Box Hill United senior men were consigned to gut-wrenching 2-1 home defeat by Ballarat City on Sunday afternoon, despite a strong showing in the second-half in front of live cameras.
Ballarat took the initiative through Daniel Angeleski, but the hosts were right back into it via Jacob Byrns’ second goal in Box Hill colours. But Xagai Douhagdji provided the finishing touches to guide his side to their second win of the season.
A much-changed Box Hill side also saw 15-year-old Greg Siamoa making his senior debut, as he climbed off the bench late in the second-half to replace Jamie Mammino.
Following an intense and high-pressing tempo from both sides, Ballarat were the first to capitalise and grab their opener on five minutes. Angeleski latched onto a long goal-kick from Ryan Schorback behind the Box Hill rearguard and tucked home past Christian Pavlidis.
But the home side countered almost immediately, with new boy Byrns trying to lob Schorback from 25-yards, but missing an unguarded goal on eight minutes.
With both sides deploying a similar style relying on pacy wingplay, the game swung from end-to-end.
One such move for Box Hill down the right earned them a free-kick on 28 minutes, as right-back George Voliotis was tripped outside the penalty area. Tenacious forward Isaiah Joseph delivered a left-footer that created a flutter inside the Ballarat Box, and Byrns reacted quickest to stab home and equalise.
United were close once more on 36 minutes, as Mammino shot from an acute angle off Joseph’s cross, only for Schorback to gather at his near post.
With the match poised on an even-keel, Ballarat came out quicker off the sheds to score again on 47 minutes. A sweeping charge down the right saw Box Hill fail to clear their lines, and Douhadji snuck in at the back post to tap home past Pavlidis.
Right winger Chudiar Tharjiath then came knocking on the door for Ballarat, only to lose his stride and curl a shot wide of the goal from the right of the penalty area.
But Box Hill were unfazed, and looked to turn the screw instantly with captain Javier Marangos’ mazy run down the right, who fed midfield general Andreas Miltiadou. But the latter saw his driven effort crash off the far upright on 49 minutes.
Although the hosts continued to up the ante, they found no way past the impregnable Schorback in the opposition goal.
The Ballarat custodian intervened Marangos’ firm drive on 59 minutes, then denying Danish centre-back Dennis Nielsen’s left-footer from 18-yards.
Nino Lacagnina then found two successive efforts from point-blank range being kept at bay by Schorback past the hour mark.
Byrns then almost rose to the occasion twice, but flicked a header just over the crossbar from Delarno Pharoe’s corner and further found his venomous 25-yard cracker drift away from the target.
Ballarat had a late, late chance through Lachlan Wright on the counter-surge, but an alert Pavlidis saved the day for his side by staying big at his near post.
Box Hill United starting-XI: T Aresti, J Byrns, I Joseph (D Pharoe, 67’), N Lacagnina, J Mammino (G Siamoa, 78’), J Marangos ©, D Nielsen, A Miltiadou, C Pavlidis (GK), G Voliotis, J Vun (A Mohd. Sarip, 83’)
Unused substitutes: B Caballero (GK), N Kokolakis