Uninspiring Melbourne derby ends goalless
By Zee Ko
Hyundai A-League 2013/14 – Round 1 – 12, October, 2013
7.45 PM at Etihad Stadium, Docklands
Melbourne Victory 0
Melbourne Heart 0
The result was as uninspiring as the dire match proceedings in the end, a goalless draw that failed to separate the two Melbourne teams that huffed and puffed but failed to blow down any houses.
A record crowd had turned up at Etihad Stadium to cheer on their heroes, but were treated to a drab game that offered up more yellow cards than chances on goal and totally failed to live up to the pre-match hype.
Perhaps it should have been no surprise, with the two rivals fielding a combined total of nine starters on debut and indeed there were signs that both teams were yet to gel.
Anyone who had stopped watching football after last season’s corresponding fixture would have found Melbourne Victory’s midfield lineup totally foreign, as stand-in captain and cult favourite Leigh Broxham was backed up by the trio of Mitch Nichols, James Troisi and Rashid Mahazi.
Melbourne Heart were boasting a brand new engine room too, with one-time Australian golden boy Harry Kewell donning the Red and White next to new signings Massimo Murdocca and Andrea Migliorini.
The omens had looked good as the game kicked off, with Broxham haring after Kewell and then going through the back of Migliorini in lieu of a warm welcome to the A-League, but it proved a false harbinger of things to come.
Connor Pain had looked to trouble makeshift Heart full back Jason Hoffman with his trademark jinking runs up the left wing, but Mate Dugandzic looked to be under instructions to provide cover for his teammate and helped double-team the winger effectively.
Thompson looked to be missing his partner-in-crime from last year too, as he attempted to break from a Heart corner kick, only to find no willing runners before returning local boy Patrick Kisnorbo bowled him over to earn the first yellow card of the contest.
The spectre of Marco Rojas will loom over Victory for awhile yet, at least till they find their feet or Kosta Barbarouses proves his mettle when he returns from international duty, but the Kiwi Messi’s raw pace was something that could perhaps have opened up this contest.
Nichols and Troisi were attempting to link up whenever they could, but passes were too often overhit as attacking moves broke down within sight of goal.
The chorus of boos that rained down on Kewell contrasted with what had generally been a flat match atmosphere (with factions within the Victory active support effectively at war with each other), but the former Victory marquee showed glimpses of his ability as he sent Golgol Mebrahtu racing clear after 20 minutes.
Mebrahtu did well to knock the ball past an advancing Nathan Coe, but had to break his stride as he went around the goalkeeper and his final shot was weak and easily dealt with by a backtracking Adrian Leijer.
Play had to be stopped soon after as Kewell ran into Leijer’s elbow from a Heart corner kick, opening up a cut above his left eyebrow and necessitating treatment pitch side as blood poured down his face.
As Kewell rejoined the action with his head swathed in white bandages, Victory had perhaps their best chance of the first half, with a corner kick delivery pinballing around the box before the ball fell to Leijer at the near post.
The Victory centre reacted well to get a shot in on goal, but goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne was equal to the task, pulling off a reflex save to keep his team in the game.
Kisnorbo was having an on-and-off night, his nerves showing a little as he sliced a routine clearance straight to Thompson near the by line under little pressure.
Thompson’s cut back was perfectly weighted, as an onrushing Troisi smashed a venomous shot at goal but Redmayne was once again on hand to make the save.
Up the other end, Migliorini shaped to shoot from the same distance, but the outstanding Broxham made a brave block while on his knees.
Sticking with the theme of teammates still learning to play with each other, the Victory defence had a brain fade of its own as Leijer cleared a ball straight into central defensive partner Pablo Contreras’ midriff.
Kewell pounced immediately but his fierce snap shot was just wide of the post, as Victory fans started breathing easily again.
That set up the stage for Heart’s own best chance of the game, as Kewell once again showed he still had it at 35 years of age by bringing down a ball over the top and dinking the ball to a lurking Mebrahtu in the box.
The lanky Heart striker needed no second invitation, pirouetting acrobatically before smashing a half volley inches above the Victory crossbar.
Matters did not improve after the break, with cautious play and defensive solidarity seemingly the themes of the day.
Kisnorbo could definitely count his lucky stars as his handball in the box off an Adama Traore shot went unnoticed by Peter Green, but the referee was unmoved despite vehement protests from the Victory players.
Chilean defender Contreras was another to escape censure as he seemed to fell Dugandzic with an arm across the throat as the Heart winger attempted to cut in from the right flank, but it was a rare flashpoint in a game that failed to ignite.
Traore earned his own yellow card with a challenge on a charging Murdocca that was so late it missed the bus out of Etihad, but by then both sets of players looked bereft of ideas to break the deadlock as substitutions and tired legs robbed them of any further momentum.
Even the boos that rained down as the final whistle blew were no more than half-hearted, as the game petered out to a dispiriting goalless conclusion.
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 (rgk)
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 (rgk), 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
BOTN Player points:
3. Leigh Broxham (Melbourne Victory)
2. Andrew Redmayne (Melbourne Heart)
1. Rashid Mahazi (Melbourne Victory)
Game rating: 4/10
By Zee Ko