Melbourne City FC has won its first derby of the season, defeating Melbourne Victory 2-1 at AAMI Park on Friday night.
This evened the ledger for the season after the season opener was a scoreless draw and Victory were able to claim the Christmas Derby by the same scoreline.
City scored once in either half with Florin Berenguer involved in both goals before Victory scored in the 78th minute, ensuring some nervous late moments for the City defence.
Centre-backs Harrison Delbridge and Jack Hendry missed through suspension and injury respectively. Taking their place in defence were Rostyn Griffiths and Nathaniel Atkinson. Connor Metcalfe missed out due to a knee injury with Adrian Luna returning from injury to take his place.
There also was a change in goal with Tom Glover starting in place of Dean Bouzanis who missed due to personal reasons. Captain Scott Jamieson also returned from suspension to take his place in the starting line-up with Scott Galloway moving to the bench.
It was a tame opening few minutes to the derby with both sides happy to feel out their opponent in the early stages of the match.
City were off to a dream start with Florin Berenguer scoring the opener in the eight minute, which also was his first A-League goal. Adrian Luna was the provider, with the winger pulling off a great piece of control to beat his man at the halfway line, then using his speed to leave his marker for dead.
Luna then found Berenguer at the edge of the box where the Frenchman was able to take a touch then place it into the bottom left hand corner past Lawrence Thomas.
Following this goal City took control of the game with Josh Brillante taking a hold of the midfield, working hard to ensure City maintained possession and held its lead.
The game started to open up in the last 20 minutes of the first half with both teams going end-to-end playing attacking football.
Victory almost found an equaliser on the half hour mark following an in-direct free kick inside the box but a combination of the upright and Glover’s quick reflexes was enough to keep the scoreline 1-0.
Jamie Maclaren and Craig Noone both had chances to score after good balls from Markel Susaeta and Nathaniel Atkinson but both saw their shots blocked by the Victory defence.
Victory came close to an equaliser twice in the 41st minute but Curtis Good first put his body on the line to make a crucial block before Glover pulled off a great fingertip save.
City went close to doubling its lead in the 53rd minute after a run down the left from Craig Noone saw the winger loop in a cross to the back post, but it was expertly cleared off the goal line.
Victory pushed hard for an equaliser in the second half but after City’s defence held off the threats, the hosts were able to double their lead in the 71st minute with one of the goals of the season.
Berengeur played the initial ball into City’s attacking half where Noone and Maclaren combined while Berengeur sprinted into the box and received it near the sideline.The Frenchman played a perfect backheel pass into the path of Maclaren who made no mistake with this finish, scoring his 14th goal in as many games this season.
Less than 10 minutes later Victory were right back into the game, after a free kick to captain Ola Toivonen slipped through Glover’s hands and into the back of the net.
Despite a few nervous moments late in the game, City were able to hold on and claim all three points for a crucial win at home.
City will travel to Auckland next week where it will take on Wellington Phoenix in what will be its last game before a bye. City’s next home game will be on March 1st and will be a double header with the W-League being played first. Tickets can be purchased here!