The last instalment of the Melbourne Derby in the regular season was upon us with the Victory hosting City at Marvel Stadium. With Keisuke Honda returning to the starting XI, Terry Antonis returning from suspension, Ola Toivonen on the bench returning from injury and City’s new signing Jamie Maclaren’s first Melbourne Derby it was sure to be a cracker of a game.
The first few minutes saw the home side look a little sluggish with City seeming to have most of the possession but it was building to what looked like a tight battle for bragging rights. Referee Peter Green was making it clear he would not be tolerant of any “funny business”, giving Georg Niedermeier a yellow in the 13th minute for a challenge on Maclaren.
Oh boy… ok just need to be careful for a while Georg don’t do anything stupid. Well, you would think by now I would learn to be quiet because two minutes later who is getting their second yellow?
Yep you guessed it GEORG NIEDERMEIER for bringing Jamie Maclaren down in the box. There were definitely a few angry inappropriate words yelled mixed with sheer disbelief.
JMac had no issues converting the penalty giving the visitors the lead early, knowing full well they’d be playing with one man up after Niedermeier’s sending off for 70+ minutes. To be completely honest, I had no issue with the penalty in retrospect and Georg should have known better but at the time I was fuming. Was it a soft yellow? It is definitely debateable but professional footballers should know that it could be anything from just a penalty to red card depending on the referee’s interpretation on the day.
Anyway, moving on I was mentally preparing for a City onslaught and a long, painful night for those in navy blue. As a result, Muscat was forced to change his tactics in the 18th minute and replaced the attacking-minded, full of pace Elvis Kamsoba for James Donachie who we all remember is pretty solid in defence.
To add fire to the fuel of frustration that was building, cult hero Keisuke Honda was given a yellow in the 21st, which in my opinion was questionable after a City attack down the line. With the benefit of the replay on the big screen, I can confidently say Honda made no contact with the City man but anyway referee knows best right?
The rest of the first half saw City being more dominate, attempting a few shots on goal but most of them off-target much to my relief including Baccus in the 23rd, JMac in the 29th and a solid block from Donachie in the 35th.
Victory however, weren’t going to give up without a fight which is just a reflection of the club’s mentality of never giving up and working hard. Antonis sent a beautiful ball through to Kosta Barbarouses in the 36th but was ruled offside.
The 42nd saw City’s Luke Brattan go into the book for a late *really late* tackle on Corey Brown. Not to be left out, Raul Baena decided to let the referee know exactly what he thought of Brattan’s challenge, and was rewarded with a yellow for his efforts too.
City head into the sheds at half time 1-0 up, most people perhaps questioning how lucky were Victory to only be 1-0 down at half time.
In what I am assuming was a tactical change to try get Victory into the game, Troisi was subbed off for the Big Swede Ola Toivonen during half time. The second half had me worried knowing Honda and Baena were sitting on a yellow and we really didn’t want to risk another sending off; but it was De Laet who got the ball rolling receiving a yellow in the 46th.
The 50th minute gave us something to cheer about, with Kosta Barbarouses somehow getting the ball past Eugene Galekovic in a ridiculously tight angle past the near post and Marvel Stadium erupts.
It was starting to look like there were going to be more goals coming with City trying to find a second when Brattan hit the crossbar from the edge of the area in the 62nd. Brattan was at it again, this time sending a great ball to JMac who was called offside in the 64th. I was getting pretty nervous at this point hoping Victory could get some sort of result here, but also wondering if fatigue would set in having played most of the match with ten men.
Berenguer was shown a yellow for City for kicking the ball away in the 70th minute followed by a solid round of sarcastic applause from the Victory faithful when they saw the card come out of the referee’s pocket.
What can you say, it’s a derby there’s bragging rights on the line and emotions run high from the playing group, coaches and fans alike.
Vidosic should’ve given City a 2-1 advantage in the 80th but his shot went flying over the crossbar, receiving a sarcastic cheer from the home side for his efforts.
Corey Brown decided to vent his frustration in the 81st minute, going into the book for kicking the ball away. (I was starting to think what is it with the players tonight and receiving silly yellows for kicking the ball away). Not to be left out, Victory’s machine of a goal keeper Lawrence Thomas also went into the book in the 88th for time wasting. This time I was livid, if that was time wasting then clearly someone had missed a certain goalkeeper’s antics all season.
The fourth official signalled four minutes of stoppage time and I was just about ready to cry, hoping Victory could either find a second goal or hold on to the point.
Thankfully, it finished 1-1 and it was definitely a night of “what ifs” for the Victory.
What if Niedermeier had not been sent off?
What if Victory had more shots on goal?
(According to the stats, they had ONE – yes I’m not joking, all night)
And a night of failing to capitalise on the player advantage for City with their only goal coming from the penalty spot.
Victory drop to 3rd on the table while City are in 5th spot one point behind Adelaide who are yet to play away in Newcastle and league leaders Perth Glory head to NSW to play the Wanderers.
By Jakie Manevski