By Joey Lynch
A standout performance from Craig Noone has propelled Melbourne City to their first FFA Cup semi-finals appearance since 2016 as they downed a tepid Western Sydney Wanderers 3-0 at AAMI Park on Wednesday night.
Making their first appearance at their home digs for the 2019/20 season, City never appeared challenged against their red and black-clad foes in front of an official crowd of 2905 fans.
Taking advantage of a moment of madness from Wanderers goalkeeper Daniel Lopar – the Pole inexplicitly attempted to prevent a header back from Tarek Elrich from going out for a corner and dragged the ball back into play – Noone rounded Dylan McGowan and fired into an open net to open the scoring in the 34th minute.
City then made it 2-0 just on the stroke of halftime when Scott Galloway followed up on his initially blocked cross into the area and picked out an open Jamie Maclaren who, despite howls for offside from the Wanderers defence, met it with a spectacular, back-heeled volley.
Noone then put the cherry on the sundae in the 81st minute when he was picked out by a pinpoint, cross-field ball from Brilliante, cut back inside and curled a shot past a diving Lopar.
The win continues a strong preseason for new City Head Coach Erick Mombaerts, who remains undefeated in competitive fixtures as he attempts to instigate his new “City Football Group Style” in Bundoora.
For the Wanderers, thoughts will now turn to the beginning of the A-League season next month and the task of integrating a newly signed European striker to the squad, whose announcement was teased by Head Coach Markus Babbel on Fox Sports ahead of the clash.
City now joins 2018 winner Adelaide United, Central Coast Mariners and NPL QLD side Brisbane Striker, who defeated NPL VIC side Moreland Zebras in Wednesday night’s other fixture, in the last four of Australia’s premier Cup competition.
The hosts began the contest in promising fashion when Noone, hinting at what was to come, got around Elrich and broke containment down the left flank before whipping a ball into the middle that flew just behind the head of a waiting Maclaren.
Signed by City after leaving in-crisis Bolton Wanderers in the offseason, left-winger Noone was at the centre of almost all of City’s attacks going forward early, continuing a promising pre-season that had seen him already net twice in the FFA Cup.
Whipping a ball in from the left in the 17th minute, the 31-year-old picked out an open Maclaren at the top of the six-yard-box and allow the Socceroos striker to let loose with a volleyed effort on goal that was superbly saved by Wanderers goalkeeper Daniel Lopar.
Three minutes later the Englishman, this time sprung into space on his left flank after teenage central midfielder Connor Metcalfe forced a turnover in the midfield, swung a ball in towards an open Ramy Najjarine at the back post, only for the youngster to fluff his lines at the vital moment.
Perhaps deciding that if one wants a job done one must do it themselves, it was Noone himself who finally broke the deadlock ten minutes later when he took advantage of Lopar’s error before rounding Dylan McGowan and finishing into an open net.
Though they had moments of energy early, particularly through the work of Daniel Georgievski down the left flank, the Wanderers were for the most part well-martialed by a Harrison Delbridge led City defence.
Their best chance of the half came in the 43rd minute when teenage attacker Mo Adam headed down a lob from McGowan to Radoslaw Majewski who, in turn, laid off a lovely flick to Kwame Yeboah. Under pressure from Scott Galloway, Yeboah, who was subbed off for Tate Russell at halftime – was unable to get hist shot on target.
Momentum, though, remained well and truly in the corner of Melbourne City as they marched up the other end and doubled their advantage when Galloway’s cross was fantastically volleyed into the back of the net.
Clearly enjoying himself in his first appearance at AAMI Park, Noone was once again in the thick of things in the 51st minute when he placed a cutback at the feet of Metcalfe atop the Wanderers penalty area, the Olyroo forcing a good save from Lopar.
Though the Wanderers looked to get one back in the 58th minute when Bruce Kamau forced a low save from Dean Bouzanis and Maclaren forced another save from Lopar in the 65th, the game took a noticeable step back in intensity in the second 45.
The Wanderers Mohamed Adam had a late chance to spur some sort of comeback in the 79th minute when he snaked past central defender Curtis Good but blasted his resulting shot over the bar.
Noone, however, snuffed out any hoped of a late comeback when he fired home for his brace and his fourth goal of the 2019 FFA Cup.