Melbourne City had the swagger of a title contender as striker Bruno Fornaroli scored in each half of Friday night’s 2-1 win over Adelaide United at AAMI Park.
City moved to second on the A-League table after an entertaining match in which Sergi Guardiola’s first A-league goal gave Adelaide late hope, but could not prevent the reigning champions’ third consecutive defeat.
City coach John Van ‘t Schip said he was delighted his team managed the fatigue factor, after a 2-0 FFA Cup semi-final win over Melbourne Victory just three days earlier.
“The mindset was very strong … they were outstanding with their attitude, work rate and helping each other,” he said.
The Dutchman rested star player Tim Cahill, who was suffering from soreness in his achilles, and could not guarantee his fitness for next Friday’s match against Brisbane.
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City’s link-up play in attack – where Fornaroli and Fernando Brandan threatened at will – dazzled the Reds’ defence.
Brandan’s show-stopping backheel nutmeg of former City defender Ben Garuccio showed City’s intent.
Soon after, Luke Brattan – playing as a No.10 and auditioning for a place in the Socceroos’ squad in front of national coach Ange Postecoglou – sparked the first goal.
Brattan hassled Tarek Elrich out of the ball, allowing Brandan to feed Fornaroli on the edge of the box.
The Uruguayan bent his back and arched his shot inside the back post past United keeper Eugene Galekovic.
City upped the ante after the break and United couldn’t go with them, earning successive yellow cards for late tackles and then conceding a second goal.
Brandan, the shortest man on the pitch, sent a header from Brattan’s corner into Guardiola’s outstretched arm. Fornaroli converted the penalty in the 56th minute.
City looked on track for a routine win but allowed gradual to score eight minutes later, and in trademark style gave their home fans grief by failing to close out the game.
Adelaide coach Guillermo Amor said he would prefer to have more than one point from the opening four games but noted the similarities to last year’s title-winning season.
“The season is long. We must improve and learn things. Our squad is a good squad … I have confidence.”
A-League slaps Muscat with fine
Meanwhile Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat has been fined $5,000 by Football Federation Australia after comments he made following last week’s FFA Cup semi-final loss.
Muscat was furious that the opening goal to Melbourne City’s Luke Brattan was allowed to stand, despite Tim Cahill being in an offside position, saying that “at least the FFA gets the result they want”.
“It is important that all players and coaches consider their words carefully when offering their thoughts on matches,” said A-League boss Greg O’Rourke.
Muscat has seven days to appeal the decision.