City snatch dramatic win over Wanderers

Marco Tilio’s brace has delivered Melbourne City a dramatic 3-2 win over Western Sydney that leaves the Wanderers in fourth place, setting up a potential Sydney Derby in week one of the Isuzu UTE A-League finals.

On a night where City hoisted their premiers plate in front of their home fans, the Wanderers, hunting a top-two berth, twice led to almost spoil the party altogether.

In-form Socceroos attacker Brandon Borrello drew first blood at AAMI Park with a lovely finish in the 41st minute, before Tilio equalised four minutes into the second half.

Nicolas Milanovic restored Western Sydney’s lead in the 74th minute but Jamie Maclaren equalised a minute later.

Wanderers goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas saved Andrew Nabbout’s penalty in the 78th minute but Tilio struck in the 93rd to give City all three points.

Central Coast (44 points) took second place by beating Adelaide 4-1, with the defeat condemning the Wanderers (41) to fourth place behind the Reds (42).

City and Central Coast get the first weekend of finals off, while Marko Rudan’s Wanderers are poised to face fifth-placed Sydney FC and Adelaide to host either Wellington or Perth.

The Wanderers have never faced off against their cross-town rivals in A-League Men Finals Series history.

Sydney FC legend Alex Brosque was excited by the prospect when analysing City’s 3-2 victory over the Wanderers for Paramount+.

“It sets up something that’s never happened before,” Brosque said. “Amazingly, since the Wanderers have come in, there’s never been a finals match played between these two clubs – so I do hope it stays that way. It’s going to be a great Saturday night.”

A Sydney Derby Elimination Final is not yet assured; for the Sky Blues to drop to sixth, they would need to fall to a heavy defeat to Newcastle Jets on Saturday, and Wellington Phoenix (currently sixth) would need to notch a comprehensive victory of their own over Macarthur to swing the three-point, six-goal gap between the two teams on the table.

But when posed the question of the prospect of a clash with Sydney FC next weekend, Wanderers boss Marko Rudan couldn’t contain his excitement.

“I can’t wait. Looking forward to it,” he told Paramount+. “The bigger the game the better for us. We’re going to go into that game with a lot of confidence. The body of work we’ve put in this year has been phenomenal… that game is going to be good fun. Good fun.”

City almost took the lead on Friday night from the penalty spot after Nabbout went down under contact from Morgan Schneiderlin in the 24th minute.

But following a VAR review, referee Alireza Faghani overturned his decision.

The Wanderers struck when Amor Layouni went for a marauding run then slipped through Borrello to score his fifth goal in four games.

City equalised when Tilio latched onto a ball from Nuno Reis, weaved through the Wanderers defence and coolly equalised.

The Wanderers restored their lead after Nabbout needlessly fouled Adama Traore in the area.

Glover saved Borrello’s penalty but couldn’t hang on to the ball and Milanovic reacted quickest to bury the rebound.

Barely a minute later, City struck back when Mathew Leckie had a shot blocked and Maclaren buried the rebound.

Rado Vidosic’s charges could have taken the lead after Aidan Simmons brought down Tilio inside the box.

Thomas, who was brilliant all night, made a diving save to stop Nabbout’s powerful spot-kick nestling in the bottom corner.

But Tilio earned all three points when he received a ball from Leckie, cut between Wanderers defenders and coolly scored on his left.

Wanderers substitute Thomas Beadling hit the post with the last kick of the game.