City win ugly, bounce back from Sydney humiliation

Sometimes the only way to bounce back from a demoralising loss is to win a little ugly and that’s exactly what Melbourne City did on Friday night when they defeated a poor Wellington Phoenix 2-0 at AAMI Park.

The goals came courtesy of marquee man Ritchie De Laet early in the first half, when he sweetly struck a ball into the bottom corner of the net from outside the box, and then star striker Bruno Fornaroli 15 minutes into the second half in front of 6410 fans.

Ritchie De Laet (right) opens the scoring for Melbourne City.

Ritchie De Laet (right) opens the scoring for Melbourne City.Credit:AAP

It was the prolific Uruguayan’s first goal of the season and it came in typically classy style – a beautifully finessed shot from the edge of the box.

The win is City’s second for the season after a round-one Melbourne Derby triumph against Melbourne Victory, a draw against Central Coast Mariners and a 3-0 home drubbing at the hands of Sydney FC last week.

Frenchman Florin Berenguer had his most productive game for City so far, but still has room for improvement, while Lachie Wales and McGree showed why Joyce has given those two youngsters so much responsibility. Kearyn Baccus, meanwhile, continues to surprise in the middle of the park.

Luke Brattan and Anthony Caceras were dropped from the squad with no suggestion of injury, while Dario Vidosic was demoted to the bench. Nathanial Atkinson came straight into the starting 11 after Young Socceroos duty while Wales was promoted to a starting spot.

City's Bart Schenkeveld battles David Williams of the Phoenix.

City’s Bart Schenkeveld battles David Williams of the Phoenix.Credit:AAP

City made a perfect start after nine minutes courtesy of Da Laet’s low, stinging shot into the bottom corner past an outstretched Phoenix keeper Filip Kurto.

Wales played the ball to De Laet after Louis Fenton’s gaffe gifted City possession, with their marquee man hitting the back of the net hard from about 25 yards. City have had a poor run with marquee men flopping but in former Leicester City man De Laet they’ve got themselves a beauty. He is mobile for a big guy and rarely looks flustered.

That opening goal was the high point in a slow first 20 minutes where Phoenix were happy to retreat into a back five. Joyce’s side eventually went into a higher gear and put Wellington under more pressure, the spark for that a run by captain Scott Jamieson who found Wales to feed McGree and hit a shoot and win a corner.

De Laet almost scored another in the 37th minute when his volley forced a good save from Kurto, and the stopper was safe again blocking Fornaroli’s shot while they were one-on-one. The Uruguayan was played through by a brilliant look-away flick from Wales.

Wellington, on the other hand, offered very little going forward the whole match and came closest to scoring in the first half through a dangerous free kick by Sarpreet Singh.

Let me at it: Melbourne City's Riley McGree fights for the ball last night.

Let me at it: Melbourne City’s Riley McGree fights for the ball last night.Credit:AAP

The Phoenix thought they had a penalty about 20 minutes from time when they won a foul for handball at the edge of the box. The VAR was called for – emboldening Wellington – with replays showing the ‘‘handball’’ occurred inside the box. However, during the same review the referee overturned his decision to award the handball, believing Jamieson’s hand was too close to his body to award a foul.

Wellington tried to push City late, probably the only time they had any semblance of control for the match. Substitute Michal Kopczynski should have done much better when he pounced on a lazy City clearance only to scuff his shot well over the bar in the 78th minute.

Minutes later McGree launched a vicious shot into the hands of Kurto, who made a number of crucial interventions across the 90 minutes despite his arguably questionable effort for De Laet’s goal.

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