Melbourne City’s women suffered a heartbreaking defeat on Sunday, as the Melbourne Victory came from a goal down to win the season’s second Melbourne Derby 2-1 in Epping.
A 61st minute own goal by Laura Alleyway would open the scoring for City, in a game they controlled for vast swathes of time without ever truly breaking.
The Victory would come back to nab late two goals against the run of play however, Melina Ayers scoring in the 72nd and Christina Gibbons netting in the 81st to steal the win and Melbourne Derby bragging rights.
The loss means that City have it all to do in the race for W-League finals. Currently sitting in fourth place on 16 points, a potential Perth Glory win in Sunday’s later contest could see them fall to fifth position on the W-League table, with games against the first placed Brisbane Roar and second placed Newcastle Jets remaining.
Coming off his side’s most complete performance of the season, Head Coach Paddy Kisnorbo made no changes to the Starting XI that defeated the Perth Glory 3-0 last week.
It was City’s third straight week running out the same Starting XI, Kisnorbo’s side beginning to find their rhythm with W-League finals on the horizon.
City were the first to settle into the contest, grabbing most of the early possession as they knocked the ball between themselves in what was a decidedly timid opening at Epping Stadium.
The first clear chance of the game would then arrive in the 6th minute of the contest.
Working through the midfield, Jess Fishlock would combine on a nice one-two with left winger Tyla Jay Vlajnic before lining a speculative ball through the Victory lines for fellow central midfielder Yukari Kinga.
Kinga was unable to get onto the ball however, with Victory goalkeeper Casey Dumont charging out to kill the attack before the Japanese international could get a foot on the ball.
Two minutes later Fishlock would make an attempt on goal herself, getting on the end of some nice work from Ashley Hatch, but only able to direct her effort from outside the area over the bar.
City clearly had control of the early stages of the game, with Victory’s unable to sustain possession in the opposition half for any appreciable length of time.
Despite this, the opening was a rather subdued affair, with neither City or the Victory bringing much energy to the games initial stages and both defences looking comfortable in repulsing any speculative efforts their opposition launched.
The Victory would have their first shot on goal in the 17th minute, Gibbons putting a cross into captain Natasha Dowie in the penalty area, only for Dowie’s header to harmlessly bounce wide of the post.
City were uncharacteristically sloppy throughout the opening half, overhitting passes, getting caught out of position and generally not showing the sharpness that characterized their victory of the Glory the week before.
This was exemplified in the 20th minute when Vlajnic was disposed cheaply by Annabel Martin on the left, the winger launching a clumsy challenge in an attempt to get the ball back that only served to gain her entry into the referee’s book for a caution.
Hatch looked to spark City out of this sluggishness three minutes later with some individual brilliance, turning her defender on the right wing before cutting inside and launching a long range shot only to see it sail over the bar.
The game’s subdued pace slowly allowed the Victory to force their way back into the contest, and a foul by City captain Steph Catley on Lia Privitelli just outside the penalty area on the right gave them a golden opportunity to knick the lead.
Angela Beard’s resulting free kick was poor however, beating all of her assembled options in the box however and sailing clear for a goal kick.
Despite still being marginally outplayed by City, the Victory would then go on to have the game’s next clear chance.
Receiving the ball on the left, Dowie beat City right back Rebekah Stott before cutting back inside and shooting, only for Lydia Williams to make a comfortable save in the City goal.
City would then have one more clear chance to grab a goal in a half that they had controlled - albeit in an unspectacular manner - when Fishlock was brought down just outside the penalty area in the centre of the field by Gulcan Koca.
Matilda Alanna Kennedy was unable to do anything with the resulting free kick though, launching her shot into the shins of the Victory wall before the ball was scrambled away.
City would go on to have the first moment of note in the second half; Fishlock playing a ball behind the Victory defence to Hatch on the right wing, who’s cross glanced off Beard and almost snuck inside the near post, instead clattering off it for a corner.
City’s next chance would come from the unlikely source of Lauren Barnes, the central defender pouncing on a ball that had been scrambled clear by the Victory defence and launching a shot from around 30 yards out that just sailed wide of the top corner.
Despite the pressure mounting, the Victory would then have a chance to grab a goal against the tide when Gibbons floated a perfectly weighted free kick into the area.
Alleway rose highest above a scrum of players at the back post to meet it, and her resulting header beat Williams - only to sail just wide of the post.
Despite this, the Victory weren’t offering much in the way of fight to an increasingly assertive City in the second, and three minutes after Alleway’s header their resistance would finally buckle.
It came when Stott won a free kick off Beard on the left wing.
Stepping up, Barnes would drift the ball in towards a heaving mass of players at the back post where a chaotic scramble for the ball would ensue, with Alleway eventually inadvertently turning the ball into her own net.
City didn’t have long to savour this newfound lead however, as seven minutes later Ayers would produce a piece of absolute magic against the run of play to bring the game level again.
Defending from the front, Ayers would dispossess Kennedy before looking up and noticing Williams charging off her line as City looked to counter.
Deciding to try her luck, Ayers would audaciously launch an absolute pearler of a chip from around 35 yards out that arched perfectly over the head of a retreating Williams and into the goal to bring the Victory level.
It was a rare second half chance for the Victory, with the story of the half very much being City continuing to suffer from their season long habit of dominating much of possession without being rewarded for it on the scoreboard.
And City would pay for this inefficiency in front of goals fifteen minutes later when the Victory converted their next chance to steal an unlikely lead.
Running at the City defence from the right, Dowie would cut inside the area and launch a half cross/ half shot that deflected off a City defender and back into the path of a waiting Gibbons.
The 23-year-old from Cincinnati, Ohio would make no mistake with her opportunity as she poked the ball into the net to give the Victory the 2-1 lead.
Knowing what a loss could do to their finals chances, City desperately launched themselves forward in an attempt to find an equaliser.
And second half substitute Rhali Dobson would go agonisingly close to grabbing it.
Running onto a loose ball in the area, Dobson would and deftly chip Dumont with the outside of her boot, only for the lack of venom on the ball enable it be cleared off the line by Beard.
It was City's best chance of an equalizer, and after eight minutes of injury time was played thanks to numerous second half stoppages referee Lara Lee would call time on the game, leaving City with it all to do in the race for the W-League finals.
Westfield W-League Round 10
Sunday 14, January 2018
Melbourne Victory – 2
Melbourne City – 1
Venue: Epping Stadium, Melbourne
Melbourne City FC: 1.Lydia WILLIAMS (GK), 2.Yukari KINGA, 3.Lauren BARNES, 4.Ashley HATCH, 6.Aivi LUIK, 7.Steph CATLEY (C), 10.Jess FISHLOCK, 13.Rebekah STOTT, 14.Alanna KENNEDY, 17.Kyah SIMON, 19.Tyla-Jay VLAJNIC,
Substitutes: 11. Rhali DOBSON, 12. Jodie TAYLOR, 15.Amy JACKSON, 23.Melissa HUDSON (GK)
Head Coach: Patrick KISNORBO
Melbourne Victory Squad: 1.Casey DUMONT (Gk), 5.Laura ALLEWAY, 6.Annabel MARTIN, 8.Angela BEARD, 9.Natasha DOWIE, 13.Laura SPIRANOVIC, 14.Melina AYRES, 16.Lia PRIVITELLI, 17.Gulcan KOCA, 19.Kristen MCNABB, 31.Christina GIBBONS
Substitutes: 3. Alexandra GUMMER, 7. Ga Eul JEON, 10. Kyra COONEY-CROSS, 20. Bethany MASON-JONES (Gk),
Head Coach: Jeff Hopkins