Two Melbourne Victory goals in the last 20 minutes, including a dramatic long range effort by Melina Ayres, were enough to cancel out Melbourne City’s 63rd minute and give the navy blues an upset triumph in the second Melbourne derby of the W-League season.
The result – not something most pundits predicted – means that City remain in the top four, but, following Canberra’s win over Western Sydney, the Sky Blues are only now a point clear of the fifth placed club from the ACT.
They will have to improve results and performances in the final few games of the campaign if they are to earn the right to defend the title they have won the last two seasons.
Victory retains a slim possibility of getting involved in post season play offs, but its chances are those that only mathematicians will realistically concede.
For City this was a game that simply had to yield three points. Victory’s role was to be cast as party poopers, the cross town rivals who could spoil their neighbours ambitions.
It was City who mounted the first threat, with Jess Fishlock playing through Kyah Simon but Victory goalkeeper Casey Dumont was out smartly to smother the chance.
Fishlock then shot over the bar as the favourites looked to find the early goal to ease their nerves.
Victory’s Laura Spiranovic and England international Natasha Dowie were, however, giving City plenty of trouble with their size, strength and competitive approach, as was Gulcan Koca, who upended City defender Rebekah Stott in unceremonious fashion in the centre of the park to prompt a Victory attack.
Dowie’s header from Christina Gibbons cross was wide before Victory centre half Laura Alleway cut off a dangerous cross to thwart a City attack.
Dumont then had to save low once again to take a Fishlock cross before City’s American forward Ashely Hatch blasted over after making space well for herself.
Victory chances were few and far between, but Dowie broke through on the left only to deliver a tame shot which Lydia Williams took easily.
Alleway made her presence felt at the other end in the 58th minute, getting up well to get her head on Gibbons free kick only to send her effort over Williams’ bar.
City got the goal they so desperately needed just past the hour mark, and a scrappy one it was too. Laura Barnes free kick floated in from the right, several players from both sides scrambled to make contact before Aivi Luik bundled the ball over the line.
A goal to the good, City looked to make the game secure. Dumont had to touch Steph Catley’s cross away for a corner then Fishlock’s low shot drifted wide.
But it was Victory who shocked their opponents by levelling with 20 minutes to go.
The navy blues had offered very little by way of threat in the second half, but when Melina Ayres won the ball in the middle of the field she had little hesitation in trying a long range lob when she spotted Matildas number one Lydia Williams well off her line.
Ayres got her angles just right as she floated a chip up and over Williams and under the bar to make it one apiece.
But the hosts were not done there. With just five minutes left on the clock and City desperate to restore their advantage Victory broke, Gibbons finding the time and space in the penalty area to slam past Williams to give her side what had looked an unlikely triumph.
It was sweet revenge for the 1-0 loss Victory had suffered in the first W-League derby of the season, but it leaves City facing an uphill battle to defend their title.