Melbourne City’s has continued its hold over Western United with Jamie Maclaren’s 85th minute goal sealing a fifth straight win over the green-and-black.
Just as Mark Rudan thought his team had succeeded in holding Maclaren to a quiet night, the Golden boot winner popped up at the right time to convert a Stefan Colakovski cut back into the box to win the match for his side.
The goal is Maclaren’s eighth in his last five against Western United and his first in 2021.
Fans were treated to an intense and highly entertaining affair at AAMI Park, with both sides coming into the match after several weeks without competitive football.
Despite City dominating this fixture last season, it was the visitors who opened the scoring – catching last season’s runner-up off-guard at a set-piece.
A 22nd minute Vujica goal gave the visitors the perfect start to the match, with Western United’s short corner routine working a treat as Victor Sanchez picked out the 23-year-old in-between two defenders.
Scoring in his first start for the club, Vujica marked the occasion by celebrating with head coach Mark Rudan; an emotional embrace after he missed several months due to a groin injury.
Western United then came inches away from adding a second minutes later when Sanchez intercepted an over-hit pass out of City’s defence to set up Basque import Iker Guarrotxena, whose low attempt flew centimetres wide of the post.
But it would not take City long to claw its way back into the contest.
A rare right-footed goal from Craig Noone got City fans out of their seats, with the Englishman’s curled attempt finding its way in off the post after bursting through on the left-wing.
The home fans were nearly then sent into raptures when Taras Gomulka’s volley from just outside the area skimmed the roof of the net.
Though a highly entertaining opening half was soured for the home side when Rostyn Griffiths limped off in the 38th minute and was replaced by debutant Kerrin Stokes.
It took Maclaren 75 minutes to get his first look at goals, with the Socceroo finding himself tightly marked by the Western United back three. Pouncing on a defensive turnover he was unable to it make count as he saw his attempt drift wide of the post.
Maclaren would have another golden chance go astray – this time denied by Kurto’s third save in two minutes – before he would finally get his goal.
Western United would have a chance deep in stoppage time to steal a point with Steven Lustica striking the side netting from close range.
The win is City’s second for the season, while Western United has only the one point from its two games.
MELBOURNE CITY 2 (Noone 32′, Maclaren 85’)
WESTERN UNITED 1 (Vujica 22’)
Tom Glover, Scott Galloway, Rostyn Griffiths (Kerrin Stokes 38’), Curtis Good, Ben Garuccio, Adrian Luna, Connor Metcalfe, Craig Noone (Stefan Colakovski 73’), Taras Gomulka (Florin Berenguer 73’), Jamie Maclaren, Naoki Tsubaki (Marco Tilio 68’)
Matt Sutton, Florin Berenguer, Raphael Borges, Luke Oresti
Fillip Kurto, Aaron Calver (Dylan Pierias 73’), Tomislav Uskok, Tomoki Imai, Victor Sanchez, Steven Lustica, Connor Pain, Alessandro Diamanti, Besart Berisha (Nicolas Milanovic 89’), Iker Guarrotxena (Lachie Wales 70’)
Ryan Scott, Andrew Durante, Dylan Pierias, Lachlan Wales, Luke Duzel, Jerry Skotadis, Nicolas Milanovic