling stood out. The young City midfielder put in a crunching tackle on Michael Thwaite to trigger a promising attack before later sliding bravely into another 50-50 challenge.
When the ball ricocheted clear, the 19-year-old, still lying on the deck, instinctively flung his head at it as a Perth boot came flying in from the opposite direction.
If the other 10 City players showed the same level of commitment as the teenager, Van 't Schip's men would either be leading the competition or struggling to field a team due to concussions and broken bones.
The Final Word
City will feel they should have won this game after dominating the league leaders and restricting them to a handful of chances, while the Glory, despite dropping two points, are likely to be relieved at escaping with a draw after playing well below their best. Next up for City is a trip to face the Newcastle Jets on Tuesday, while Perth are back in action against Melbourne Victory in Geelong on next Friday.
Melbourne City FC: Velaphi, Chapman, Wielaert, Kisnorbo, Garuccio, Paartalu, Mooy, Melling (Koren 69'), Dugandzic (Duff 58'), Ramsay, Williams (Brown 82').
Perth Glory: Vukovic, Risdon, Thwaite, Djulbic, Jamieson, Griffiths, Zadkovich, Garcia, De Silva (Sidnei 69'), Keogh, Harold (Clisby 89').
Scorers: Mooy (49'), Garcia (62')
Red cards: None
Yellow cards: Garcia (64'), Kisnorbo (67')
Conditions: 18 degrees, sunny
Attendance: 9,950@AAMI Park