For the first time in their short rivalry, Melbourne Victory have claimed bragging rights in the derby with a win over Melbourne City.
A sharp start saw them 2-0 up at halftime but, like the season’s first derby, things could have gone either way.
City put them to the test once again in the second half, peppering the Victory defence and managing the flow of the match. However, this time the home side held up a defensive front that effectively shut out City, earning them the three points.
“[Defending] wasn’t the game plan but credit to City, they’re a great team and we just needed to stop their weapons as best as we could. We just defended well. I think at times we couldn’t close our games in the past. Today we just defended as an eleven, all the way from Tats to Henninger in goals.” – Christine Nairn
Melbourne Victory – Key Moments and Players
The leading light for Victory this season, Natasha Dowie left an imprint on the game and the league with her goal in the first 25 seconds, smashing the record for earliest goal. It was a classic from the striker – receiving on the long pass, slipping round the defence and placing on the ground with force.
This put Victory in a relatively safe place to concentrate on defence. Thirty minutes later, captain Nairn brought it to 2-0 with a beautiful curling ball following a short corner. It was her first goal of the season and epitomised her distinctive shooting style.
The importance of Victory’s international signings as a backbone for this side becomes apparent when factoring in Samantha Johnson’s and Bianca Henninger’s impact. Johnson was a constant obstacle between City and the goal whilst organising her backline. One notable moment saw her clear what seemed to be a sure shot from Yanez from the goal-line skywards. Henninger demonstrated extreme agility in response to City’s barrage of shots, putting herself behind the ball both on the ground and in the air.
There was a balance struck between their core of internationals and their up-and-coming locals. Annabel Martin’s name receives a mention every write up, but that’s for a good reason. Whilst less attacking minded than recent matches, she was her usual solid self in defence.
At one point, Yanez looked to slipped around for a one on one chance, but Martin dived in on her first touch and cleared it with her head. An unexpected find this season, Kariah White is going from strength to strength each game, and it seems like she is only just getting started. Despite being a natural attacker, she put in the work rate to track back whilst also catching City’s defence by surprise.
“White is getting better with each and every performance. She’s learning how to use her strengths each game… I think if we had a couple more games in the season, you’d see her name on the score sheet.” – Nairn
“I’m lost for words. This team hasn’t had the best two years and to come away with a win like that – even though we probably defended for 89 of those 90 minutes – credit just goes to this team and the blue collar mentality. Putting in the work and this is two years in the making and I’m really happy with that result.” – Nairn
Melbourne City – Key Players and Moments
In terms of passing and possession, City did not disappoint and continued to dominate in the second half. In defence, Dowie was identified as the greatest threat and she was often outnumbered before she could make a second touch.
The likes of Steph Catley, Rebekah Stott and Amy Jackson contributed to a cohesive forward formation that kept them in their attacking half. Beverly Yanez had the lion’s share of the shots, whilst Jess Fishlock orchestrated the movement through the middle of the park and made many balanced crosses into goal-scoring territory for her attackers. As my friend noted “you’re just expecting them to score,” but such a goal mysteriously eluded them, bouncing off posts and whistling over the crossbar.
Fishlock’s penalty in the 86th minute (following a foul from Gulcan Koca) was instrumental in solidifying the score line. Coming from one of the best players in the league, it seemed like a sure thing. But much to her own and the City supporters’ frustrations, it veered left of the post.
Whilst the results could be attributed to a floundering City side, Victory’s form should not be understated. Victory were able to capitalise on the brief chances they had and stand strong against an imposing forward line, leaving City unable to convert.
Next week, City will face off against Brisbane Roar in what will presumably be a fiery match as both sides fight for a top four spot. That will take place on Sunday 22nd January, 5.00pm kick off at CB Smith Reserve. Meanwhile, Victory will take a break before looking to shake up Canberra’s journey to the finals the following week. Catch them at McKellar Park, Canberra, on Saturday 28th January for a 4.00pm kick off.
Melbourne Victory 2 (Dowie 1’, Nairn 31’)
Melbourne City 0
Sunday 15 January 2017
Venue: Epping Stadium
Referee: Casey Reibelt
Melbourne Victory: Bianca Henninger (gk), Alexandra Natoli, Alexandra Gummer, Annabel Martin, Natasha Dowie, Christine Nairn (c), Melindaj Barbieri (Lia Privitelli 74’), Laura Spiranovic, Samantha Johnson, Gulcan Koca, Kariah White
Substitutes – Bethany Mason-Jones (gk), Ayesha Norrie, Adriana Taranto
Cautions – Gulcan Koca 8’
Melbourne City: Lydia Williams (gk), Lauren Barnes, Teigen Allen (Jacynta Galabadaarachchi 58’), Laura Alleway, Aivi Luik, Steph Catley (c), Larissa Crummer (Erika Tymrak 79’), Jess Fishlock, Rebekah Stott, Amy Jackson (Marianna Tabain 45’), Beverly Yanez
Substitutes – Emily Shields (gk)
Cautions – none