Erik Paartalu’s late header saw Melbourne City FC defeat their close rivals, ending their unbeaten start to the season and making it two wins from two.
With the game heading into the final minutes, it was the big midfielder who finally broke the deadlock, leaping onto Mate Dugandzic’s 90th minute cross to power his header past Nathan Coe, and send the Melbourne City FC fans into ecstasy.
Melbourne City FC started the game brightly, dominating possession in the opening 20 minutes. The hugely influential Aaron Mooy was the hub of creation in the centre of the field, linking well with David Williams and Jacob Melling to cause the Victory defenders a host of problems.
But it was an all too familiar story, with Melbourne City keeping possession and creating chances without troubling Coe.
Melbourne City FC should have taken the lead as early as the 14th minute. The returning Iain Ramsay, starting ahead of James Brown, saw his shot from the edge of the area brilliantly blocked by Victory captain Leigh Broxham.
Then, just three minutes later, Ramsay had another opportunity to break the deadlock.
Melbourne City’s tenacity in the final third put Victory’s Nick Ansell under pressure as Williams forced the turnover. The ball came to Jason Hoffman on the right wing and his cross found Ramsay at the back post, but his shot was blocked by the Victory defence.
As the first half progressed, Victory began to gain a foot hold with Melbourne City unable to capitalise on the chances they had created. Fahid Ben Khalfallah was a constant threat to the Melbourne City defence and he almost opened the scoring from a free kick.
The ball took a slight deflection off Melbourne City defender Ben Garuccio and was pushed wide by Velaphi.
With half time approaching, the strong Melbourne City defence was almost breached.
A stunning volleyed cross from Khalfallah found Kosta Barbarouses in the penalty area, but he was denied by the imperious Patrick Kisnorbo. The ball fell to Archie Thompson who fired over, keeping the score level at half time.
The game opened up in the second half, with both teams desperate to break the deadlock. Almost immediately, Barbarouses had an opportunity to test Velaphi in the Melbourne City goal, but his shot was deflected over.
On the cusp of the hour mark, tensions began to flare and a melee ensued following a foul on Melling. The youngster retaliated to the challenge by Leigh Broxham and was booked for an apparent elbow.
With half an hour left to play, Melbourne City FC coach John van’t Schip was finally able to introduce new signing Robert Koren into the midfield. The Slovenian international made his A-League debut after missing Melbourne City’s opening nine games and was almost immediately in action. A neat drop-off-the-shoulder turn found space for Mooy, but Melbourne City were unable to force a goalscoring chance.
Some last ditch defending by Connor Chapman and Kisnorbo ensured that the Melbourne City cleansheet remained intact, with Khalfallah rattling the crossbar.
In the 73rd minute, Broxham struck a powerful effort on the edge of the area at Velaphi, but the goalkeeper fumbled the shot and Khalfallah was there to poke the ball home from close range. As the Victory players wheeled off in celebration, the linesman on the near side flagged for offside.
In a frantic final 10 minutes, City began to edge back and look closest to finding a goal.
Good work down the right and a neat back heeled return to Koren from Dugandzic saw the Melbourne City debutant fire over from close range.
As Melbourne City continued to press, the tireless Mooy found space on the edge of the area and his ferocious shot was spectacularly tipped onto the bar by Coe. It had the Melbourne City FC fans on their feet in expectation.
But it wasn’t long before they were able to cheer, as Paartalu rose highest to power home Dugandzic’s cross and end Victory’s unbeaten run.
Hyundai ALeague Round 11
Saturday 20 December
Melbourne City FC 1 (Paartalu 90+1)
Melbourne Victory 0
Venue: AAMI Park
Referee: Kris Griffiths-Jones
Melbourne City FC Lineup: 20. Tando VELAPHI (GK), 4. Connor CHAPMAN, 5. ErikPAARTALU, 6. Aaron MOOY, 7. Iain RAMSAY (Substitution 69’ 14. James BROWN), 15.David WILLIAMS (Substitution 88’ 21. Stefan MAUK), 17. Jason HOFFMAN, 19.Benjamin GARUCCIO, 23. Mate DUGANDZIC, 24. Patrick KISNORBO (C), 25. JacobMELLING (Substituted 60’ for 10. Robert KOREN).
Substitutes not used: 1. Andrew REDMAYNE (GK), 3. Robbie WIELAERT
Yellow Cards: Hoffman 25’, Melling 55’, Ramsay 66’
Red Cards: Nil
Melbourne Victory FC Lineup: 1. Nathan COE (GK), 2. Jason GERIA , 4. NicholasANSELL, 6. Leigh BROXHAM (C), 8. Besart BERISHA, 9. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 10.Archie THOMPSON (Substitute 61’ 7. Gui FINKLER), 14. Fahid Ben KHALFALLAH(Substitute 81’ 11. Connor PAIN), 18. Dylan MURNANE, 21. Carl VALERI (Substitute 69’16. Rashid MAHAZI), 23. Adrian LEIJER.
Substitutes not used: 20. Lawrence THOMAS (GK), 22. Jesse MAKAROUNAS
Yellow Cards: Geria 34’, Khalfallah 55’
Red Cards: Nil