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Paartalu’s heroics provide a Merry Christmas for City fans

Erik Paartalu knows all about late, headed winners, and on Saturday night he repeated his previous Grand Final feats with a 90th minute winner as City defeated Victory 1-0 in the Christmas derby.

It was no less than City deserved, as they enjoyed the majority of chances in what was a fairly lacklustre match.

John van’t Schip pushed Iain Ramsay into a more forward role than the one he’s played in previous weeks, and along with Mate Dugandzic, they provided numerous headaches for the Victory back 4. City also welcomed marquee Robert Koren into the squad for his first game of the season.

For the Victory, Kevin Muscat was forced into a midfield reshuffle, following captain Mark Milligan’s three week suspension. Leigh Broxham pushed up into midfield as a result, with Nick Ansell starting alongside Adrian Leijer. Gui Finkler was a welcome return for the Victory, but he would have to be content with a place on the substitutes bench.

The first half provided few chances for either team. Ramsay and Aaron Mooy both had half chances for City, whilst in the 32nd minute, Archie Thompson blazed over from close range at the other end of the field, following Fahid Ben Khalfallah’s brilliant first-time cross.

After half time, City were fortunate to not be reduced to ten men. In the 55th minute, Jacob Melling was involved in a scrap with Leigh Broxham, with the former throwing an elbow back into the face of his opponent. Referee Kris Griffiths-Jones took his time over the decision, but eventually settled on a yellow card for the City youngster.

Victory then appeared to have taken the lead in the 73rd minute, when Ben Khalfallah tapped in from close range. A double rebound off City keeper Tando Velaphi fell to the Tunisian who comfortably fired home. However, the assistant’s flag had been raised, although replays suggested Ben Khalfallah was in line with the last City defender.

City pushed hard in the final 15 minutes, with Koren making a substantial difference after his inclusion in the 61st minute. Aaron Mooy’s shot in the closing minutes of the game brought the best out of Victory ‘keeper Nathan Coe, who managed to deflect the ball onto the crossbar, allowing his defence to scramble the ball clear.

Then, as the game ticked into injury time, a corner to the home side brought the game a winner. The ball in from Dugandzic toward the spot, after the initial delivery was cleared back to him, found the leaping frame of Paartalu, who headed the ball down and under Coe to send the home portion of the 26,000-strong crowd into raptures.

City now sit in 6th place with the win, and will host Perth Glory at AAMI Park on Boxing Day. The following night, the Victory host bogey team Newcastle Jets at the same venue, and will be looking to bounce back from a poor performance tonight.


Ultimate A-League ‘Player of the Year’ Votes
3 Connor Chapman (Melbourne City)
2 Fahid Ben Khalfallah (Melbourne Victory)
1 Aaron Mooy (Melbourne City)
Youth Connor Chapman (Melbourne City)

About the author

avatarJustin is a passionate football fan, and the Editor-in-chief of Ultimate A-League.

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