Melbourne City 1-2 Melbourne Victory
By Kieran Yap (12/12/21)
Above: Melbourne Victory’s Claudie Bunge (3) tries to hold off Melbourne City’s Hannah Wilkinson. Photo: @gomvfc
The champions had named Alex Chidiac and Lyn Williams in their matchday squad and they were coming off a 5-1 thrashing of Adelaide United, But Melbourne City were not there to make things easy on them.
The first Melbourne Derby of the season was a rough game. In a tense first half, the medical staff were called onto the pitch four times. Neither side could gain any real foothold, both teams seemed eager to bypass their midfield players and shots on target were rare.
Victory moved Kyra Cooney-Cross into defensive midfield. Amy Jackson changed to centre-back to cover for Kayla Morrison and Alex Chidiac took up the number 10 role, in the number 10 shirt.
It was City who had the early chances though. Hannah Wilkinson continued where she left off against Canberra last week. Her height cloaks her impressive pace and she was able to sprint clear of Victory’s defenders twice in the first half.
The first time, her shot was struck across goal and the second, she tried to chip the ball over the oncoming Casey Dumont. She sliced the ball to the right and it bounced out harmlessly.
City’s defence held firm against Victory’s strike force of Catherine Zimmerman, Harriet Withers, and new captain Lia Privitelli. But they were helped by Victory’s unusually direct style of play.
In an arm-wrestle of a first half, Tyla -Jay Vlajnic looked the most composed and creative player for City. Rhinanna Pollicina was crafty and Holly Mcnamara impressed yet again. The youngster has dangerous acceleration and was a threat to Victory’s makeshift defence.
McNamara thought she had earned a penalty when she cut inside the area and went shoulder to shoulder with Cooney-Cross. She hit the ground under the physical pressure of the Matilda but referee Casey Reibelt was well-positioned and did not call a foul.
Both goalkeepers were in good touch. Dumont made several confident claims of crosses and high balls. Melissa Barbieri was good in her distribution and when called into action against Harriet Withers was able to save from close range. The striker was offside but neither knew that at the time.
When the breakthrough occurred it felt well suited to Victory’s nervy first half. Vlajnic took a free-kick around 30 yards from goal. She hit it well, with pace and at a dangerous trajectory. The City attackers were not on the same page and did not look like getting on the end of it, but confusion at the back resulted in a City lead.
Amy Jackson leapt in front of Dumont and headed the ball into the top corner of her own goal. It was a textbook header. She jumped early and high and headed it back in the opposite direction from where the keeper had run from. Unfortunately, it was at the wrong end of the field.
Victory would go into halftime a goal down and without creating much themselves. They had some big guns on the bench in the form of Williams and Maja Markovski but they had struggled to supply the ones on the field so far.
The second half saw a Victory side unchanged in personnel but improved in style and composure. Cooney-Cross had been barely more than a spectator in the first 45 minutes. She was often stranded in midfield with the ball sailing back and forth over her head. In the second half, Victory started to bring the ball down and play. Cooney-Cross became more involved, Chidiac started to run with the ball and chances started to flow for Victory.
Chidiac has an ability to cruise through the middle of the pitch in possession. She breaks up play, commits defenders, and opens up space. She has a powerful burst in her weaponry that allows her to seemingly shrug off defenders. Lynn Williams has been touted as the Lisa De Vanna replacement but in terms of style of play and attributes, it’s Chidiac.
To level the scores, Alex Chidiac used these talents to full effect. She shrugged off a Leah Davidson challenge and cut to her left. Ahead of her Catherine Zimmerman curved her run to stay onside and Chidiac slipped a well-weighted pass into her path. Victory’s number nine shot beyond Barbieri to score her second of the season.
City had no time to recover from the goal. Jeff Hopkins had introduced Lynn Williams. The ex-Wanderer and current U.S.A striker took just minutes to change the game.
Polly Doran made space for herself with a strong run on the right-wing. She hit a low cross to the near post where Zimmerman was lurking. Her back heel flick may have been meant for the goal but it shifted the ball into the path of Williams who prodded home to make it 2-1.
City attacked throughout the half to restore parity and rescue a point but for the most part, Victory defended resolutely. Their best opportunity came when Holly McNamara raced towards goal. Amy Jackson did not have the pace to keep up with her and committed either a crude tackle or professional foul, depending on how you want to see it.
Either way, it helped secure the result. She accepted the red card without protest and her day was over, but to an extent, her job was done. Victory had the lead and time was limited.
City’s effort to equalize kept Victory fans’ hearts in their mouths but the goal never came, Markovski came on for Victory to help hold up the ball and the champions were content to kick the ball high, long, and out in the dying minutes.
It was a harder and closer win for Victory than the first-round thrashing was. However, in a few ways, it was a more impressive performance. The second half demonstrated what the Chidiac and Cooney-Cross combination might provide. Zimmerman is in consistent form and the new arrivals have settled in instantly.
Victory has two wins without really playing their best football so far. They are getting results with room for improvement.
City have not struggled to create chances, and if Wilkinson, in particular, can start converting some of them they will win more than they lose.
They need slightly more creativity in midfield. Leticia McKenna has started on the bench in the last two matches and can provide some spark. As City looks to find their best 11, she is one possible solution.
These two teams play again in two weeks. It is sure to be another fantastic contest.
Teams: MELBOURNE CITY: Me.Barbieri, Heatley, Checker, Tunmeth, Vlajnic, Stott, Davidson, Torpey, Pollicina, McNamara, Wilkinson. Substitutes: McKenna, Malone, Chinnama, Westland, Majstorovic (GK)
Scorer: Jackson (OG) 45+4′.
MELBOURNE VICTORY: Dumont, Nevin, Bunge, Jackson, Doran, Chidiac, Cooney-Cross, Mi.Barbieri, Withers, Zimmerman, Privitelli. Substitutes: Markovski, Robers, Williams, Maizels (GK), Murphy.
Scorers: Zimmerman 65′, Williams 70′.
Referee: Casey Reibelt.
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