A Jamie Maclaren brace has given Melbourne City plenty of confidence ahead of Wednesday’s FFA Cup final, as they defeated Adelaide United 2-1 at AAMI Park.
Two first half goals for the returning Maclaren was enough in this FFA Cup final preview, which also saw City record its first win of the new season.
Both managers swung the selection axe, making four changes to their respective starting line-ups with Wednesday’s final on their minds.
This saw academy product and fan favourite Ramy Najjarine make his professional debut, where he wasted little time in making an impact.
Pouncing on a deflected 50/50 between Connor Metcalfe and Michael Marrone, the crowd rose as one as the 19-year-old cut onto his left foot and fired his attempt towards goal.
But the football gods did not smile on the City academy product, as his attempt was smothered by Paul Izzo before stopping dead on the goal line.
Albeit the visitors could only hold City out for so long, especially with Maclaren in the side.
It would only take the Socceroo 24 minutes to get on the score-sheet after Metcalfe’s deflected strike fell right onto his path – allowing him to slip one past Izzo for the opening goal.
Maclaren would double City’s lead just four minutes later – this time finding himself under a Richard Windbichler contested header from a Scott Jamieson cross into a congested penalty area – placing the ball into the bottom right corner to score his eighth goal this season in all competitions.
As the first half came to a close, a hard-running Nikola Mileusnic looked to galvinise his side, coming inches away from pulling one back for the visitors after orchestrating and nearly finishing the best passage of the first half.
Starting with the ball in his defensive half, Mileusnic played several one-twos before surging into the box only for Riley McGree’s cross to just miss him and instead find Michael Maria who struck the side netting from an acute angle in the 39th minute.
City started the second half as they did the first and continued to put the visitors on the back foot.
Determined to complete his hat-trick, Maclaren continued to cause headaches with another two chances early in the second half.
At the other end it was Mileusnic again making things happen for the Reds, combining well with Kristian Opseth but was unable to beat Bouzanis with his low attempt in the 60th minute.
The Reds would get one back through former City midfielder Riley McGree in the 66th minute.
After City failed to clear Adelaide’s first corner of the half, the ball fell to the unmarked McGree hovering around the penalty area who made no mistake with a well-hit right footed strike.
McGree would be given the chance to equalise just two minutes later after being picked out by Mileusnic with a diagonal ball over to the right wing – albeit the Socceroo’s attempt was struck wide as a golden chance to net his second went begging.
Up against a brief second half resurgence from the visitors, City broke on the counter as Metcalfe played the ball through to Craig Noone, who had the chance to put the game to bed in the 75th minute but instead saw his attempt soar into the crowd.
A late injection of youth nearly came off for Adelaide boss Gertjan Verbeek as Al Hassan Toure, weaved his way into the box from the left wing but was unable to find Opseth with his low cross in stoppage time.
While City were able to hold off the fast finishing Reds, both sides will quickly shift their attention to Wednesday’s rematch in the FFA Cup final at Coopers Stadium.
Melbourne City 2 (Maclaren 24’ & 28’)
Adelaide United 1 (McGree 66’)
Dean Bouzanis (GK), Scott Galloway, Scott Jamieson, Harrison Delbridge, Rostyn Griffiths, Jamie Maclaren, Craig Noone, Lachlan Wales, Ramy Najjarine, Connor Metcalfe, Richard Windbichler
Thomas Glover (GK), Josh Brillante, Marcelo Cabrera, Nathaniel Atkinson, Adrian Retamar, Curtis Good, Moudi Najjar
Paul Izzo (GK), Michael Marrone, Michael Maria, Vince Lia, Ryan Kitto, Riley McGree, Kristian Opseth, Nikola Mileusnic, Michael Jakobsen, Louis D’Arrigo, Yared Abetew
Isaac Richards (GK), Nathan Konstandopoulos, Lachlan Brook, Al Hassan Toure