Maclaren delivers at the death as City snare a point against Sky Blues
Melbourne City striker Jamie Maclaren scored a 98th-minute penalty to snatch his side a share of the spoils against Sydney FC in a dramatic 1-1 draw at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday night.
Marco Tilio continued his impact off the bench for Patrick Kisnorbo's side, winning the all-important penalty after a challenge in Sydney's defensive box from Alex Wilkinson to send Maclaren to the spot, and the City spearhead made no mistake in cancelling out Kosta Barbarouses' 54th-minute opener.
The Sky Blues played attractive, free-flowing football throughout the first hour of play, highlighted by a classy display by Luke Brattan in the centre of the park.
But it was a moment of pure bedlam which produced the opening goal, scored by Barbarouses in a move which saw a spill from Tom Glover, two Sky Blue strikes cleared off the line and a third diverted off the left-hand goalpost in the space of five seconds.
Barbarouses' initial shot sparked the chaos. Curtis Good prevented the ball from finding the back of the net, but not from crossing the line, as VAR upheld the on-field decision to award Barbarouses the goal to hand Sydney the lead.
City made a relentless push for an equaliser in the final 20 minutes of play, and star striker Maclaren found himself in a number of promising positions to help his side find a way back into the game.
But in the end, Maclaren relied on the energetic impact of substitute Tilio to net his 14th goal of the current campaign - The teenager won the spot-kick, and Maclaren sent Andrew Redmayne the wrong way as he slotted his strike home, as City kept the Sky Blues from jumping into second place on the A-League table.
Sydney FC bossed the chances in an engaging first half, which ended goalless at Leichhardt Oval. Brattan pulled the strings for the Sky Blues, and the midfielder challenged Tom Glover with a chipped attempt from outside the box on seven minutes which called the City stopper into a back-pedalling save.
Brattan's midfield prowess continued to hurt City as the first half progressed.
Forcing a turnover in midfield Brattan drove toward the box and played Miloš Ninković behind City's defensive line, but Glover was out quickly to get a crucial glove on the ball, diving at the Serbian's feet to snuff out the danger.
A rash Paulo Retre challenge on Adrián Luna garnered a yellow card for the Sydney midfielder, before the hosts continued to apply the clamps in pursuit of an opening goal.
Rhyan Grant ventured forward, combining with Barbarouses and firing a shot on goal which Glover did well to prod onto the post and out for a corner.
Sydney began the second half with vigour, as Barbarouses flashed a shot just past the top left corner shortly after the break.
Maclaren began to find more of the ball after a quiet first 45, and saw two of his shots in rapid concession kept out by Redmayne.
The Socceroos striker was found behind Sydney's two centre-backs by a magnificent Scott Galloway through ball, but Maclaren failed to beat Redmayne from the first attempt and on the rebound.
In the 54th minute of play, the Sky Blues took the lead - and did so in frantic fashion.
A spill from Glover from a routine collect dropped fortuitously to Barbarouses all on his own in the box, who shot toward goal. Two City players stood on the goal line to defend and Good got the initial interception. The ball rebounded to Bobô who struck into Connor Metcalfe, but a third shot was to follow - this time from Grant, whose strike flicked off Bobô, off the post and away.
But after the carnage unfolded in City's defensive penalty box, Barbarouses' initial strike was adjudged to have crossed the line before Good's intervention - VAR upheld the decision, as the Sky Blues pulled ahead.
City improved after falling behind, creating the best of their attacking play in pursuit of an equaliser. Andrew Nabbout had trudged off through injury in the 51st minute - he was replaced by Stefan Colakovski, who made an instant impact to his side's forward intent.
Maclaren swooped on a loose ball in the box after Redmayne spilled Colakovski's cross, only for Ryan McGowan to desperately dive into his path to prevent the City striker from brushing the ball over the line.
With 15 minutes to play, Maclaren popped up in the box once again to connect with Ben Garuccio's magnificent cross toward the back post. A near-certain goal was on the cards for Maclaren as he diverted the ball off the turf and toward the target, but Redmayne rapidly raised a right arm to meet the ball and lift it over the bar.
Maclaren seemed destined to blank against the Sky Blues after missing a smattering of chances, until Marco Tilio emerged off the bench to give the Golden Boot leader a chance from the penalty spot deep into added time.
The City substitute won his side the spot kick after Wilkinson took the young attacker down in the box. Maclaren showed nerves of steel to gather the ball, place it on its mark and bury it into the top right corner, handing City a share of the spoils at Leichhardt Oval.
Melbourne City v Melbourne Victory
Saturday, April 17 2021
Kick-off: 7.10pm AEST
Sydney FC v Adelaide United
Sunday, April 18 2021
Kick-off: 6.10pm AEST
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