Bart Schenkeveld (front) celebrates his late winner.Credit:AAP
Melbourne City struck in the first and last moments of a roller-coaster match to snatch a dramatic 4-3 win over a valiant Western Sydney Wanderers at AAMI Park.
Defender Bart Schenkeveld's towering header in the fourth minute of stoppage time gave the hosts the three points they desperately needed to stay in touch with the top three on the A-League table.
But they made heavy weather of beating a struggling team who were not expected to provide such stiff resistance.
City could not have wished for a better start than a goal inside the first 30 seconds, with Ritchie De Laet once again proving that the striker's instincts he had in his youth still remained, even if he has played the bulk of his subsequent career as a defender.
The big Belgian seized on an awful back pass from Western Sydney midfielder Keanu Baccus which fell well short of young goalkeeper Nicholas Suman.
De Laet intercepted the ball, calmly rounded the goalkeeper and slotted into an empty net.
Nicholas Fitzgerald defends goal for the Wanderers.Credit:AAP
It should have been the cue for City to relax, remove any shackles or forget any nerves they might have had about playing their struggling opponents.
Instead almost the opposite happened.
Wanderers reacted well to such an early setback: Markus Babbel's decision to pick so many youngsters meant that they would play without fear, and that's exactly how they performed.
Roly Bonevacia was working hard to get his side back into contention, swivelling into space to unleash a fierce drive in the 21st minute which City keeper Eugene Galekovic tipped over the bar.
City had the chance to double their advantage shortly after when Harrison Delbridge headed wide from Florin Berenguer's cross, and then Riley McGree was denied when Suman came out to dive at his feet.
Tensions boil over at AAMI Park.Credit:AAP
Wanderers got the goal their efforts deserved in the 27th minute after Curtis Good lost possession then pushed over Jaushua Satirio in the area, Bonevacia converting from the spot.
The Dutch midfielder almost gave Wanderers the lead straight after with a free kick that rose just over the bar.
It was City, however, that managed to get their noses in front with a goal seven mintues before the interval.
Tass Mouradoukoutas rises to score for the visitors.Credit:AAP
Luke Brattan, who has already scored a handful of spectacular goals this season, weighed in with another memorable strike from distance, launching a rising rocket from outside the penalty area that beat Suman's dive comfortably.
But Wanderers regrouped at half time and showed plenty of grit to bounce back and take a shock lead with two goals inside the first 15 minutes.
The first came in the 48th minute when defender Tass Mourdoukoutas headed home a Jordan O'Doherty cross.
The second arrived in the 54th minute, and it was another spectacular strike, this time from Sotirio, the winger picking up a pass from Bonevacia before driving past Galekovic from distance.
Wanderers could hardly have believed they would have been in this position after such an unpromising start, but their task got harder in the 66th minute when Baccus (younger brother of City midfielder Kearyn Baccus) was given his marching orders after receiving a second yellow card for an ugly stomping challenge on Schenkeveld.
Ritchie De Laet scored twice for Melbourne City.Credit:AAP
Brattan chipped over from close range and then Lachlan Wales could not get a shot away before being muscled to the ground.
Wanderers dug in and defended desperately, throwing their bodies in the way of a torrent of shots as City desperately tried to find an equaliser.
They held out until seven minutes from time before De Laet produced an equaliser with an excellent finish, firing low past Suman after making space for himself.
They looked likely to at least return home with a point until Schenkeveld's dramatic late winner.
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