In one of the stranger nights of football you’re likely to see, Melbourne City secured a much-needed three points in Wednesday night’s Round 8 Melbourne Derby replay.
Aiden O’Neill added his second of the game in the 57th minute after opening the scoring back in December, before a late Victory goal ensured we’d all be on the edge of our seats right until the final whistle.
Head Coach Rado Vidosic made one change to the starting XI from Sunday’s clash against Newcastle for the Derby resumption.
Florin Berenguer replaced Scott Jamieson in midfield – and was also one of the two inclusions from the original starting XI, joining Andrew Nabbout with Richard van der Venne and Mathew Leckie out injured.
Callum Talbot also came into the XI replacing Nuno Reis (as he did midway through the first half on Sunday), with our Portuguese defender missing with a groin injury.
Starting XI: 1. Tom GLOVER (GK), 25. Callum TALBOT, 6. Thomas LAM, 22. Curtis GOOD, 38. Jordan BOS, 13. Aiden O’NEILL, 14. Valon BERISHA, 10. Florin BERENGUER, 15. Andrew NABBOUT, 23. Marco TILIO, 9. Jamie MACLAREN (C).
Substitutes: 40. James NIEUWENHUIZEN, 2. Scott GALLOWAY, 3. Scott JAMIESON, 18. Jordon HALL, 35. Raphael BORGES RODRIGUES, 36. Kerrin STOKES, 37. Max CAPUTO.
We headed into the resumption leading 1-0 thanks to O’Neill’s brilliant goal back in December last year, and the clash got back underway with a drop-ball to Tom Glover with the clock on 21:00.
Rado Vidosic’s side held the ball for a long period following the re-start, understandably looking to play their way into the game after such an unusual beginning.
Despite this, it would be Victory who’d have the first decent sight at goal for the night, a deflected Bruno Fornaroli strike forcing Glover into a sharp reflex save at his near post in the 29th minute.
Valon Berisha shot from range a few minutes later forcing Izzo to make a save, but other than that, it was a far from eventful (shortened) first half, although City did have the better share of the possession.
The midfield three of Berisha, O’Neill and Berenguer was pivotal to this, not just in the early stages of the night, but throughout the second half.
O’Neill continued to go from strength to strength, tracking back as hard as ever to win the ball back and save his team on a number of occasions, while again showing the new string to his bow in getting forward.
Both of those facets of his game were on full show in the 57th minute as City doubled its advantage – a whole 110 days later.
A casual back-pass from Victory defender Roderick Miranda opened the door for the always-alert O’Neill to win the ball back, before playing a neat 1-2 with Berisha then smashing home what was technically his second of the game.
The two sides traded the momentum for much of the remainder of the contest, although neither would really create any clear goalscoring chances.
That was until the 88th minute when Nishan Velupillay finished a Bruce Kamau cutback to pull it back to 2-1.
While pretty well everyone at AAMI Park and watching at home would’ve spent stoppage time on the edge of their seats, it was a professional end to the contest from your City boys to see out the all-important three points.
City will return to AAMI Park for the third time in eight days on Easter Monday, set to host Wellington Phoenix in a family-friendly 4:00pm kick-off.
Kids will also go free using code ‘EASTERJUNIOR’. You can click here to get your tickets now!