Melbourne City FC extended its Hyundai A-League winning streak to four matches with a memorable 2-1 win over Melbourne Victory in the Melbourne Derby. Here are the five things we learned from the pulsating clash at AAMI Park.
City’s young guns make their mark
Entering the 18th edition of the Melbourne Derby with three straight wins and with 14 goals scored, it is understandable that most of the pre-game talk was focused on City’s potent attacking force.
But while the likes of Bruno Fornaroli, Harry Novillo and Aaron Mooy all played their roles in the memorable win, it was young guns Stefan Mauk and Paulo Retre who turned out to be the unlikely heroes.
Mauk’s impressive start to the season has earned him a call up to the Olyroos 23-man squad for next year’s AFC U-23 Championships in Doha, and the 20-year-old was a beacon of creativity in the final-third against Victory, netting his fourth goal in 10 appearances with a brave diving header in the 15th minute.
After spending the early part of the campaign deputising in the right-back position, Retre produced another assured display in central midfield alongside Erik Paartalu, showing great awareness to prod home the decisive second goal in the 30th minute.
It is a welcome sight for Head Coach John van’t Schip to see young players such as Mauk, Retre and Ben Garuccio grasp their first-team opportunities with both hands, as the Club continues its charge towards the summit of the Hyundai A-League table.
Sorensen the saviour between the posts
A man who is no stranger to the fiery atmosphere of a derby clash, City goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen displayed exactly why the Club worked so hard to bring him to the Hyundai A-League this season, turning in a man-of-the-match performance on the grandest of occasions at AAMI Park.
The 39-year-old resembled an impenetrable wall between the posts, repelling a wave of Victory attacks with an astounding total of 11 saves; the most of any goalkeeper in one match this Hyundai A-League season.
But it was his match defining save at the onset of the second half which was the pick of the bunch. With the wind in the Victory’s sails after Besart Berisha’s goal before the break, Sorensen showed spectacular reactions to preserve his side’s advantage, springing to his left to tip a bullet header from Kosta Barbarouses onto the post.
It was an astonishing stop at a pivotal moment in the match, and the Great Dane has certainly moved from strength to strength during his debut campaign in Australia.
Gritty win a sign of maturity and development
It just shows how quickly things can change in football.
Only five weeks ago, City’s season was hanging in the balance after a disappointing 3-0 home reverse to Western Sydney Wanderers.
That match is considered by many to be the turning point of the Club’s season, with van’t Schip’s side recovering to record four consecutive league wins against Central Coast, Perth and Newcastle since the defeat to the first placed Wanderers, netting 16 goals and conceding only three in that period.
And while those wins were relatively comfortable, City displayed an added layer of steel and determination to earn all three points against a Victory side desperate to arrest its recent form slump.
Facing a wave of pressure in the second-half, van’t Schip’s men showed their fighting qualities. They battled hard, scrambled for every loose ball and eventually stood tall to hold a rampant and frustrated Victory outfit at bay - a sentiment that was acknowledged by the Dutchman in his post-match press conference.
“The character we showed was very important. Building on that this game gives me a lot of joy looking forward because that’s something in the past often went the other way,” van’t Schip said.
It was the type of gritty performance which can speak volumes about a side’s ability to challenge for honours come the end of the season, as the Club continues to mature and grow on and off the field.
AAMI Park a happy Derby hunting ground
Despite only five kilometres separating AAMI Park and Etihad Stadium, it is the former which is proving to be a happy Derby hunting ground for Melbourne City FC.
The Club has now won the past three home Melbourne Derbies at AAMI Park, scoring seven times and only conceding once in 4-0, 1-0 and 2-1 wins.
While Melbourne Victory have won the past four encounters at Etihad Stadium, City are forging a formidable home presence both on the pitch and in the stands at AAMI Park; a positive sign considering the Melbourne Derby carries so much sentiment for both sides.
Win streak record within touching distance
After breaking numerous goal-scoring records already this season, City have the opportunity to extend its Hyundai A-League winning streak to five matches against Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday, therefore equalling the Club record of five consecutive wins achieved in the 2011-12 season.
Both sides played out a hard-fought 1-1 draw in the Round 7 clash at Suncorp Stadium, with a well taken late goal from Henrique cancelling out Harry Novillo’s first-half opener.
City will be buoyed by its form away from home this season – van’t Schip’s side are yet to lose a match outside of Melbourne – and with both teams sitting inside the top four of the table, the clash will prove to be another test of the Club’s finals credentials.