Melbourne City FC fell to a 2-1 defeat against Melbourne Victory in the 22nd edition of the Melbourne Derby at AAMI Park on Saturday night.
Another textbook header from Tim Cahill handed City the lead after just 17 minutes, but Victory responded within five minutes as Marco Rojas punished a defensive lapse to level the scores.
The hotly-contested battle was alive right until the end, where it was Berisha who fired home the winner with just 10 minutes remaining to hand Victory all three points.
The Melbourne Derby has already thrown up its fair share of memorable moments and enthralling battles this season. With both sides separated by only a point on the league table, this clash was always going to deliver.
A feisty start to the contest saw Victory enjoy the better of the opening exchanges. The first clear-cut chance came after a swift break as James Troisi threaded Berisha through on goal, but he could only drag his effort wide of the target.
Any nerves that young defender Ruon Tongyik may have had in his first Melbourne Derby appearance were certainly settled early on after his critical intervention to thwart Berisha in that earlier opportunity, before heading clear from the Albanian shortly after.
It was another typically full-blooded Derby contest. There was venom and vigour thrown into each challenge, niggle at each confrontation.
The contest was ignited even further after just 17 minutes as City opened the scoring through the golden head of Cahill.
You just couldn’t write a better script for the Socceroos striker, who soared above Carl Valeri and Alen Baro to head Luke Brattan’s corner past a stranded Lawrence Thomas and fire City into the lead.
Elation quickly turned to deflation only five minutes later as James Troisi capitalised on a moment of indecision in defence to nod a header down to Rojas, who finished past Bouzanis at the near post to level the scores.
Victory, and Rojas in particular, had their tails up as the Kiwi international forced Dean Bouzanis into action with a curling left-footed shot, while at the other end, Bruno Fornaroli manufactured a brilliant chance with a neat swivel and volley which Thomas watched all the way into his hands.
City had a golden opportunity to regain the lead in the dying seconds of the half after a fast counter-attack saw Kamau square across to Fernando in the six yard box, whose flick bounced agonisingly wide of the post.
The frenetic rhythm and intensity carried on into the second half as both sides searched for the go-ahead goal. Fornaroli came mighty close again after Ivan Franjic headed a teasing ball from Fernando Brandan into the path of the Uruguayan, who couldn’t keep his volley under the crossbar.
Cahill, who has an uncanny knack for scoring match winning goals, nearly had his double in the 63rd minute after rising to meet a piercing cross from Nicolas Colazo, but his header wasn’t as crisp as usual and trickled wide of the post.
At the other end, Bouzanis raced off his line superbly in the 76th minute to deflect Jai Ingham’s goal-bound effort around the post with is boot, but could do nothing to prevent Victory from taking the lead only moments after.
Another swiftly executed counter attack saw Troisi release Rojas down the right hand side, who drew out Bouzanis before leaving Berisha to sweep home into an empty net.
City battered on Thomas’ door in search of the equaliser, with the Victory goalkeeper smartly holding on to Tongyik’s header, before flying to his right to palm a spectacular effort from Ivan Franjic out of the side netting.
Despite the best efforts of a determined City outfit, plus four minutes of injury time which saw Neil Kilkenny’s rasping volley blocked by a desperate Victory defence, City were unable to secure a share of the spoils.
Player of the Match
You would have thought he had been playing in the A-League for years. In his first taste of the Melbourne Derby, Ruon Tongyik carried on from his impressive debut last week with another assured performance in the heart of defence.
The towering defender wasn’t fazed at all by the occasion. He threw himself into every tackle – notably a goal saving one to deny Berisha in the opening stages – and held his own as part of an inexperienced City rearguard.
Tongyik demonstrated his threat from set pieces with a header that drew a smart save from Thomas in the final embers of the match, and the 19-year-old can hold his head up high after another impressive showing.
SAP Match Stats
The Christmas festivities continue at AAMI Park in 10 days’ time as City prepares for another exciting double header.
Our table topping Women’s team will be in action at 5pm when Joe Montemurro’s side take on Perth Glory, before our Men’s team attempt to complete the double in the A-League version of the encounter at 7:50pm.
Hyundai A-League – Round 11
Saturday 17 December 2016
Melbourne City FC (Tim CAHILL 16’)
Melbourne Victory (Marco ROJAS 24’, Besart BERISHA 78).
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Melbourne City FC: 20. Dean BOUZANIS (GK), 3. Josh ROSE (2. Manny MUSCAT 60’), 5. Ivan FRANJIC, 8. Neil KILKENNY, 9. Nicolas COLAZO, 11. Bruce KAMAU (12.Nick FITZGERALD 80’), 17. Tim CAHILL, 21. Ruon TONGYIK, 23. Bruno FORNAROLI (C), 26. Luke BRATTAN, 27. Fernando BRANDAN
Substitutes not used: 1. Thomas SORENSEN (GK), 10. Anthony CACERES, 18. Paulo RETRE
Yellow cards: Cahill 45’, Fornaroli 58’, Colazo 70’
Red cards: nil
Melbourne Victory: 20. Lawrence THOMAS (GK), 2. Jason GERIA, 6. Leigh BROXHAM, 7. Marco ROJAS (9. Max BEISTER 85’) , 8, Besart BERISHA, 10. James TROISI, 13. Oliver BOZANIC, 14. Fahid BEN KHALFALLAH (23.Jai INGHAM 67’), 15. Alan BARO, 17. James DONACHIE, 21. Carl VALERI
Substitutes not used: 40. Matthew ACTON (GK), 4. Nick ANSELL, 5. Daniel GEORGEVSKI, 9. Max BEISTER
Yellow cards: Geria 57’, Berisha 58’, Troisi 90+3
Red cards: nil