Sydney or Melbourne: which city rules?

On the eve of a huge Big Blue, data whiz @AndyHowe_statto examines the Sydney-Melbourne rivalry and reveals some cracking stats about the history of matches between these two rival cities in the Hyundai A-League and NSL.

Tonight’s Melbourne Victory-Sydney FC clash on Australia Day 2016 will be the latest chapter in what is becoming a long-established rivalry that commenced in Round 1 of the very first Hyundai A-League season 2005 – over a decade ago.

The 1-1 draw in Big Blue #1 signalled what was to be a feature of future Victory-FC games, where to date almost half (47 percent) of matches have ended In draws – emphasising the closeness of the two teams in their 36 games so far.

The overall rate of drawn games in all A-League games stands at just 25 percent.

There have been many classic confrontations between the teams over the years, including two Grand Finals (a win apiece), three 3-3 draws, and several come-from-behind wins including in their encounter in Sydney earlier this season where Victory got up 4-2 after being behind twice

And each team has had a turn of humiliating their fierce rivals 5-0.

Victory did it first, in October 2005, with Archie Thompson (2 goals), Kevin Muscat (2 penalty goals) and Richard Kitzbichler inflicting the damage on Sydney FC at Olympic Park.

On Australia Day 2014 at Etihad Stadium it was Sydney’s turn to do likewise, where Del Piero (2), Ranko Despotovic, Sebastian Ryall and Nick Carle scored the Sky Blues’ goals in a stunning result.

Melbourne Victory-Sydney FC has always been a good crowd-puller, with the 900,000 aggregate crowd mark in all Big Blues expected to be reached in their Australia Day 2016 clash, at an average of 24,500 in their 36 games to date.

It’s natural that such big rivalries exist between clubs from Australia’s biggest two cities, and the introduction of Melbourne City and Western Sydney Wanderers over the past few seasons has added extra dimensions to the Melbourne-Sydney rivalry in the A-League.

There have now been 74 Melbourne-Sydney A-League derbies, with the Melbourne teams having a very slight upper hand winning 24 games to 22, with 28 drawn matches.

Melbourne Victory players celebrate Besart Berisha converting his penalty against the Mariners.

The National Soccer League (NSL) was dominated mostly by Melbourne and Sydney clubs, which unsurprisingly led to some intense inter-city rivalry in the 28 years of the league.

Before the NSL started in 1977, the Melbourne and Sydney clubs played in their respective state leagues.

Fans of the big teams of the time very rarely got an opportunity to see the big clubs from the other states, and naturally they thought their own clubs were the strongest in the land.

Sydney clubs were supreme in the first seven seasons of the national league, with Sydney City (four titles), Marconi and St George winning six of the first seven championships (West Adelaide won in 1978).

However since 1984 Melbourne clubs have the slight dominance, with seven championships compared with six for the Sydney clubs.

Between 1984 and 2004 Victorian clubs South Melbourne (four titles), Melbourne Knights (two) and Brunswick won NSL championships, with Marconi (three), Sydney Olympic (two) and Apia Leichardt the Sydney winners.

In the A-League era, Melbourne clubs have won three championships to Sydney’s two.

The very first Melbourne-Sydney national league confrontations took place on the first day of the NSL, on 2 April 1977.

At the Sydney Sports Ground South Melbourne defeated Sydney Olympic 2-0, with Socceroo Peter Ollerton scoring two late goals for the visitors, while Footscray JUST hosted St George in a goalless encounter at Middle Park in Melbourne.

Ryall's fond memories of Victory

In total there have been 1012 national league matches between Melbourne and Sydney clubs leading into the Australia Day 2016 match, with Sydney having the overall better record of 399 wins to 357 (256 draws).

Remarkably since 1995 however, the record between Melbourne and Sydney clubs in 306 games to date is 117 wins each (72 draws).

Amazingly, the total number of goals scored by Melbourne and Sydney clubs in these games is also exactly the same – 436 goals each.

The long, intense and closely fought-out club football rivalry between the two biggest cities continues with a much-anticipated Round 16 game between the Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC at Etihad Stadium tonight (Tuesday night).

With two in-form teams, a big crowd, and a fierce rivalry, the next Big Blue is set to be another cracker.

Follow Andrew Howe’s Australian football stats updates on Twitter @AndyHowe_statto