- Berisha goes from villain to hero for Victory
- Controversy surrounds late winner
It’s far too soon after all that late drama for me to give any sort of composed overview of what we just saw – but I’ll take a deep breath and do my best. Let’s forget about the first half (it shouldn’t be too hard) – but what a finish. I’m still not entirely sure what happened to Cahill, and I can certainly see why City will feel cheated of a point (even if it was probably the right decision in the end), but full credit to Victory for the way they fought to the end. How much will that change their season? Four defeats would have been shattering, but instead they’ve beaten their local rivals just when all seemed lost. With some easier games coming up, they could really build a head of steam heading into the finals.
But where now for City? It almost feels like they’ve written this season off, as though they’re waiting for a new manager to come in for next year and see what happens then. Certainly they’re a shadow of the team that won the FFA Cup just two months ago. They’ll still get through to the finals, and with the talent at their disposal they can trouble any team in the league, but a spark seems to be missing, and such a deflating defeat certainly won’t help reignite it.
And that’s it! Or is it just the start? City are not happy. The controversy of that last goal will run on and on and they’re venting their frustration at the officials. It should be interesting to hear Vakanis’ thoughts afterwards. But when it’s all said and done, Victory have taken the three points.
90+3 mins: City not done yet, although Victory have too many men in their own box for there to be any clear danger. Troisi races up the other end and wins a corner. Rojas and Troisi have been Victory’s best players tonight. To be honest, I’ve completely lost track of players getting booked here. There seems to be cards flying around left, right and centre. Fornaroli the latest.
90+2 mins: Berisha comes off for Mahazi. What a rollercoaster it’s been for him – from the depths of despair to last-ditch glory.
90 mins: Well my head’s spinning. Who could have seen all this drama coming after that dredge of a first half? Victory pushing for a third. Vakanis is not a happy man. I can see the argument for both teams to be fair.
88 mins: Now Cahill has been sent off! Good gawd what’s going off out there? What a finish to the game. Off Cahill jogs, presumably for something he said after all that controversy. He hadn’t even been subbed on yet. How have City thrown this one away?
87 mins: Moments after equalising, Victory think they’ve scored another – but the linesman has raised his flag! Controversy reigns, players yelling for all their worth but the goal is given – an own goal by Muscat. Amazing scenes! It looks like the lino raised his flag too early as the cross from Geria never reached Berisha (who was offside). Instead it was accidentally rolled into the net by Muscat’s slide at the near post. It’s a clear own goal, so technically there was no offside – but would Muscat have made the sliding tackle if Berisha hadn’t been lurking behind him, which would mean Berisha was interfering with play? I think it’s the right call in the end – but I would be fuming if I was Vakanis. This game has reached boiling point.
86 mins: Berisha sticks it away! Rojas the danger man with some great work on the left. He pulls it back for Berisha who sidefoots home from six yards. He’a a very, very relieved man.
83 mins: Troisi with a wicked free-kick that dips at the last minute… but not far enough, landing just on top of Bouzanis’ net. He’s been one of Victory’s better players.
81 mins: Muscat yelling for some reason after giving away a clear free-kick. Great work from Rojas. Victory plugging away.
79 mins: Victory need to show some more urgency if they don’t want to slip further off the pace on the ladder. They’re paying the price for not going for the win earlier in the match. Broxham comes off for Georgievski.
77 mins: While the first half dragged, this half has whizzed by. Only 15 minutes for Victory to try and claw something back here. It’s City in the ascendancy though. Brattan with a shot that has Thomas scrambling a little.
75 mins: Victory finally get a bit of possession. They’ve looked a little shellshocked for the last five minutes. City look a lot more confident on the ball now, while Victory are staring down the barrel of four straight defeats.
73 mins: Well we’ve got a game now. Berisha will be desperate to make up for that penalty miss too. City on top for now though, and they’ve earned a free-kick on the edge of the box, just left of centre. Fornaroli takes it, but it skims wide of the post.
70 mins: Kilkenny scores with a deflected effort! Brandan with the pullback for Kilkenny, he tries to place it but it takes a deflection that completely wrong-foots Thomas and bobbles into the net. A scrappy looking goal but they all count. It’s been coming too – I just wasn’t sure who for.
67 mins: A deflected shot from Kilkenny earns City a corner. They take it short, cross it for Fornaroli… and win another corner. Thomas palms it away, it falls to Brattan but he smashes it over. All action at either end. Momentum shifts every few minutes,
65 mins: Kamau comes on as City look to add some pace. The game has changed completely from the first half. City try to power through the Victory defence but they just manage to stand firm. Fun times people.
63 mins: Bouzanis guesses correctly to deny Berisha! Amazing stuff as the Albanian misses from the spot again. Fantastic dive from the shotstopper, not the greatest penalty in the world but not the worst either. Full credit to the keeper.
61 mins: Rojas brought down by Brattan in the box. Clear penalty. Victory with a big, big chance.
61 mins: Brattan crosses a free-kick into the box…except it isn’t a cross. It dips and swerves and just glances the top of the crossbar on its way out for a goal kick. Victory take a breath and make a change – Khalfallah comes off for Austin.
59 mins: Oooo, a couple of decent chances for City denied by the keeper. This is more like it, chances at either end. The crowd can sniff the change in the air, more of a crackle in the stands now.
58 mins: Some activity on the City bench. Cahill and Kamau both stretching. The game has definitely opened up but neither side seems composed enough to make the most of it.
56 mins: Broxham gets on the end of the corner, or rather gets under it, and the header sails harmlessly over the bar.
55 mins: Tongyik with a composed header to clear a potentially dangerous cross from Broxham. This is better viewing. Corner for Victory.
53 mins: Khalfallah with a shot from the edge of the area that goes straight to Bouzanis. It’s opening up a little though, a few genuine chances being created. More of the same please.
52 mins: Some nerves in the Victory box as a free-kick into the danger area eventually finds Tongyik on the right. He smashes it back into the area but a Victory foot clears the danger. A little bit more promising though.
50 mins: Geria goes in the book, some might say it was overdue, after yet another clumsy challenge on Brandan.
49 mins: Huzzahs! A first shot on target! A few ricochets around the City box and the ball falls kindly for Troisi – he hits it sweet enough but it’s straight down the throat of Bouzanis.
48 mins: Tongyik with his first touch. Didn’t look especially confident to be honest, a slightly lacklustre pass back to the keeper that he struggles a little with. Is that where a goal’s going to come from? A mistake?
46 mins: And we’re off again. A couple of early long balls don’t bode well for the trajectory of the game.
Tongyik comes on for Jakobsen who really looked like he was struggling. If he’s out for a while, that could be a big blow to City’s finals chances.
The top statistic tells you all you need to know. Either Vakanis or Muscat will have to take a risk if this game is going to improve in the second half.
That’s it, a nervous half comes to an end with the game all square. Both teams have been unconvincing where it counts, although they haven’t shied away from a challenge. Catch you in 15.
45 mins: Well the last five minutes have been the best of the game, shame the half is almost over. City waste a corner and that’s got to be close to half-time. City happy to pass it around as the clock ticks down.
44 mins: Berisha! Oh dear oh dear. The ball is whipped across the face of goal, the keeper can’t reach it and all Berisha had to do was get a touch. Somehow his leg seemed to move in slow motion though and the ball had flashed past him before he could bury it. Best chance so far.
43 mins: The yellow cards are racking up now. Muscat this time for throwing himself a little too forcefully into a tackle with Bozanic. Not quite the passion we were looking for.
42 mins: Now Malik goes into the book for a fairly obvious foul. Not sure why City are complaining. It was clear as day.
41 mins: Ansell goes into the book for a tough challenge on Brandan (again). It’s good to see Ansell back on the pitch again, if only because if he scores I can use the “Ansell, he’s so hot right now” footage from Zoolander.
38 mins: Oooo! Fornaroli latches on to a Kilkenny cross to nod home, but he’s fractionally offside and the linesman gets it right. Hopefully that sparks something.
37 mins: Nice work from Troisi to run the ball all the way from his own half and win a throw deep in City territory. He’s been one of the better players tonight, although it’s been slim pickings. This game really needs a goal to liven things up, but so far chances have been at a premium.
35 mins: Not for the first time, Muscat gives away a foul and Victory have a dangerous free-kick on the left edge of the box. Troisi chips it into the danger area but Bouzanis is equal to it, punching it away confidently.
33 mins: Victory probing away, but they fail to find a way through and Jaksobsen makes it back onto the pitch. He doesn’t look particularly healthy though, little bit of limping – never a good sign.
31 mins: Jakobsen seems to be struggling with a leg injury. He’s come off for some treatment but City will be praying he’s OK, he’s so crucial to their defence. The game continues without him, Victory looking to make the most of the numerical advantage. Risky time for City.
29 mins: City finally get a bit of space to play the ball around – unusual as Victory have been pressing them all over the pitch up until now. The ball eventually finds Brandan, who takes a touch on the edge of the box and curls a shot well over the bar. Better from City even if the final execution was poor.
26 mins: Geria and Brandan tussling again on the right (for Victory). That’s looked like City’s best route to goal so far, the Victory right-back seems under pressure every time his opponent gets a clean run at him.
23 mins: The last five minutes have been very scrappy, little thought going into some of the passing and runs. It’s screaming out for someone to take the game by the scruff of the neck to dictate things. No one’s putting their hand up though. A long ball over the top is just slightly overhit and Bouzanis smothers the danger on the edge of his area.
20 mins: So far this game has gone exactly as you’d expect from two talented teams struggling for confidence – just a few nerves letting down the final ball, and the defence’s look a little spooked as well, despite some good passages here or there. The first goal could prove even more important than usual.
18 mins: Excellent challenge from Franjic to deny Khalfallah, who was clean through. The City man just got enough on it to steer it away from his rival. Khalfallah arguably should have had a better first touch, but all credit to Franjic for tracking back so quickly.
16 mins: Brandan goes down under one such challenge (in the box too), taking a head to the side of his own that leaves him writhing for a few minutes. Referee doesn’t see it as illegal though.
14 mins: Some nice football from City in Victory’s final third but so far the home side have defended well… although Geria is riding his luck a little with some forceful challenges.
12 mins: Less haste more speed needed by both teams at the minute, someone just needs to put a foot on it and dictate play. Where’s Mooy when you need him? City win a free-kick about 40 yards out. It’s taken short and they’re forced all the way back into their own half – then bring it all the way back to win a throw close to the corner flag. Good work.
9 mins: City win the first corner of the match after a good run from Fornaroli. It’s curled into box, fools Broxham, but Brandan isn’t expecting it and it bounces off him to safety.
7 mins: Neither side really on top in the opening exchanges, although there seems to be a smidge more mongrel in the way Victory are playing. Oooo… Rojas runs onto a long ball from Bozanic, nicks it over the onrushing keeper but it lands on the top of the net. First real chance.
5 mins: Troisi whips in a free-kick… but like some bad mash potato it’s overwhipped, and sails to the other side of the pitch away from any danger. Fornaroli gets a nasty blow on the shin but manages to walk away. It’s bubbling away. All perfectly above board at the minute though. Bruno might disagree.
3 mins: Franjic on the receiving end of a crunching (but legal) tackle from Baro. That’s what we like to see at the start of a derby. Bit scrappy in the early stages.
1 min: Peeeeeeep! And we’re under way. Victory get us started, immediately losing possession with a deep punt into the City half that sails straight out. They get it back though and Berisha almost gets to a cross on the right but he’s fractionally offside.
‘Stand by Me’ blares out of the sound system as the teams take the field. The fans seem in fine voice anyway even if the numbers aren’t quite as high as usual. Not long to go now.
So it’s with a not-unexpected ‘auf wiedersehen’ that Victory fans this week waved goodbye to winger Max Beister, who has flown back to Germany on extended compassionate leave after just nine A-League appearances. It was such a promising start too, with a goal on debut.
I would like to thank Kevin Muscat and all the Melbourne Victory players and staff for allowing me the wonderful experience of playing in Australia at this club … Unfortunately, some things in life are bigger than football, and the best thing for me is to return to Germany.”
Speaking of Melbourne derbies, this is the second one this weekend. Kind of. For those interested, the Dandenong derby on Friday night finished up with Thunder running out 4-1 winners over City in the Jim Mimeti Cup. A hat-trick from the prolific Brandon Barnes did the damage. A few names from the night might ring bells with A-League fans – Kalmar, Colosimo, Vargas, Sarkies, Dugandzic… Some good footage of the goals here if you’re logged into Facebook.
Is four (potentially five) derby games too much in one season? There’s less excitement bubbling around this fixture IMO than previous instalments but I don’t think it’s quite reached the stage of calling it the Meh-bourne derby yet. Derby fatigue? Or just a result of the stuttering form of both teams? Possibly a mixture of both. You can bet the mood would be different if they were both challenging for top spot. Anyway, here’s some action from the last game, when Victory came from behind after Cahill’s opener (who else?).
So let’s leap straight to the line-ups because the big news is the golden forehead himself, Tim Cahill, is on the bench. That doesn’t mean we won’t see him at some stage, but it looks like reports earlier in the week of him struggling with soreness after coming off after 64 minutes against the Jets weren’t quite the mind games I suspected they might be. Of course, given his penchant for showmanship, Victory fans will be wary of a late goalscoring cameo. Even so, it’s a blow for City.
Melbourne Victory: Lawrence Thomas (GK), Jason Geria, Nick Ansell, Alan Baro, Leigh Broxham, Oliver Bozanic, James Troisi, Carl Valeri (c), Fahid Ben Khalfallah, Besart Berisha, Marco Rojas. Subs: Georgievski, Austin, Mahazi, Ingham, Acton
Melbourne City: Dean Bouzanis (GK), Manny Muscat, Ivan Franjic, Neil Kilkenny, Osama Malik, Michael Jakobsen, Nicolas Colazo, Fernando Brandan, Anthony Caceres, Bruno Fornaroli (c), Luke Brattan. Subs: Cahill, Tongyik, Retre, Kamau, Sorensen
Evening A-League fans, is anyone in Melbourne getting a sense of deja vu this week? Federer champion once more at Rod Laver, Springsteen playing for a second night at AAMI Park, and another clash between City and Victory on the cards – a fixture that comes back around so regularly there’s a picture of it under ‘boomerang’ in the Macquarie Dictionary. In fact it’s so regular I’m clearly scraping the barrel for interesting ways to start this preamble.
Tonight’s Melbourne derby, the fourth this season, comes less than two months since the previous match – but how times have changed. In the build up to that game, both teams were riding high and still had hopes of challenging Sydney FC for the Premiers Plate. Fast forward to tonight and both clubs’ ambitions have nosedived faster than a conversation between Turnbull and Trump. And with the A-League endgame in sight, this clash has become about much more than bragging rights for two teams stumbling towards a finals berth. Defeat for Victory would be their fourth on the trot and give both City and Roar genuine hopes of nicking that all-important second spot on the ladder. Defeat for City would not only effectively end their chances of reaching the top two, but also leave them looking just a little nervously over their shoulders at the prospect of slipping outside the top six altogether – something that would have been unthinkable in the aftermath of their FFA Cup triumph in December.
Richard will be here shortly. In the meantime, check out the latest on FFA’s inability to have the Fifa deadline for governance reforms pushed back.
Related: Fifa reject FFA’s bid to delay reforms on Australian football governance