As I walked into Aami Park I had two thoughts on my mind. Firstly, will the food be as satisfying as the nugs and chips at Lakeside last round? (Not really). Secondly, how many goals will Melbourne City win by tonight?

As it turns out…

Melbourne City 0 – Melbourne Victory 2

I do not understand Melbourne City. I never have and I never will. They are the untippable team, unstoppable when they want to be and at other times just deeply uninspiring. It was uninspiring they went for tonight.

I feel like results like this are just going to hurt more when they finish fourth and steamroll the finals series, again.

I went to this game with a friend who was watching professional women’s football for the first time and I think I confused her rather than helped her with my pre-game explanations. “Wait, I thought you told me the light blue team was the one with all of the good players? Why are they being completely outplayed? Also, why did you keep saying short corners are terrible?” Short corners are still terrible, I don’t care.

It’s probably unfair to focus too much on City when Victory were simply the better side. The combination of Gielnik and Dowie looks absolutely deadly up front and they combined brilliantly for the second goal. Alleway and co were rock solid at the back (even more impressive after the revelation that Alleway got stuck in the West Gate Bridge and only arrived with a few minutes until kick off) and quickly shut down any tricks that City had up their sleeve.

The first few moments of the game were quiet, with both teams finding their rhythm. Victory were trying to find a way through via the pace of Gielnik, while City looked nice in possession but weren’t creating too much. They did have the first real chance of the game through Yukari Kinga but you got the sense at the ground that they weren’t at their fluent best.

Victory were the team to get the breakthrough after a short corner routine in the 31stminute. Just as I was loudly whinging about short corners (they never amount to anything!) Dowie got her head to the ball, it came off KK and it went into the back of the net. 1-0.

The goal officially went in as a Kellond-Knight own goal. I don’t think she had a bad game at centre back necessarily… but she is not a centre back. It’s frustrating seeing her be messed around so much for both club and country. She’s pure class at defensive mid and that’s where she belongs. I’m not sure she could have done much about it but her scoring an own goal sums up all of Sokkah Twitter’s frustrations. Justice for KK, god dammit!

Both teams came out hard after half time and Victory should have been 2-0 up if not for a disallowed goal for a foul on the keeper. City hit back and could have levelled the score through Tameka Butt not long after but was denied by a brilliant Casey Dumont save.

The save might not end up on any highlight reels because of some weird refereeing. The referee inexplicably called it a goal kick, denying her the ability to claim credit. She can’t really say anything for the sake of her team but I know from experience it’s equal parts hilarious and crappy to have the best thing you’ll do all game nullified by the referee.  It’s a tough life being a keeper, okay?

Victory kept pushing and were rewarded with an Em Gielnik goal after a brilliant piece of work from Natasha Dowie. Dowie beat a few players in midfield and was able to find Gielnik’s run through the centre. City weren’t able to stop her once she was in the clear and she executed a pin point finish off the post to beat Williams and double Victory’s lead.

City heads dropped and it never looked like they would get back in the game. It felt like the game was only floating along until the 80thminute and even then Victory had the better of the late chances. The only City player who looked like they might create anything was Jasmyne Spencer who resembled something of a one woman army at times. The Victory defence led by Alleway was able to hold firm and deny City clear chances at goal.

At the final whistle, I watched captain Dowie. This is her fourth season with Victory and at times throughout that spell she has looked like their only hope up front. They have also been constantly frustrated and points taken off City in particular have been few and far between. The way she reacted at the final whistle exemplified how much it meant to her and her team. The fist pumping, the smile, the sense of relief – a derby win means so much.

This win will give the whole team a huge sense of belief. It’s easy to see their combinations paying off with Christine Nairn, Dowie and Gielnik combining well throughout. The defence was impregnable and they showed their depth with MelindaJ Barbieri having a fantastic game after a few cameos off the bench in the earlier rounds. It’s easy to see Victory being real title contenders on this form.

City will come back as they always do. It would be folly to write them off. Still, there is a growing suspicion that the loss of Jess Fishlock hurts them deeper than people perhaps realised. Jasmyne Spencer is a fantastic player but the way that Fishlock could just conjure up goals at key times is irreplaceable. They’ll have to find another gear soon or else they could find themselves in a spot of bother.

Finally, a shout out to the crowd at Aami Park. It wasn’t as huge as it could have been but it was so nice to see a whole bunch of families with young kids enjoying the action. These kids are the future and the more that can turn up to a prime time Friday night fixture to watch their heroes, the better for the league and the sport of football as a whole.

Featured Image from bythewhiteline Instagram page.

By Taryn Heddo