Victory hold on to defeat City and cling to fourth spot

Melbourne Victory 2-0 Melbourne City

By Kieran Yap (13/3/23)

Above: Melbourne City look to break through in today’s derby. Photo: Melbourne City.

Melbourne Victory showed there’s more than one way to win a football match as they held on to defeat Melbourne City 2-0. 

It was a crucial three points for Jeff Hopkins’ team. They had been held to a draw against Adelaide United in their previous match and had Canberra United and Perth Glory closing in on their ladder position.

Victory faced an in-form City side that was nearing full strength. Naomi Chinnama was named on the bench, and although they were missing the injured Leah Davidson, they boasted one of the most creative and dangerous attacks in the league. 

Above: Melbourne Victory boss Jeff Hopkins gives instructions from the bench today. Photo: Melbourne Victory.

Victory were depleted by injuries, departures, and national team duty since the last time these two teams played. That occasion ended in a 1-1 draw when Victory still had Alex Chidiac, Jess Nash, and Elise Kellond-Knight to draw on. 

On a hot afternoon, starting strong was crucial, and both sides started full of energy. City zipped the ball around at pace, while Victory preferred the direct approach. They launched long balls wide to Leah Privitelli or Beattie Goad in the hope of stretching City’s three-player defence. 

Victory’s early pressure paid off when Emma Checker was judged to have handled the ball. It was a harsh call, with only the hint of an outstretched arm blocking a fast-moving shot. Melina Ayres was in no mood for mercy and drilled the penalty to give Victory a 14th-minute lead.

Paige Zois doubled that lead only minutes later. The midfielder had been shifted to right back, with Victory looking to make the most of her passing and crossing ability from deep. In the 20th minute age unleashed a thunderous, curling effort from long range that made it 2-0 in spectacular fashion. 

City continued to threaten and it would be fair to say that they played to their game plan. Hannah Wilkinson looked dangerous and proved to be a handful for Claudia Bunge. The two New Zealanders battled throughout the match, with the Victory centre back being the difference for her team. 

Holly McNamara continued her exciting return to the field. The young striker was a constant menace with her movement and clever passing. When she unlocked the Victory defence to release Maria Rojas, a goal looked certain. Only the reflexes of Casey Dumont maintained her side’s two-goal advantage.

Victory started to tire physically in the second half, but stayed sharp tactically. The ball rarely entered their attack as they sat back, absorbed pressure, and preferred long clearances over keeping possession. 

City continued to attack with probing passes and good wing play. When Bryleeh Henry, Rhianna Pollicina, and McNamara were withdrawn, you could feel a sigh of relief go through the Victory support. 

The rudimentary style may not have been pretty, but it was effective and they held onto the win despite the barrage of attacks. 

Above: Melbourne Victory celebrating today. This win could prove to be a major defining point in Finals qualification after Canberra United and Perth Glory both dropped points this round. Photo: Melbourne Victory.

Victory came close to scoring a third goal when Beattie Goad was set free on the left. Only the perfect timing of a sliding Chinnama denied a third. 

The win was vital for Victory. They remain fourth and have some breathing space, although should Canberra United’s appeal over a deducted three points be successful, it would reduce their lead to two points. 

In any case, the trip to face the fifth-placed Canberra United is possibly season-defining. A win will effectively secure finals football for the defending champions. A loss will have fans biting their nails until the end of the season. 

That is a problem for later. Victory earned the right to a celebration after winning against the odds. A return of Nash next week will have a ripple effect through the midfield, with Zois perhaps moved back into her preferred position to unleash another lighting strike from her right boot.

Teams: MELBOURNE VICTORY (4-3-3:) Dumont, Tathem, Morrison, Bunge, Zois, Jackson, Eliadis, Privitelli, Ayres, Goad, Zimmerman. Substitutes: Templeman, Murphy, Briedis, Markovski, Curtis.

Scorers: Ayres (pen) 14’, Zois 20’.

MELBOURNE CITY (3-3-4): James, Checker, Torpey, Bowen, Grosso, McKenna, Pollicina, McNamara, Henry, Rojas, Wilkinson. Substitutes: Varley, Chinnama, Blissett, Accardo, Malone.

Referee: Isabella Blaess.

Attendance: 1,655.

Artwork: Charlotte Stacey, founder of On Her Side.

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