Socceroos marksman Jamie Maclaren has once again proved Western United’s bogeyman, scoring a late winner to help Melbourne City beat their A-League neighbours 2-1 at AAMI Park.
Maclaren scored his eighth goal in five games against United to ensure City maintained a perfect winning record in their derby match-up.
Ivan Vujica put United ahead with his first A-League goal in the 22nd minute, with Craig Noone levelling the scores 10 minutes later before Maclaren finally struck in the 84th to settle the tie.
City looked aggressive early but it was United who drew first blood.
In a clever set-piece routine, Spaniard Victor Sanchez played a one-two then curled a cross towards the back host where Vujica, in his first United start, leapt between two City defenders to head home.
An emotional Vujica, who spent almost all of his first season at United sidelined with a pelvic injury, made a beeline for coach Mark Rudan – embracing his mentor, then the rest of the bench.
Rudan started new recruit Iker Guarrotxena while City counterpart Patrick Kisnorbo handed first starts to Naoki Tsubaki and Taras Gomulka, with Aiden O’Neill (back) unavailable.
Guarrotxena was lively throughout and almost doubled United’s lead in the 30th minute when he whipped a shot just wide.
It was to prove a costly miss, and two minutes later City equalised.
Noone took possession and brushed off Sanchez, before cutting inside and curling a shot past the diving Filip Kurto.
City lost veteran defender Rostyn Griffiths to injury in the 38th minute, with Kisnorbo handing a debut to young centre-back Kerrin Stokes.
The home side ramped up the pressure in the second half but as the minutes ticked by an outstanding goalkeeping performance from Kurto seemed likely to keep City at bay.
The United goalkeeper made a sublime one-handed diving save in the 82nd minute to deny Connor Metcalfe’s rocket, then blocked efforts from Maclaren and Marco Tilio.
But the Western United No.1’s efforts would prove futile.
With six minutes left on the clock, City midfielder Adrian Luna slipped a tremendous long-ball through for dashing substitute Stefan Colakovski, who had the awareness to cut back for Maclaren.
The experienced Socceroo made no mistake with the finish to clinch all three points for City.