The day had finally arrived, round 1 October 20 and what better what to welcome back Saturday night football than with a Melbourne Derby!!!
Ok, so I’ll be the first to admit I’m a diehard Victory fangirl (yes, tattoo included) and was pretty excited to see what both the new and old boys could do but it wasn’t without some reservations and questions but first, no Ola Toivonen to help score goals and our marvellous marquee in Keisuke Honda was given the captain’s armband with Valeri on the bench. But then the questions kick in, how would this Victory side manage without Besart Berisha who always provided excitement and that target up front? And how would James Troisi fare given his lacklustre season the year before (I am as much of a JT fan as anyone else, but he definitely could’ve done better, sorry).
So it began with 40,500 fans most of whom were in Victory navy blue flocked to Marvel (I swear I just got used to calling the “Telstra Dome”, “Etihad” and now it’s changed again) to see just what the new look reigning champions albeit it controversial champions could do against their cross-town rivals in Melbourne City.
The start saw both teams suss each other out before a new fan favourite in Terry Antonis saw him almost catch Galekovic off-guard ten minutes in. DAMN!! Keep trying Terry! Almost ten minutes later a free-kick to Victory sees Honda deliver into the box but Galekovic strikes again. In a blink of an eye Bruno Fornaroli cuts through the Victory defence but Thomas has it covered.
Then it happens! 28th minute and the marquee man KEISUKE HONDA KNOCKS IN A HEADER THANKS TO A STORM ROUX CROSS AND VICTORY TAKE THE LEAD!
The pumping crowd at Marvel erupt into chants of ‘We are Champions, said We Are Champions!’ But in traditional Derby fashion the joy didn’t last long when in the 36th minute in typical Bruno Fornaroli diving fashion takes a tumble and is awarded a free-kick. Ok cool, it’s fine we’ve got this (or so I thought) …
Then I go and jinx it!
VAR check! I naively thought it would be to check for simulation against Fornaroli earning him a yellow and overturning City’s free. WRONG!
PENALTY to City with a De Laet conversion following Thomas’ initial block of Berenguer’s kick. Many would say that it’s karma for the Kosta Barabarouses goal in the Grand Final against the Jets but given the VAR technology was not working for that incident and clearly was in tonight’s game I do not understand how they could get it that blatantly WRONG!! Isn’t the VAR supposed to correct clear errors and not cause them??!
Pan over to Kevin Muscat who has embraced his inner Hulk at the newly titled Marvel Stadium, quite possibly titled purely for the benefit of media folk during moments like this.
So after a fair bit of yelling, swearing and my usual “how much are they paying you?” shouts to the ref it was time to breathe and get ready for the second half it wasn’t over yet.
The second half saw a lot of City possession which had me thinking Victory had lost their confidence following that joke of a call. Along came JT who has slightly managed to put my doubts at ease when in the 65th minute he curls in a cracker past Galekovic but it hits the post and out it goes. (It’s ok JT, the goals will come). Then it happened…
In the 70th a drool worthy goal from Riley McGree sees City in front and their supporters go wild, celebrating as if they’d just won a World Cup or something while the Victory fans were officially fuming and in panic mode. There’s no Berisha, who will save us now?!
The game had opened up at this point seeing end-to-end football from both sides, in particular Keisuke Honda and Fornaroli trying to do some damage to no avail. Five minutes of stoppage time and maybe, just maybe Victory had one more goal in them.
The Victory men were not giving up, causing Galekovic to make a ridiculously good double save denying Nick Ansell (welcome home Nick) and then the follow up from Troisi in the 92nd minute, followed by a corner from Honda with Barbarouses firing a shot wide.
The final few minutes saw a Victory side throwing everything but the kitchen sink at City to try find the equaliser to no avail. The whistle goes and that’s it first blood is drawn by City even if it was extremely controversial. On a positive note, Victory looked like a team who mean business even though they are still adjusting to the exodus of the likes of Berisha, George and Williams and if the
new boys and old continue to work together we might be fine after all. If last season showed us anything it is to keep working and never give up.
Featured Image from Fox Football Twitter page.