Melbourne Victory 2–3 Melbourne City
By Kieran Yap.
After last week’s 6-0 thrashing at the hands of their cross-town rivals Melbourne City began the first half with obvious determination to make amends.
They welcomed Alex Chidiac into the starting line-up and reinstated Rhali Dobson while Victory started without superstar Lisa De Vanna due to a sore hamstring.
From the kick-off the game was fast paced, physical and entertaining, Melina Ayres nearly skipped into the area but was denied by a sliding Jenna McCormick and Amy Jackson earned herself an early yellow card for a bruising tackle on Chidiac.
City were visibly working much harder than last week defensively, typified by Harriet Withers desperately racing back from the wing to block a dangerous run by Longo.
City’s hard work was rewarded in the 22nd minute, Chinatsu Kira drove at the Victory defence and although her shot was scuffed the ball fell to Chidiac on the edge of the area. She shaped to shoot but took a couple of touches to carry the ball clear and into space to fire into the top right corner with a classy left foot finish. Neutral fans and supporters of the national team will be glad to see a fit and in form Alex Chidiac, in case anybody dared forget how good she in her absence, this was a wonderful reminder of her poise, pace and skill.
City had the momentum and were unlucky not to double the lead after Gabby Garton scrambled to get back into goal after a rushed clearance but the effort by Vlajnic drifted just wide. The lead was doubled just minutes later when Kira cut the ball back from the touchline, whipping it venomously across goal where an unfortunate Claudia Bunge deflected it into her own net for an own goal. There was not much she could do to prevent it, the cross was designed to cause havoc and Bunge would have been unwise to let it run past her, City were deservedly 2-0 up.
Although City were in control, Victory players were not discouraged. Angie Beard and Melina Ayres were both denied by Tegan Micah, both side footed good strikes on goal and it took the City ‘keepers best efforts to stop them scoring.
Kyra Cooney-Cross with the extra responsibility in midfield kept busy and kept attacking, eventually earning a free kick that Melinda Barbieri hit very well and Micah did well to athletically dive and palm over the bar.
Just minutes into the second half, another free kick to Victory and again Barbieri lined up, this time she smashed the ball past the wall and beyond Micah who could do nothing to stop it spearing into the net. It was a phenomenal strike, perfectly hit and directed, it feels like every week another “goal of the year” is declared and this was another contender.
Victory began the second half with an increase in aggression, the press and pace in their play from last week had returned and they drew level in the 50th minute. A hopeful ball forward was scrappily dealt with by the City defense and Catherine Zimmerman bustled into position at the edge of the area, turned and belted a half volley to score her second in two games. It was a beautiful goal aesthetically, both feet rising from the ground as she struck it. The new Victory signing celebrated beneath a pile of ecstatic teammates.
Victory appeared to have the upper hand and City looked to be tiring, Cooney-Cross and Barbieri combined on the right to cross into Ayres who was desperately unlucky to see her header bounce off the far post and McCormick again slid in in to stop Zimmerman as she raced onto a through ball.
City managed to survive the pressure and hit back in 87th minute to take the lead. Alex Chidiac picked up the ball in space in the middle of the park, she exchanged passes with Hollie Palmer and carried the ball forward with purpose, she slid a perfect through ball ahead of Harriet Withers who placed it past Garton to make it 3-2. Withers had looked most likely to score last week for City and had made a nuisance of herself throughout this match, to score such a vital goal was a deserved reward for the speedster.
Victory had chances to equalize, Natalie Martineau’s close range header came close, Ayres had a volley on target but Emma Checker took the pain to block it and Kyra Cooney-Cross had a chance flash just wide on the near post but City would hold on for a deserved win.
It was a shame that such a fantastic football match had to end, but it was worse that it ended in the fashion that it did, in the late stages a group of men behind the goal (members of the Victory men’s Active Support) threw bottles at Teagan Micah as she prepared to take a goal kick. It was a needless display of toxic masculinity, a carryover from the ridiculous posturing that plagues some A-League games. While it was initially great to see a large attendance, there are some people the game is better off without and throwing objects at players deserves a lifetime ban from both competitions. It was childish, abusive and dangerous.
In the end, the final whistle blew, City had made up for last week’s loss and with the return of Emma Checker completing a side that looks like it is beginning to click things are starting to look up for the reigning champions.
Victory have a win a draw and a loss to their name this season but they look dangerous when they attack, they again showed multiple avenues to goal and although missing their best player in De Vanna, they were in the game until the last minute.
This was a terrific game with some brilliant goals and individual performances, the only downside apart from the crowd trouble were injuries to Longo and McCormick and hopefully they recover quickly. If last week’s derby was a perfect performance, this was an almost perfect contest with a deserving winner.
Teams: MELBOURNE VICTORY: Garton, Doran, Beard, Bunge, Morrison, Jackson, Cooney-Cross, Longo, Ayres, Mindy Barbieri, Zimmerman. Substitutes: Maizels (GK), Markovski, Martineau, Privitelli, Eliadis.
Scorers: Mindy Barbieri 47, Zimmerman 51.
MELBOURNE CITY: Micah, Tumeth, McCormick, Johnson, Dobson, Vlajnic, Palmer, Davidson, Kira, Withers, Chidiac. Substitutes: Melissa Barbieri (GK), Allen, Checker, Cain, Robinne.
Scorers: Chidiac 22, Bunge (OG) 25, Withers 86.
Referee: Danielle Anderson.
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