Melbourne Victory claimed their first derby win of the season, triumphing 3-2 over runaway league leaders Melbourne City.
An action-packed contest saw Bruno Fornaroli become the first player to score for both Melbourne clubs in derbies, with Damien Da Silva and Josh Brillante also finding the net for the navy-blues.
The form book was immediately thrown out of the window when Da Silva rose above Aiden O’Neill to meet Jake Brimmer’s corner, planting a firm header low past Thomas Glover. It was the perfect start for the 34-year-old on his home debut, and the first time he’d got himself on the scoresheet since netting for Stade Rennais in Ligue 1 against FC Lorient, all the way back in December 2020.
City were not too fazed by their sloppy start however and grew back into the game as the half progressed. Eventually, the league leaders restored parity courtesy of an improvised finish from Leckie. The Socceroos forward managed to flick Richard van der Venne’s cross in at the far post with the back of his head, for what was his fifth goal of the season.
40 seconds after the end of the half-time break, Kadete fed the ball down the left wing for Ben Folami to run onto, and his first time cross was met in the six-yard box by Fornaroli. The striker’s first effort on the stretch was well saved by Glover, but he was never going to miss the rebound, heading home from underneath the crossbar. There were no apologies in his celebrations either, letting off a passionate roar has he jumped over the advertising hoarding and towards his adoring Victory fans.
Van der Venne continued to probe for City, looking the most likely player in light blue to find a second equaliser of the match. A breakaway led by the Dutchman resulted in a low shot that Paul Izzo managed to get a toe to, ballooning the ball awkwardly wide of the post for a corner.
Fornaroli had the chance to give his team a cushion when a loose ball fell his way inside the six-yard box, but Glover spread himself well to block the shot from point blank range.
The crucial blow arrived however courtesy of a significant deflection off Thomas Lam from Josh Brillante’s 25-yard effort. The Finnish defended turned his back on the shot, and the ball cannoned off his backside and looped over a helpless Glover.
However, it took just two minutes for Leckie to cut the Victory advantage back down to one. Jason Geria was caught in two minds as to whether to hold his shape or come and put a challenge in on Leckie, and the former Hertha Berlin man capitalized on the full-back’s indecisiveness. His first touch took him around Geria, before blasting a low shot past Izzo at his near post.
City pressed for an equaliser, with Jamie Maclaren guilty of squandering a fabulous opportunity when he headed over the bar from five yards, but otherwise Victory remained resilient and held onto the three points.
Compact Victory stifle City
In terms of calibre, you’ll struggle to find a better centre-half partnership than Da Silva and Roderick Miranda in the A-League, and whilst Victory still languish towards the bottom of the table, they frustrated City’s potent frontline for large parts of the match. Ably supported by Jason Geria and Kadete on either side, Victory’s back four showed good structure and discipline to stay within the width of the penalty area to restrict any space for Maclaren or Van der Venne in the middle, and back their ability to repel crosses into the box.
Preventing City from using their usual free-flowing attacking patterns that usually see them work the ball into the box with ease meant that Jamie Maclaren was kept very quiet. A couple of pieces of individual brilliance from Leckie – who of course played a starring role during the 2022 World Cup – were the only way that City could unlock their rivals’ defence.
Conceding just twice against a team who had scored 10 in their last two matches is a respectable achievement given Victory’s recent defensive woes. Popovic’s men are still without a clean sheet in nine matches, but there was a noticeable sense of progress from this performance.
Dropped points for league leaders
Rado Vidosic has so far been able to seamlessly continue the good work of his predecessor Patrick Kisnorbo, today suffering just his second defeat since taking charge of the team. Their lead at the top of the A-League ladder sits at eight points, pending this evening’s meeting between Perth Glory and Central Coast Mariners, with nine matches remaining in the regular season.
It’s a significant advantage, but Vidosic and co will be wary that the free-scoring Mariners are still in with a shot of challenging for the Premier’s Plate, particularly with a crucial match between the two teams in Gosford looming on April 15.
Tonight, City’s defence let them down, with three lapses in concentration resulting in their downfall. After last season’s heartache in the Grand Final, the majority of the squad will know they can ill-afford complacency to settle in and recognize the importance of continuing to compete until the job is done.
Melbourne Victory 3 (Da Silva 7’, Fornaroli 46’, Brillante 77’)
Melbourne City 2 (Leckie 24’, 79’)
Image Credit: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images