A last gasp goal from Besart Berisha saw Melbourne City FC fall to a heartbreaking 3-2 defeat in an enthralling Melbourne Derby on Saturday night.
With a massive crowd of 40,217 flocking to Etihad Stadium to witness the highly anticipated Round 2 clash, Victory appeared to be cruising when Kosta Barbarouses doubled its advantage in the 57th minute, after Fahid Ben Khalfallah's opener in the first half.
But John van’t Schip’s side responded in courageous fashion, completing a sensational turnaround when Bruno Fornaroli and Stefan Mauk both found the back of the net within the space of two minutes.
City looked destined to earn a share of the spoils for the second week running, until Berisha popped up in the last minute of the game to snatch the three points.
With a number of absentees still missing through injury, van’t Schip made only two changes to the team which took the field against Sydney FC in Round 1.
Socceroos midfielder Aaron Mooy made an expected return to the centre of midfield in place of Jason Trifiro, while Michael Zullo made his first start for the Club, replacing Hernan Espindola in an advanced position on the left-side of the front three.
With both sides looking to gain the ascendancy in the first Derby of the season, City had goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen to thank for preventing his side from falling behind early, as the big Dane raced off his line to deny the onrushing Berisha with a smart save outside the penalty area.
City gained their composure after a frantic first few minutes, with debutant Zullo threatening on the left-hand side with some dangerous runs in-behind the Victory defence, while Gui Finkler blazed an effort over the crossbar at the other end after a clever knock down from Berisha.
Victory were nearly caught napping in the 18th minute when Aaron Mooy showed great awareness to surge forward from a quick-free kick, only for Erik Paartalu to trickle a tame effort wide of the goal.
And City found themselves behind in cruel fashion only four minutes later. A neat chest down from Berisha found the dangerous Ben Khalfallah in space outside the penalty area, whose effort on goal whistled past the stranded Sorensen via the boot of Retre.
City nearly responded instantly when Fornaroli intercepted a poor pass from Danny Vukovic. The Uruguayan found Wade Dekker in space on the edge of the area, who could only send his effort into the arms of a relieved Victory goalkeeper.
Victory continued to threaten from set-pieces and nearly doubled their advantage in the 32nd minute. A quickly taken short corner saw Finkler wriggle his way into the penalty area, before forcing Sorensen to beat away a stinging drive at the near post.
Stifled throughout the first period by the close attention from Victory captain Carl Valeri, Mooy was presented with a set-piece opportunity five minutes from half-time, curling an arrowing 30-yard effort into the midriff of Vukovic.
Coming on after the break in place of the returning Zullo, Steve Kuzmanovski made a lively start to his first Melbourne Derby, breaking clear inside the area and forcing Vukovic into a smart block at the near post only minutes into the second half.
But Kosta Barbarouses would soon double Victory’s lead in 57th minute, escaping the attention of Clisby to coast in and nod Ben Khalfallah’s pin-point cross past Sorensen at the back post.
Ben Khalfallah was proving to be a nuisance on the left-hand side and nearly made it three only two minutes later, with Sorensen re-adjusting superbly to save at his near post after the initial shot cannoned off Patrick Kisnorbo.
City refused to lay down and found themselves back in the contest in the 70th minute when Fornaroli scored his first A-League goal. After some neat interplay with Mauk, the striker expertly turned Mathieu Delpierre, before toe-poking his effort past a hesitant Vukovic.
And a pulsating finale was ensured only a minute later when Mauk completed a sensational turnaround, firing home City’s second goal in the space of two minutes.
Making an immediate impact with an assist for Fornaroli’s strike, the midfielder latched onto a superb sweeping pass from Mooy, before coolly slotting his first A-League goal between the boot and glove of Vukovic, as City gained the ascendancy with half an hour to play.
Sorensen proved his worth once more to prevent City from falling behind again, making an outstanding reaction save to palm a powerful header from Berisha over the crossbar, as both sides began to create chances in an end-to-end contest.
But Berisha would deliver the hammer blow in the final minute of normal time, turning home the winner - albeit via another deflection off the leg of Clisby - to deny City a hard fought point.
Hyundai A-League Round 2
Saturday, 17 October 2015
Melbourne Victory 3 (Fahid BEN KHALFALLAH 23’, Kosta BARBAROUSES 57’, Besart BERISHA 90’)
Melbourne City FC 2 (Bruno FORNAROLI 69’, Stefan MAUK 71’)
Venue: Etihad Stadium, Docklands
Referee: Jarred Gillett
Melbourne City FC Line-up: 1. Thomas SORENSEN (GK), 4. Connor CHAPMAN, 6. Erik PAARTALU, 8. Aaron MOOY, 10. Robert KOREN (Stefan MAUK 58’), 11. Michael ZULLO (Steve KUZMANOVSKI 46’), 17. Wade DEKKER (Hernan ESPINDOLA 63’), 18. Paulo RETRE, 22. Jack CLISBY, 23. Bruno FORNAROLI, 24. Patrick KISNORBO (C)
Substitutes not used: 20. Tando VELAPHI (GK), 36. Matthew MILLAR
Yellow cards: Dekker 11’, Retre 65', Fornaroli 87'
Red cards: nil
Melbourne Victory Line-up: 1.Danny VUKOVIC (GK), 5. Daniel GEORGEVSKI, 7. Guilherme FINKLER, 8. Besart BERISHA, 9. Kosta BARBAROUSES (Connor PAIN 80'), 13. Oliver BOZANIC, 14. Fahid BEN KHALFALLAH, 17. Mathieu DELPIERRE, 18. Dylan MURNANE, 21. Carl VALERI (C) (Rashid MAHAZI 87'), 24. Thomas DENG.
Substitutes not used: 15. Giancarlo GALLIFUOCO, 20. Lawrence THOMAS (GK), 22. Jesse MAKAROUNAS
Yellow cards: Finkler 80’, Berisha 90+4.
Red cards: nil