Cracking derby brings A-League to life
FRENCHMAN Erick Mombaerts has brought the flair back to Melbourne City in more ways than one this season, and it was countryman's breakout display that delivered derby delight.
Marquee player Florin Berenguer, who's had a largely underwhelming 18 months in Melbourne, netted his first City goal and assisted the second in his best display in 27 outings, delivering City one of its most important wins. Ever.
A catastrophic goalkeeping gaffe from Olyroo Thomas Glover - who was replacing Dean Bouzanis (missing for personal reasons) - gifted Victory gun Ola Toivonen his easiest goal of the season, but it proved merely a consolation in City's 2-1 win at AAMI Park.
Victory's loss was soured by a hamstring injury to Socceroo Robbie Kruse, who limped down the tunnel just 29 minutes after coming on - although City have problems of their own to deal with.
Mombaerts hailed his first Melbourne derby win, although an injury clouds hangs over goalscorer Jamie Maclaren (hamstring soreness), who was withdrawn just minutes after scoring the second.
"The two goals we scored were beautiful, the second one was perfect. It was very important to win this game," Mombaerts said.
"First was a game against Victory, we didn't win before. It was a derby and for our fans. We lost our last game and it was important to react. With these three things it was very important.
"We were strong defensively, this is sometimes important."
In a generally underwhelming A-League season, this was undoubtedly a high watermark.
It had drama, flair, impressive goals, star factor, a cracking atmosphere and on-field spice - headlined by a 67th minute mini melee involving Kruse and City duo Adrian Luna and Berenguer.
The fans were in great voice - led by the Victory fans, in their loudest display of the season, despite the result.
Interim Carlos Salvachua means business, adopting the suit - unlike predecessor Marco Kurz, whose tracksuit choice did not sit well with the club's top brass.
Mombaerts opted for the hipster look, with an untucked shirt and vintage wide tie part on an ensemble that included a black unzipped hoodie, baseball cap and white kicks.
City's football was as fashionable as the 64-year-old's get up, with Berenguer opening the scoring after the home side ruthlessly exploited a rookie error.
Ben Carrigan, in just his third A-League start, was over-eager to nick the ball from Adrian Luna, who used his South American street smarts to evade and penetrate.
Berenguer's clever positioning and sublime first touch enabled him to finish a passage that would too often be botched.
Luna and Berenguer - courtesy of a sumptuous backheel - again combined, with Craig Noone also playing a part, in a superb passage that ended with Jamie Maclaren's 14th goal of the season in the decisive second goal.
German defender Tim Hoogland returned for Victory and his first XI was crucial with Leigh Broxham (calf) missing.
Victory's new 3-4-3 formation appeared to suit the profile of players at his disposal, but the lapse left them scrambling with the defensive midfielders to slow to retreat.
City had no choice but to go makeshift, with Rostyn Griffiths expertly filling a gap in an undermanned defence which Victory tried to exploit.
Marco Rojas nearly lifted the roof off AAMI Park when he was sent on along with Kruse in the 55th minute.
They put City on the back foot momentarily without being able to effect the game, but it took Glover's gaffe to give the "visitors" hope.
The importance of the win was highlighted by Mombaerts' ecstatic display at the final whistle, which included a consolatory word with Glover.
That win leaves City well placed to mount a serious finals challenge.
MELBOURNE CITY 2 (Florin Berenguer 8m, Jamie Maclaren 71m) MELBOURNE VICTORY 1 (Ola Toivonen 78m) at AAMI Park. Crowd: 16,872. Referee: Shaun Evans.
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