Hold onto your hats Melbourne, because if you think you’ve seen fireworks in previous Victory versus City (Heart) derbies, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Thanks to a terribly under-performing Wellington Phoenix, City advanced to a playoff next Friday against their Melbourne rivals for a spot in the A-League Grand Final courtesy of a 2-0 victory on Sunday.
At times this season, Ernie Merrick’s Wellington side looked irresistible at the top of the ladder and seemed genuine bona fide contenders for the Championship.
But as the season drew to a close, the Phoenix began to show signs of weakness and that vulnerability was exacerbated by being eliminated by a City side who lost more games than they won this season.
Despite the best efforts of dangerous attackers Roly Bonevacia, Nathan Burns and Michael McGlinchey, Melbourne City overran their highly fancied opponents across the ditch in Wellington.
The last two meetings between City and Wellington had ended in scoreless draws, and a third threatened at Westpac Stadium after a goalless first half.
But Josh Kennedy’s 61st-minute strike, and a Phoenix own goal 11 minutes later proved more than enough to secure the win and a home derby semi-final next weekend.
Wellington’s finishing woes continued as Melbourne City wrapped up their second win in nine visits to Wellington, a result that looked unlikely after a jittery opening half-hour.
City worked their way back into the game, Germano splitting the Phoenix defence to find Kennedy twice within the space of a couple of minutes as the hour mark approached.
Third time proved lucky for the visitors after 61 minutes, the ever-dangerous Aaron Mooy’s strike on goal deflected in by Kennedy to give Melbourne a sniff of victory.
That was all City needed – they continued to press forward, and were rewarded for that pressure in the 72nd minute.
Robert Koren’s cross found Novillo, whose strike took a deflection and ricocheted off a diving Moss into the goal.
Skipper Patrick Kisnorbo marshalled an outstanding defensive effort in the closing 20 minutes to shut down a series of Phoenix attacks, and secure City’s first final series victory in only their second appearance ever in the playoffs.
– with AAP