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Maclaren boots City past Western United

Western coach Mark Rudan did not hesitate to shuffle his pack, making a huge eight changes to the starting line-up that beat Sydney with a late goal on Saturday.

That meant Alessandro Diamanti, Max Burgess and Besart Berisha were on the bench. Luke Duzel, 18, made his starting debut while fringe players like Valentino Yuel, Jerry Skotadis and defender Oskar Dillon got their chance to impress.

City boss Erick Mombaerts had already flagged a handful of changes, two of them enforced, with Craig Noone missing through suspension and Florin Berenguer out with a calf injury. Connor Metcalfe came into midfield while Moudi Najjar and Stefan Colakovski also enjoyed rare starts.

City were excellent at retaining possession, keeping control of the rhythm and tempo of the game as they looked to move their opponents around to create space, using the pace of their wide men in midfield and the extra workload of Nathaniel Atkinson as the left back pushed into midfield.

They got the early goal they wanted in the 12th minute when youngster Najjar struck.

A misplaced pass fell to Metcalfe and the City midfielder drove forward before releasing the young forward who struck low and hard to beat Filip Kurto.

Western’s Polish goalkeeper then had to dive to his left to tip aside a long-range Atkinson drive.

Western’s young and inexperienced team kept their heads and their shape and did not become flustered, but were on the back foot and struggled to create chances.

Maclaren finds the net from the penalty spot.

Maclaren finds the net from the penalty spot.Credit:Getty Images

A Tommy Uskok header from a corner was blocked and Connor Pain set up Duzel for a shot which Tom Glover dealt with in straightforward fashion.

Yuel then had an opportunity when he broke through but was too slow to get a shot off and City dealt with the danger.

Maclaren got the goal he needed – his 21st of the season – in the 57th minute from the penalty spot after City were awarded a spot kick when Uskok was judged to have handled as he contested a header with Harrison Delbridge.

Berisha who had only just come on, pulled one goal back – his 19th of the season – when he smashed home a penalty with 20 minutes remaining, but it could not spark a full recovery for Western.

Maclaren then made sure he would claim the top scorer award when he slotted home a cross from Lachlan Wales with five minutes remaining.

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