A magnificent brace to Bruno Fornaroli saw Melbourne City FC register a 2-2 draw against cross-town rivals Melbourne Victory in a pulsating Melbourne Derby on Saturday night.
In a Derby encounter played at a furious pace from the first whistle, Fornaroli brought the 25,738 strong crowd at AAMI Park to its feet with a performance of the highest order in the final third, sandwiching Fahid Ben Khalfallah’s equaliser with a magnificent first-half double to give John van’t Schip’s side a 2-1 lead at the main break.
Victory restored parity only two minutes into the second half when Thomas Sorensen parried a shot from Oliver Bozanic onto the shoulder of Gui Finkler and into the net, but it was a moment of controversy soon after which denied Kevin Muscat’s side a stirring comeback.
Lining up a free-kick from the paint of the 18-yard box, Finkler crashed an effort off the underside and seemingly over the line – but a goal was not given by the assistant referee.
It was an incident which threatens to overshadow what was a truly enthralling spectacle of football from both sides, who remain deadlocked on the Hyundai A-League table with 29 points apiece.
The reversion to a 4-3-3 formation saw van’t Schip make four changes to the team which started against Newcastle last week. Socceroos defender Alex Wilkinson made his debut for the Club alongside Patrick Kisnorbo in the heart of defence, joining the returning Ben Garuccio, Nick Fitzgerald and Anthony Caceres in the starting XI.
With both sides neck-and-neck on the league table and fighting to keep their hopes of a top-two finish alive, the stakes have arguably never been higher, with a pulsating opening half encapsulating the intense passion and fiery nature of the Melbourne Derby.
A crunching challenge from Ivan Franjic on Ben Khalfallah set the tone for what was a robust start to proceedings, with the Socceroos defender joining Garuccio and Anthony Caceres in the referee’s book within the opening 12 minutes as City battled to keep a fast-starting Victory at bay.
Garuccio was in the thick of the action early in the left-back position and was responsible for manufacturing the first clear chance of the match in the 17th minute, cutting inside Jason Geria and hitting a tame effort into the arms of Danny Vukovic after some patient build up in the final third.
It was a real ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ type of contest as Finkler wasted a golden opportunity to open the scoring only three minutes later, blazing over the crossbar from inside the penalty area after latching on to a neat cut-back from Scott Galloway.
With both sides taking it to each other in the final third, everyone inside the stadium could sense a goal was inevitable, but it was the sheer quality of Bruno Fornaroli’s 22nd minute strike which will see the Uruguayan’s opening goal go down as one of the most memorable in Derby history.
Fornaroli displayed all the attributes desired in a centre forward in a brilliant passage of play, edging himself further clear of rival Besart Berisha in the race for the Golden Boot.
First, he displayed strength and guile to expertly turn Leigh Broxham in the middle of the park; flair with a sensational rabona pass to release the marauding Caceres, before showcasing his immense composure by dinking Mooy’s reverse pass over the onrushing Vukovic to give City the advantage.
However the euphoria didn’t last long as Ben Khalfallah engaged in a game of one-upmanship with an equally stunning response in the 28th minute. A swift counter-attack saw Barbarouses force Thomas Sorensen into a magnificent one-on-one save, with the Tunisian burying a clever chip from distance to level the scores.
After dazzling the crowd with his feet for his first goal, Fornaroli fired City back into the lead only three minutes later, escaping the attention of three Victory defenders to nod Mooy’s whipped cross past a static Vukovic at the back post as van’t Schip’s side entered the break with a slender lead.
The see-sawing nature of the contest continued in the second half as Finkler drew Victory level only two minutes after the restart. The midfielder was simply in the right place at the right time, bundling the ball home off his shoulder after Sorensen palmed a bouncing shot from Oliver Bozanic onto his head.
Sorensen was called into action three minutes later, flying to his left to parry out a curling effort from Ben Khalfallah, but City’s great escape came shortly after when Finkler’s free-kick crashed off the underside of the crossbar, despite the ball appearing to have crossed the line.
The City keeper then gobbled up a tame effort from Ben Khalfallah, while Caceres and Harry Novillo both failed to adequately test Vukovic with decent goalscoring opportunities as both sides continued to search for a winner.
City were dealt a blow only ten minutes from time when Caceres received his marching orders for a second yellow card, but van’t Schip’s side held firm to register a deserved point in another classic Derby encounter.
Hyundai A-League Round 19
Saturday, 13 February 2016
Melbourne City FC 2 (Bruno FORNAROLI 22’, 31)
Melbourne Victory 2 (Fahid Ben KHALFALLAH 28’, Gui FINKLER 47’)
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Referee: Chris Beath
Melbourne City FC line-up: 1. Thomas SORENSEN (GK), 2. Alex WILKINSON (Paulo RETRE 65’), 5. Ivan FRANJIC, 8. Aaron MOOY, 9. Harry NOVILLO, 19. Benjamin GARUCCIO (Michael ZULLO 69’), 23. Bruno FORNAROLI, 24. Patrick KISNORBO (C), 27. Nick FITZGERALD (Jack CLISBY 80’), 29. Anthony CACERES, 33. Osama MALIK
Substitutes not used: 20. Dean BOUZANIS (GK), 17. Wade DEKKER,
Yellow cards: Franjic 4’, Garuccio 5’, Caceres 12’, Fitzgerald 28’, Caceres 79’
Red cards: Caceres 79’
Melbourne Victory line-up: 1. Danny VUKOVIC (GK), 2. Jason GERIA, 3. Scott GALLOWAY (Daniel GEORGIEVSKI 90+1), 4. Nicholas ANSELL, 6. Leigh BROXHAM (C) (Archie THOMPSON 86’), 7. Gui FINKLER, 8. Besart BERISHA, 9. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 13. Oliver BOZANIC (Rashid MAHAZI 80’), 14. Fahid BEN KHALFALLAH, 17. Mathieu DELPIERRE,
Substitutes not used: 20. Lawrence THOMAS (GK), 11. Connor PAIN,
Yellow cards: Barbarouses 15’, Galloway 27’, Broxham 58’, Del Pierre 90+5