Melbourne fail to close gap on leaders Sydney FC with draw against Western Sydney
Melbourne City have spurned a chance to tighten their grip on second place in the A-League with a 1-1 draw against Western Sydney at AAMI Park.
Western Sydney snatched the lead through Tate Russell's first A-League goal in the 21st minute, while Jamie Maclaren equalised from the penalty spot in the 30th.
The result leaves City 10 points behind leaders Sydney FC -- though they will hold onto second place -- while the Wanderers will be at least two points outside the finals race at the end of the round.
City were forced into major changes -- Markel Susaeta replaced suspended midfielder Adrian Luna, Lachie Wales started on the wing and Harrison Delbridge deputised for Rostyn Griffiths [suspended].
City started fastest when Wales turned Craig Noone's cross wide with a diving header in the 11th minute before Western Sydney broke the deadlock with a spectacular effort.
Mitch Duke swept a delightful cross-field ball to Russell, who one-touched to Nicolai Muller, then received it back and powered home.
City equalised after Noone won a penalty when he was brought down after Wanderers goalkeeper Daniel Lopar palmed a shot away. Maclaren slammed his spot-kick down the middle to level the scores.
Wanderers striker Simon Cox spurned a gilt-edged chance to snare all three points in the 69th minute.
An errant backpass from Nathaniel Atkinson forced Curtis Good into a header which fell at the feet of Cox, whose sidefooted shot was partially blocked by goalkeeper Thomas Glover. Harrison Delbridge eventually cleared the danger.
In the 82nd minute, Noone flashed a header wide from Atkinson's cross, leaving the teams to settle for a point apiece.