A spirited second half comeback from UWA wasn’t enough to overcome a 3-0 half time deficit, as Mandurah City opened their title defence with a strong 4-2 victory at UWA Sports Park.
Mandurah piled the pressure on from the first whistle and despite playing the ball out well from the backline, UWA were unable to create clear-cut chances in the opening passages. The first chance for either side resulted in a goal. Mandurah had a player brought down outside the area and Jonathan Brooks picked out the top corner precisely from the free kick to give Mandurah a 1-0 lead.
Things got worse for UWA as a dubious penalty resulted in Mandurah doubling their lead. Michael Vlasich blocked Jordan Rhodes’ effort; however, referee Alex Novatsis ruled Vlasich’s arm to have been in an unnatural position as it stopped the shot. Rhodes made no mistake from the spot and made it 2-0.
The next 20 minutes saw UWA take the ascendency and they almost reduced the deficit on several occasions, all through the feet of Alex Kretowicz. Unfortunately, the crafty forward was unable to best Mandurah City shot-stopper Struan Herd.
Things went from bad to worse for UWA as Mandurah increased their lead against the run of play from a corner. UWA keeper Brendon Offer almost kept out Ollie McGhee’s header but he couldn’t get a strong enough hand to the effort and Mandurah went into the break 3-0.
Janssen rallied his men at the interval and insisted they persisted with their game, his words were reflected after the break with UWA being the better side for the entire second half.
Mandurah were restricted to minimal possession and the passing game of the young UWA side was rewarded shortly after the break, courtesy of star striker Alex Kretowicz. Lloyd Prout broke free down the right flank and his dangerous cross wasn’t dealt with properly by the Mandurah keeper, allowing Kretowicz to poke the ball home from within six yards.
The comeback looked more likely when Kretowicz buried his second for the game. Kretowicz picked the ball up outside the box and his quick feet were too much for the Mandurah defence who were forced to bring the crafty forward down. A penalty was rightfully awarded and Kretowicz picked his spot perfectly to reduce Mandurah’s lead to one goal.
With fifteen minutes left UWA were looking likely to complete their comeback and had almost complete control of the game. However, completely against the run of play Mandurah were able to increase their lead. Miscommunication between the UWA defence and Offer resulted in an optimistic cross finding Jordan Rhodes all alone and the playmaker headed home with no pressure.
Despite terrific work in the midfield from Conor Devlin in the final ten minutes, Mandurah were able to hold on for a 4-2 victory.
UWA coach Michael Janssen was pleased with his young sides ability to match last years champions for large periods of the game.
UWA make the trip south to Lark Hill next weekend where they will face a Rockingham City side looking to keep up their winning ways after an impressive 1-0 victory away to South West Phoenix on the opening matchday.
UWA Nedlands FC – 2 (Alex Kretowicz 2)
Mandurah City FC – 4 (Jordan Rhodes 2, Jonathan Brooks, Ollie McGhee)
In other results, Chris Beech and Clive Stopper’s Reserves side shared the spoils 2-2 thanks to a brace from Kamando Sikazwe. Meanwhile, Viny Kapur’s U18s went down 2-1 despite playing some excellent football throughout the game.