Melbourne City thought they had a third derby win of the season tonight, but a late Lleyton Brooks equaliser ensured Melbourne Victory have avoided confirming a first-ever last-place finish.
City looked too well-drilled for their albeit spirited neighbours, but Brooks’ late heroics earned Victory a 1-1 draw at a COVID-enforced empty AAMI Park.
Despite a 13-2 advantage in shots, City went into half-time with nothing to show for their dominance.
City’s manic pressing was eventually rewarded, as a driven Naoki Tsubaki cross in the 54th minute glanced off Victory defender Nick Ansell to leave goalkeeper Matt Acton helpless.
Rudy Gestede ballooned two clear-cut chances over the bar minutes later, and would seemingly keep Victory fans wallowing in wooden-spoon sadness.
A flowing Melbourne City attack in injury time was capped off by Scott Galloway teeing up Anthony Lesiotis to convert a simple tap-in, but VAR ruled it out due to a fractional offside.
The result looked confirmed, but a scrappy Lleyton Brooks equaliser in the 95th minute sparked wild celebrations centred around the youngster.
The goal ensured Melbourne Victory won’t be, barring Newcastle earning a point against City next week, claiming the wooden spoon.
LATE DRAMA RELIEVES VICTORY OF MISERY
An all-time low points total was already confirmed for Melbourne Victory, but a wooden-spoon was on the line in tonight’s derby.
Semi-finalists just two seasons ago and champions the season prior, this potential new title for Victory wasn’t one they would’ve been displaying with pride.
However, Lleyton Brooks dramatically hammering in a volley had the navy half of Melbourne rejoicing from their locked-down homes.
The result not only possibly relieved Victory of a maiden wooden spoon, but it also thwarted City’s chances of a first Melbourne Derby clean sweep.
Having avoided a trip to Perth for an FFA Cup play-off, a clash against Western United now instead awaits Steve Kean’s men.
CITY YOUNGSTERS SHINE
In the absence of their four leading goal-scorers, Melbourne City showed that their strength in attacking depth is more than adequate.
On his starting debut, 17-year-old Raphael teed up Marco Tilio twice within minutes to force Matt Acton into sprawling saves midway through the first half.
The son of ex-Adelaide United striker Cristiano, Raphael was the game’s spark in the first half along with the teenage Tilio.
Tilio, playing as a number nine, ensured the Victory defenders stayed on their toes, even without Jamie Maclaren, Craig Noone, Connor Metcalfe and Andrew Nabbout.
15-year-old attacker Max Caputo also had some tidy touches after coming on late for his professional debut.
POINTS TO PROVE AND PASSION APLENTY
With Melbourne City preparing for a tilt at a first Championship and Victory players playing for a spot in next season’s squad, the 35th Melbourne Derby certainly wasn’t meaningless.
While lacking in finishing firepower, City looked as well-drilled as ever and could’ve had the game wrapped up by half-time.
Despite fluffing a raft of late crosses, youngster Lleyton Brooks showed plenty in his fifth substitute appearance of the season, acting as Victory’s primary attacking outlet and scoring a late equaliser that won’t soon be forgotten.
Brooks’ recent performances will be giving manager-in-waiting Tony Popovic hope in an otherwise dire-looking rebuilding job.
Referee: Shaun Evans
VAR: Kris Griffiths-Jones
Melbourne Victory: 4-2-3-1
No. 1. Matt Acton; 2. Storm Roux, 4. Nick Ansell, 6. Leigh Broxham, 3. Adama Traore; 8. Jacob Butterfield, 22. Jake Brimmer (14. Jay Barnett 45m); 17. Elvis Kamsoba (10. Robbie Kruse 73m), 7. Callum McManaman (26. Lleyton Brooks 73m), 11. Ben Folami (29. Nishan Velupillay 73m); 9. Rudy Gestede.
Unused Subs: 20. Max Crocombe, 15. Aaron Anderson, 16. Brandon Lauton.
Manager: Steve Kean
Yellow Cards: Roux, Traore
Red Cards: None
Melbourne City: 4-3-3
No. 1. Tom Glover; 2. Scott Galloway, 4. Nuno Reis, 7. Rostyn Griffiths, 3. Scott Jamieson; 20. Adrian Luna, 8. Aiden O’Neill, 10. Florin Berenguer (39. Anthony Lesiotis 88m); 14. Naoki Tsubaki (19. Ben Garuccio 61m), 23. Marco Tilio, 35. Raphael Borges Rodrigues (49. Max Caputo 83m).
Unused Subs: 33. Matt Sutton, 5. Daniel Georgievski, 43. Alec Mills, 16. Taras Gomulka.
Manager: Patrick Kisnorbo
Yellow Cards: O’Neill
Red Cards: None