Sold-out Melbourne Derby ends all-square after ‘strange’ 90th-minute drama: ‘Nothing in it’

Check out the highlights from a blockbuster Melbourne Derby that saw the spoils shared in a back-and-forth Isuzu UTE A-League affair.

Melbourne City and Melbourne Victory shared the spoils in their sold-out Isuzu UTE A-League Derby following a 0-0 draw on Saturday night.

More than 25,000 fans packed into AAMI Park, where City captain and talisman Jamie Maclaren had a 90th-minute winner disallowed in dramatic circumstances.

Maclaren thought he had won the match as he wheeled away in celebration at the death, however, he was deemed to have committed a foul before finding the back of the net.

The result maintained Victory’s unbeaten start to the season through nine matches as they moved within three points of Wellington Phoenix, while City are seventh and a point outside the top six.

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There were notable onlookers from the stands – former Melbourne Victory head coach Kevin Muscat and ex-Melbourne City boss John van’ t Schip. Muscat is back in Melbourne after agreeing to join Chinese Super League champions Shanghai Port, while Van’ t Schip – current caretaker coach of Dutch giants Ajax – returned Down Under for his son’s wedding.

Ex-City coach Patrick Kisnorbo, who was dismissed by Ligue 2 outfit Troyes in France last month, was also in the crowd.

The first half saw no goals but there was plenty of feeling out on the pitch.

After a warm embrace with Maclaren, who missed out on a Socceroos call-up for the AFC Asian Cup, and Victory’s Bruno Fornaroli was involved in a heated moment.

He and Socceroos full-back Aziz Behich went toe-to-toe within minutes of the match starting. Behich gave Fornaroli a shove in the back as the ball went out and he reacted having felt the Uruguayan-born marksman went down easily.

Tolgay Arslan tried his luck from distance and he almost curled a shot into the far corner of the net from outside the box in the fifth minute.

There was some friendly fire after the half-hour mark when Daniel Arzani and Fornaroli went at each other after the former tried to play a ball in behind but the latter didn’t make a run. Arzani gestured afterwards and Fornaroli reaction, prompting yelling and back-and-forth between the pair.

In a half where neither side really created anything clear cut, there was a major flashpoint on the stroke of half-time.

Behich was involved again, this time reacting angrily to what he perceived to be a knee to the head from Zinedine Machach. The duo came together and Machach then put a hand across the head of the City star, who dropped to the floor. The referee brandished a yellow card to both players.

There was a lot more intensity to start the second half and Jamie Young was called into action to keep out a fizzing long-range strike from Ryan Teague in the 48th minute.

Victory had another chance to go ahead six minutes later when Machach’s deft touch played through Fornaroli but Young was quick off his line to thwart the 36-year-old, while Arzani’s attempt on the rebound blazed over.

City had a great chance to unlock Victory’s defence after Arslan released Leo Natel but he took too long to release a shot on goal as Paul Izzo managed to deny the Brazilian loanee with 18 minutes remaining.

Young was forced into action after Connor Chapman’s looping header almost caught the City shot-stopper off guard six minutes from the end.

Maclaren thought he won the game for City in the 90th minute after putting the ball in the back of the net but as he, his teammates and coaching staff celebrated, the goal was chalked off for a foul.

In the second minute of stoppage time, Izzo produced a brilliant diving save to keep out Natel.

The Talking Point

The big moment came in the final minutes of regulation. Jamie Maclaren had been starved of service throughout the match, but the ball fell to him in the 90th minute.

Tussling with Victory duo Leigh Broxham and Damien Da Silva, the Isuzu UTE A-League’s all-time leading goalscorer managed to poke the ball into the back of the net.

As he ran over to celebrate with fans, the referee blew his whistle and the goal was chalked off.

The replay showed a foul on Broxham, with Network 10 commentator Daniel McBreen saying post-match: “I look across the course of the game and how much the referee let go. Earlier on we saw Maclaren get a touch, went down in the box and didn’t give it.

“If I’m Maclaren and City there, I’m filthy. If I’m Melbourne Victory, I can see why they would be saying ‘no, he had a hand on my shirt’.”

Melbourne Victory great Archie Thompson added: “It looks soft. He is just trying to go over the top to get the ball. I’d be disappointed.”

The player himself was asked about the incident during his post-match interview with Network 10 and he thought he was robbed of a goal.

“I thought I got a little bit of luck and dodged a few challenges,” Maclaren said.

“Nothing in it to be honest. Broxy is a strong guy and isn’t easy to get around. Personally I don’t think it was a foul.

“The referee had a great game. He really did. He let things flow. I just wish he had of let that one go and sent it up stairs to have a more detailed look because these finer details at the moment are kind of costing us a bit.

“Even for myself, you need that rub of the green and we’re not getting that.”

There was a touching moment before the game as Maclaren walked out onto the ground with his young daughter.

“That’s what football is all about,” Maclaren added. “Being able to bring your family. This is the first game she’s attended with me on the pitch.

“She is a beautiful little child. It puts things into perspective. I’ll have a cuddle with her now and it will make me think about her rather than that goal that was taken off me.”

City boss Aurelio Vidmar also had his say on the disallowed goal, telling Network 10: “I thought it was a bit of a strange decision.

“He should of allowed a goal then checked it on the VAR which probably happens every week. Very strange.

“If you look at it, there were worse tackles in the middle of the park which he let go. He is a very good referee but he was a bit inconsistent there from what is happening in the middle of the park and what’s happening in the penalty area.”

The Star

In a game with no goals, Tolgay Arslan showcased his undoubted quality.

The former Serie A midfielder has taken the Isuzu UTE A-League by storm with City and he pulled the strings against Victory, almost unlocking Tony Popovic’s side on more than one occasion.

He had just held off Jason Geria and Jake Brimmer, backheeled to Natel and got the one two to launch an attack when Network 10 commentator Simon Hill said: “Tolgay Arslan at times, has been a different class.”

“He seems to glide past players,” Thompson said. “He make it look so effortless. A beautiful player to watch.”

What it means

After nine rounds, second-placed Melbourne Victory are yet to taste defeat following the 42nd instalment of the Melbourne Derby.

Victory will now look ahead to the visit of Adelaide United in the ‘Original Rivalry’ on December 20.

For Melbourne City, it is back-to-back draws for the three-time reigning premiers.

It is a quick turnaround for City, who host Brisbane Roar at AAMI Park on Thursday, December 28.