A record-breaking Melbourne derby crowd of 45,202 turned up to Etihad Stadium on Saturday night only for supporters of both Melbourne Heart and Melbourne Victory see their team suffer from stage-fright. To the disappointment of the fans the usually drama-filled affair finished nil all.
Football fans around Australia were hoping to put controversy behind them for the day after another poor performance by the Socceroos and Holger Osieck’s sacking earlier in the morning as the biggest match on the A-League calendar was upon them. In one of the most uneventful of the ten derbies held between the two clubs, Heart pulled off a brilliant defensive performance to pinch a point from their arch rivals.
Melbourne Heart named five debutantes in the line-up but all eyes were on former Melbourne Victory marquee player Harry Kewell as he stepped on the field wearing the red and white.
Kewell was involved in most of Melbourne Heart’s attacking forays but with his head bandaged after receiving a stray elbow from Victory defender Adrian Leijer, his debut for the Heart was short lived having to be substituted on 68 minutes.
As predicted Melbourne Heart made certain they were compact and hard to break down with Dutchman Rob Wielaert and former Socceroo Patrick Kisnorbo marshaling the team defensively even though Aziz Behich’s usual energy and overlapping was missing.
Italian injury replacement signing Andrea Migliorini and former Roar midfielder Massimo Murdocca also were sitting deep to ensure their defence did not get caught out by Melbourne Victory’s speedy front-line.
It was a couple of familiar faces that combined to create the first chance of the match as Dugandzic’s shot from a David Williams cross curled wide of the upright.
Melbourne Heart had more of the ball and were getting in more dangerous positions but struggled to test Victory keeper Nathan Coe. Kewell had his first chance at goal with a shot in the 41st minute after some lacklustre Victory defending but again Coe watched it sail wide of his post.
Kewell then nearly turned provider as he set up Golgol Mebrahtu who shot narrowly wide again to the relief of Victory keeper Coe.
Melbourne Heart were lucky not to concede a penalty as Adama Traore’s shot struck the arm of Patrick Kisnorbo but referee Peter Green waved play on, much to the relief of the former Socceroo defender.
Neither team could gather any momentum in a very dull derby affair as a surprisingly timid Victory couldn’t break down a rock-solid Heart defence.
Melbourne Victory FC
1. Nathan Coe (gk), 2. Pablo Contreras, 3. Adama Traore, 6. Leigh Broxham (c), 10. Archie Thompson (13. Andrew Nabbout +76’), 11. Connor Pain, 14. James Troisi (24. Scott Galloway +83’), 15. Mitchell Nichols, 16. Rashid Mahazi (7. Guilherme Finkler +80’), 23. Adrian Leijer, 25. Jason Geria
Substitutes not used:
4. Nicholas Ansell, 20. Lawrence Thomas (gk)
Coach: Ange Postecoglou
Yellow cards: Leijer (17’), Mahazi (41’), Broxham (53’), Traore (56’)
Red cards: Nil
Melbourne Heart FC
1. Andrew Redmayne (gk), 3. Robbie Wielaert, 8. Massimo Murdocca, 10. Harry Kewell (c) (7. Iain Ramsay +68’), 14. Golgol Mebrahtu, 15. David Williams, 16. Aziz Behich, 17. Jason Hoffman, 23. Mate Dugandzic (22. Nicholas Kalmar +88’), 24. Patrick Kisnorbo, 25. Andrea Migliorini
Substitutes not used:
6. Patrick Gerhardt, 20. Tando Velaphi (gk), 28. Paolo Retre
Coach: John Aloisi
Yellow cards: Kisnorbo (10’), Wielaert (61’)
Red cards: Nil
Referee: Peter Green
Assistants: Brad Hobson, Luke Brennan
4th Official: Lucien Laverdure