Derby takeaway: Melbourne City v Melbourne Victory

In the second Melbourne derby of the season, it was City that emerged victorious after an Erik Paartalu header in the 90th minute earned City a 1-0 win.

City

Press pays off, as does balance

City’s ability to push up and bully Victory back into their own half allowed them to build up pressure, which very late in the game made them buckle. Despite being without Damien Duff, and without David Villa, they are a much quicker and less predictable unit going forward – able to also catch teams on the counter.

Coach John van’t Schip went with an aggressive game plan that was not easy to execute but, to his players credit, they did just that. With Jacob Melling buzzing around and Paartalu beginning to find form, Aaron Mooy was no longer the man looked to in midfield. A complete team performance allowed them a famous win.

Midfield battle won

While Victory pushed ahead with two men holding (Leigh Broxham and Carl Valeri) and Archie Thompson playing in front of them, City countered with Paartalu, Mooy and Melling who kept it far tighter in midfield to outnumber their crosstown rivals. It worked a treat for the most part as Victory struggled to create clear chances as a result of their midfield being outdone.

Set pieces, crosses serve an aerial threat

Both of City’s goals in first derby of the season stemmed from set pieces which troubled Victory in the air then, as it did this time, with Paartalu nodding home Mate Dugandzic’s cross. Each set piece looked threatening. One can only wonder how much more of a threat this becomes when Josh Kennedy joins the club in January.

Lucky?

Sometimes you make your own luck and City did that, benefiting from good fortune – and/or referee ineptitude – as two contentious decisions went their way. As much as those decisions changed the game, you would be hard pressed to say City were undeserving of their win.

On the way up?

The win was City’s second victory in a row to follow on from a 1-0 win over Brisbane prior to their week off. This is a team with plenty going for it: Connor Chapman the latest putting in a standout performance on Saturday, as well as the half-hour cameo debut from Robert Koren. However, we have been here before as this is the exact same momentum that the “old” Heart would squander. New City or same old Heart? We’ll find out soon enough.

Victory

Press

Victory and City are alike in mainly the way they want to play, part of that is a high pressing game. Victory’s just did not work on the night, in part because they were mindful of being caught on the break by the front of three of Dugandzic, David Williams and Iain Ramsay. Once Victory gained the ball, moves would break down and put pressure on its defence.

Midfield battle lost

Victory never really combated City’s press effectively enough to create chances, and that started with the Victory midfield losing the battle with their City counterparts. It created a flow-on effect throughout the game, with possession turned over too easily and Victory struggling to play out from the back (Jason Geria a main culprit despite his attacking intentions). With chances limited, Besart Berisha cut a frustrated figure, chasing across the back four to no avail.

Unlucky?

The two calls on Melling and Ben Khalfallah’s clear goal were embarrassing and rage-inducing. But it explains some things, not all things. It does not explain why Kosta Barbarouses’ crossing and passing game is out of touch, why Berisha can’t get enough of the ball to do any damage, and why the midfield was comprehensively beaten.

Positions

Archie Thompson, following a standout performance against Central Coast, has started centrally in the absence of Gui Finkler in recent weeks. Khalfallah has also played in the No.10 role and, with the benefit of hindsight, should have started there. With City’s midfield on top, the Tunisian attacker’s defensive abilities would likely have plugged a hole and left Archie to go on a wing and have a greater effect than he had.

On the way down?

Despite the 3-0 win, worrying signs came in a poor opening 45 minutes against Central Coast two weeks ago, more again in the 3-3 draw with Sydney and it came to roost in a heartbreaking way on Saturday. Rather than a failure of system or style, it is a team out of form, which perhaps was going to happen following the start Victory has enjoyed.

Two crucial games come up just before and immediately after the New Year, first against Newcastle and then with Perth Glory on January 2 in Geelong – a great test to see where Victory truly are at.