Melbourne City defied the absence of several key players to extend their A-League Men’s unbeaten run to eight matches with a 2-1 comeback win over Brisbane Roar on Wednesday.
Despite Henry Hore giving the Roar an early lead at Moreton Daily Stadium, an own goal from Kai Trewin and youngster Raphael Borges Rodrigues’ first ALM goal were enough to secure City the win.
The defending champions are now three-points clear on the ladder.
Particularly pleasing for coach Patrick Kisnorbo, the victory was achieved despite the absence of Socceroos quartet Mathew Leckie, Jamie Maclaren, Connor Metcalfe and Marco Tilio.
City were also without captain Scott Jamieson (back) and defender Nuno Reis (COVID-19) as Kisnorbo made six changes to his starting XI from the weekend’s 1-1 derby draw with Melbourne Victory.
“I thought we showed some great character but that’s what we’ve been building for three years,” Kisnorbo said.
“It just hasn’t happened overnight.
“There’s some things we need to work on. Some improvements but, overall, I was very happy.”
Raphael was among those new faces in his first start of the season, while Curtis Good started a day after City rebuffed a call from Football Australia for the defender to join the Socceroos squad as cover following Kye Rowles’ COVID-19 enforced withdrawal.
Fresh from a 4-1 win over Perth last Saturday, the Roar made a brilliant start when Hore notched his fourth goal of the season in the ninth minute.
A short corner routine between Jay O’Shea and Jesse Daley led to the ball finding its way to Hore, with the 22-year-old stepping past one defender before curling a precise finish into the bottom corner of the net from the edge of the box.
The visitors’ responded quickly, however, when stand-in captain Andrew Nabbout and French playmaker Florin Berenguer combined on the left before Berenguer’s driven cross was deflected into his own net by the unfortunate Trewin.
Teenager Raphael put City ahead shortly after half-time when he stabbed home from close range in the 49th minute for the 18-year-old to become the club’s third-youngest goalscorer.
Raphael’s strike, which came after Nabbout had knocked a free-kick across goal, came despite a suspicion of the youngster being offside when the set-piece was delivered.
Brisbane coach Warren Moon turned to the bench in his quest for an equaliser and one of those substitutes, striker Cyrus Dehmie, came closest to restoring parity in the 69th minute but his powerful header crashed down off the crossbar and away from goal.
“Tough loss I have to say,” Moon said.
“We took the lead. We started brightly. We created chances and just so bitterly disappointed with the type of goals we conceded.
“We sit here now knowing we’ve missed an opportunity.”
Defeat keeps Brisbane second-last on the ladder with 17 points from 16 matches.
Brisbane host former coach John Aloisi’s high-flying Western United on Saturday while City travel to Sydney to face Macarthur.