Melbourne Victory came from behind to beat city rivals Melbourne City 5-2 in front of a bumper crowd of 43,739 at Etihad Stadium Saturday night.
The new look Melbourne City looked in fine form early on, opening the scoring through a Aaron Mooy set-piece that found Dutchman Robert Wielaart free to head into the back of the net.
In less than no time, Victory veteran Archie Thompson responded with the equaliser finishing Gui Finkler’s shot-come-cross with a cheeky tap-in.
The arm wrestle between the two Melbournian sides continued into the first half, with City finding the back of the net again to regain their lead. Mooy would turn creator once more with a cross from the left finding the head of utility man Jason Hoffman.
Marquee man Besart Berisha, largely anonymous before this point, would turn the game on its head scoring the next three goals, grabbing his first hat-trick for the side from the navy blue half of Melbourne.
The first goal came courtesy of Kostas Barbarouses’ low hit cross from the right wing which was parried away by Heart keeper, Andrew Redmayne. The former Brisbane front man managed to get on the end of the rebound and equalising just before halftime.
The Albanian wasted little time in the restart scoring within the first minute of the second half. A mazy run into the penalty box with a turn inside to his preferred foot was enough to beat the City defensive third, putting the home side in the lead for the first time in the game.
Controversy would follow when James Brown bundled over Mathieu Delpierre conceding a penalty. Victory’s front man would complete his hat-trick from the spot, putting the game effectively beyond City.
Archie Thompson topped off this Victory performance finishing off his brace after rounding Redmayne once played in by a delightful Barbarous ball.
City still a work in progress
In the first three games of the season we’ve seen signs of life in last season’s wooden spooners but nothing sustained over the full 90 minutes.
There were positive first half performances from the likes of Damian Duff and Aaron Mooy, but for whatever reason City’s not been able to put an entire game together.
Coach John van’t Schip alluded to it being a “mental issue” inside his squad that have them chasing second halves of games.
Van’t Schip admitted his sides’ been unable to carry on their performances after halftime.
“In the second half we were chasing,” Van’t Schip said.
“We’ve [Melbourne City] played three good first halves but the second half is big part of the game.
“That’s something we’ll have to improve.”
Victory’s attack makes up for defensive shortcomings
Melbourne Victory’s showed from the opening round the potent ability of their frontline, but by the same token the weakness of their defensive unit.
The two goals conceded in the first half were both from crosses into the box were players unmarked were given space to get a header on target.
It didn’t cause the home side too much worry with Berisha’s hat-trick and Thompson’s brace, but the Victory defence have looked vulnerable at times this season.
Victory boss Kevin Muscat was happy overall with the performance but conceded his side will be “burning” after conceding the two goals from set plays.
“We’ve won 5-2, but the players will be burning we’ve conceded off two set pieces,” Muscat said.
Besart Berisha still the best striker in the league
Not much you can say about Besart Berisha, other than he’s been consistently the best striker in the A-League for three seasons running.
All three of his goals came at crucial stages of the game – the equaliser, the goal to put Victory in the lead and the clincher to kill the game. Berisha’s accustom to decisive moments in his A-League career, and the derby was just another example.
The marksman is the joint fastest player (with Shane Smeltz) to get 50 A-League goals, reaching the target in only 79 games.
Victory coach Kevin Muscat was quick to praise his marquee signing but not only his goal scoring prowess but the work-rate and gusto the two-time A-League grand final winner possesses.
“[Berisha] will get the headlines for his goals tonight, but lets be mindful there’s a lot more to his game,” Muscat said.
“He’s attitude [is positive] and he’s an infectious character.
“He works ever so hard for his teammates.”