A League Round 24: Western Sydney Wanderers vs Melbourne Cityphotos

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A League Round 24: Western Sydney Wanderers vs Melbourne City | photos Photos from the round 24 A Leauge match between the Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne City at Pirtek Stadium on April 3, 2015. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images
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Photos from the round 24 A Leauge match between the Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne City at Pirtek Stadium on April 3, 2015. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Photos from the round 24 A Leauge match between the Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne City at Pirtek Stadium on April 3, 2015. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Photos from the round 24 A Leauge match between the Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne City at Pirtek Stadium on April 3, 2015. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Photos from the round 24 A Leauge match between the Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne City at Pirtek Stadium on April 3, 2015. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Photos from the round 24 A Leauge match between the Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne City at Pirtek Stadium on April 3, 2015. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Photos from the round 24 A Leauge match between the Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne City at Pirtek Stadium on April 3, 2015. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Photos from the round 24 A Leauge match between the Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne City at Pirtek Stadium on April 3, 2015. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Photos from the round 24 A Leauge match between the Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne City at Pirtek Stadium on April 3, 2015. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Photos from the round 24 A Leauge match between the Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne City at Pirtek Stadium on April 3, 2015. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Photos from the round 24 A Leauge match between the Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne City at Pirtek Stadium on April 3, 2015. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Photos from the round 24 A Leauge match between the Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne City at Pirtek Stadium on April 3, 2015. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Photos from the round 24 A Leauge match between the Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne City at Pirtek Stadium on April 3, 2015. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Photos from the round 24 A Leauge match between the Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne City at Pirtek Stadium on April 3, 2015. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Photos from the round 24 A Leauge match between the Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne City at Pirtek Stadium on April 3, 2015. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

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On paper, the hapless Western Sydney Wanderers hosting Melbourne City on a wet and gloomy Parramatta evening didn’t offer that much to the neutral. Two excellent goals aside, the game seldom rose above its low-key billing.

A highlights reel of the night would show ample chances, albeit most of them spurned on the sodden turf, both teams leaving the stadium feeling as though they should have turned one point into three.

That said, the shots that did go in were certainly eye-catching. First a splendid free-kick Yojiro Takahagi, befitting the talent that once took him into the Japanese national team. The equaliser, from Harry Novillo, was befitting of a player who once played for France’s much lauded under-age’s sides. Perhaps even a goal of the year contender.

Unfortunately the usual “Wanderland” atmosphere was long gone, with only 9054 braving the clouds. The Red and Black Bloc, once swelling across an entire end, only filled one bay to capacity. Just the hardcores have stuck around to see this forgettable season out.

Early touches were as heavy as the weather. Frequently was a ball given away in a dangerous area, only for the opportunity to be squandered. At times, ball control was gruesome.

Nikolai Topor-Stanley, always permitted time on the ball by City, tried to advance from the last line but stumbled, regained his footing, and then comically speared the ball backwards and out of play.

Yet it would be somewhat fitting that an error would lead to a moment of class, something to give the match the spark it needed.

A clumsy pass by Novillo put Nikita Rukavytsya in a prime position to exploit the flat-footed back four, giving Kew Jaliens – never the swiftest of movers – little choice but to foul the quick striker on the edge of the box.

Takahagi stepped up and curled an effort up and over the wall and beyond the reach of Tando Velaphi. The shot wasn’t hit with much power but touched with unmistakable finesse, creeping inside the near post. That Velaphi saw it late didn’t help.

But it wouldn’t be regular night for the Wanderers without an injury. Just as they were getting on top as the half-hour mark ticked past, they lost Rukavytsya.

The Ukrainian-born forward was on a fast break after dispossessing Paulo Retro before burning past Jaliens, cutting inside the Dutchman before shooting off his right foot. The shot couldn’t get past Velaphi and just to compound the misery, Rukavytsya crumpled into a heap, clutching his hamstring. Labinot Haliti replaced him.

Although Western Sydney looked more likely to extend their lead than be pegged back, that’s exactly what happened.

Collecting a looping pass from Aaron Mooy, Novillo made ground down the left-hand side before cutting in to shoot on his right foot. If it looked fanciful, the ambition was soon justified – the ball soared off his foot and left Bouzanis flapping at thin air.

No sooner had City equalised that Juric had an exceptional opportunity to hit back. Velaphi, way out of goal, perhaps over-estimated his own skill level as he sought to play out from the back, instead finding the unmarked Wanderers striker. He only had to get his shot on goal but skewed it wide.

A great move involving Novillo and Mooy ended with Koren bending a fine effort that Bouzanis managed to tip over. The ensuing corner saw Jaliens having an angled chance but his botched finish was not surprising for a central defender.

While City had the better of the second half, the Wanderers had a prime opportunity when Haliti burst down the left and his cross fell kindly for Takahagi, whose side-footed effort was only denied by a marvellous save from Velaphi.

Jaliens’ late tackle on Castelen denied the Wanderers a late chance to win it, and another opportunity shortly after might have seen the Dutchman lucky to avoid a handball call.

But City held on for a point, one that may just prove vital in the race to keep Brisbane at bay in the race for the top six.

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