Melbourne Victory went down 4-2 to the St Albans Saints in the NPL2 West on Sunday.
Victory – which was without the likes of Benjamin Carrigan, Aaron Anderson and Jack Palazzolo – took a two-goal lead into half-time after a Jordan Wilkes own goal and Yazid Said strike at Epping Stadium.
But St Albans responded in the second half, goals from Matthew Cundari, Ayodeji Omoboye and Joseph Monek – and a Michael Grgic penalty – seeing the Saints to their win.
Victory was put under early pressure, but it almost took an 11th-minute lead through Anthony Leban.
Brandon Lauton, 19, was released down the right before crossing to the back post, where Leban volleyed over.
Victory went ahead in the 21st minute, Said, 19, and Stefan Ristic, 18, combining before the latter’s shot was forced in by Saints defender Wilkes.
Goalkeeper Branko Skocic, 20, made a good save to keep out a Marko Bagaric strike before Monek rattled the crossbar for St Albans.
Instead, Victory doubled its lead through Said’s sixth goal of the campaign.
A nice team move led to Leban playing in the forward, who finished clinically four minutes before half-time.
But St Albans was level just after the hour-mark following goals from Cundari and Omoboye.
Cundari struck from close range in the 55th minute before Omoboye converted a one-on-one.
And it took the lead in the 69th minute, Grgic converting a penalty after Matthew Bozinovski brought down Monek.
Monek made it 4-2 just five minutes later, finishing past Skocic in a one-on-one to seal the Saints’ win.
Head coach Gareth Naven’s post-match thoughts
“I thought it was a really fresh opportunity for some under-20 players to really get a taste of the level of senior football and, to be honest, their performance was very good. Collectively, the first 45 (minutes), I thought everyone played their role, their attitude and energy was very good. It showed who we are and what we’re capable of. Obviously in the second half, we expect that St Albans come a bit harder, press a bit more and that’s where at times the most important thing for us that we’ve got to get better at and develop better as players and as young players is not creating situations where we put ourselves under extreme risk in regards to the person on the ball and the person off the ball as well.
“I think you’ll find that the goals we conceded were situations where we were in possession and we either chose to move the ball to someone else who can’t use it or we chose to create an error in regards to our touch, in regards to our pass. I didn’t see any creativity from St Albans to hurt us in a sense, it was a case of our setup, our positioning, those sorts of specific things that are important to our performance, we didn’t execute like we executed them in the first half. It definitely hurt us and we’d like to think we can learn from it because the first 45 minutes of performance is what and who the youth team at Melbourne Victory are and I think that was pretty evident to be honest and if you were watching the game, I think you’d acknowledge that the first 45 minutes was a very good performance.”
NPL2 West 2019 Round 11
Melbourne Victory 2 (Jordan Wilkes 21′ og, Yazid Said 41′)
St Albans Saints 4 (Matthew Cundari 55′, Ayodeji Omoboye 61′, Michael Grgic 69′ pen, Joseph Monek 74′)
Melbourne Victory: Branko Skocic (gk); Brandon Lauton (c), Anthony Lesiotis, Matthew Bozinovski, Aydin Mustedanagic; William Wilson (Jack Marth); Thierry Iradukunda (Zaydan Bello), Stefan Ristic, Anthony Leban; Liston Diaz (Nuh Sehavdic), Yazid Said.
Victory’s under-20s recorded a third straight win by beating the St Albans Saints 6-1.