A resilient display to the final whistle was enough to lead Moreland City to a historic victory over their cross-town rivals, Moreland Zebras 3-2 at Campbell Reserve.
In front of a big turn-out from both sides, City came out of the blocks the faster of the two sides and twice were in front by two goals for a large portion of the game led in particular by a very strong defensive effort from Daniel Jones and Matthew Reid who led brilliantly from the back.
Going up against a Zebras outfit who are top of NPL2 West and were coming off a bruising defeat in mid-week to Port Melbourne in the FFA Cup was going to heavily question the Zebras fitness and stamina as they played their third game in a matter of a week.
The pressure was right up in the early moments as Rashid Mahazi controlled the centre of the park but was tested by great defensive efforts from Corey Thomas and Tyler James who marshalled things brilliantly throughout the game.
City were able to hit first when Apai Ukuno was able to control the ball inside his box and lash a venomous effort back across Andrew Jannese to give the home-side the lead inside fifteen minutes.
Adrian Mathers’ side’s brilliant pressing from the outset was forcing Zebras into numerous long balls which were cut out quite easily by City and it took a while for the Zebras to ease into the game and their best chance fell to Tiziano Slongo whose header was saved by Kieran McDowell.
On the brink of half-time, Jesse Makarounas found himself in a lot of space after a superb tackle from James which set him on his way before rocketing his shot into the back of the net and doubling City’s lead at the break.
The second half was a completely different story as Zebras came out the hotter of the two sides and pushed hard to get back into game before being rewarded as Slongo controlled his volley to put the ball past McDowell and get the away side back within a kick.
This had also come after a disallowed goal to Malesh Jadaeile for off-side and Joshua Mcomonagle-Ihasz forcing a brilliant save out of McDowell moments prior.
However, their hard work was quickly outdone by a swift counter led by Ukuno who flicked it over to substitute, Lisandro Paz whose deft touch over Jannese gave City a two goal lead once more and put the pressure right on Zebras once again.
As the game wore on, Zebras began to play desperate football and began playing long balls right into the path of the lumbering City defenders in Reid and Jones who were rocks in the middle of the back four.
However, their back four was soon after breached when in the final minutes a scramble in the box rocketed off a City defender and found itself in the back of the net for an own-goal and putting Zebras back within touching distance with only moments remaining.
With time expiring, Zebras had one last chance to get a point when Slongo’s cross found debutant, Stefan Cardamone who slid in to only meet the post and his brother, Davide couldn’t turn home the follow-up.
City were able to hold on in the final moments and secure a massive three points and maintain top-spot at the pinnacle of NPL2 East.