Victory’s Robbie Kruse marked his 100th A-League Men’s game, coming on late. The team is now top of the ladder on goal difference ahead of Macarthur, who weren’t celebrating on Sunday after a 3-0 loss to Sydney FC.
Victory coach Tony Popovic said the second half could have been better but was happy with the result.
“It’s a good win against a team that won four consecutive games 1-0, it’s a very confident team,” Popovic said of United.
“We played some great stuff first half and second half maybe shows how far we’ve got to go … But I think it’s expected in many respects in terms of where the team is at. It’s a new team, we’re constantly having to chop and change players.”
Fantastic five: Kiwi striker makes A-League Women’s history
Meanwhile, New Zealand’s Hannah Wilkinson won’t forget Boxing Day, 2021 in a hurry.
On a day when the Australian men’s Test cricket team showcased their authority over the English just a brief walk away at the MCG, Wilkinson was even more commanding – lighting up AAMI Park with a record-equalling five-goal haul for Melbourne City in the latest edition of the A-League Women’s Melbourne derby.
The clash was a horror show for the Victory, who went down 0-3 in the first 26 minutes as City’s Wilkinson recorded the fastest hat-trick from the start of a game in the history of the women’s competition.
And the pain didn’t end there for Jeff Hopkins’ side, which went on to lose 1-5.
Holly McNamara and powerful forward target Wilkinson were simply dominant, combining for each of City’s first four goals.
In the pre-game, Wilkinson spoke about the importance of tying up loose ends and putting away chances on goal.
And each of her opportunistic finishes were testament to that.
Victory were aiming to square the all-time ledger between the two sides and entered the contest in third on the table – level with City in second.
But Victory clearly had no answer for City’s pressure in their front third, and struggled badly to fill the void at the back left by injured skipper, star American import Kayla Morrison, who will miss the rest of the season after rupturing her ACL earlier this month.
City went 1-0 up inside five minutes, exploiting the Victory defence as McNamara found Wilkinson with precision accuracy and the woman of the moment slotted it away inside the near post.
The under-siege Victory continually lost possession deep in their defensive third and were unable to control the middle of the pitch.
An attempted clearance from Victory keeper Casey Dumont led to a Wilkinson double in the 13th minute after the ball ricocheted off McNamara from a chase-down block.
Wilkinson’s hat-trick was secured after 26 minutes after her pressure caused a serious miscommunication between Tiffany Eliadis and Dumont. Wilkinson capitalised on the easiest of finishes into an open net.
The cherry on the top for City came in the 56th minute when Wilkinson once again finished off some of McNamara’s brilliant work. After a commanding run, the enormously impressive McNamara stepped inside on to her right foot and simply placed it in the path of Wilkinson, who did the rest.
But Wilkinson’s dream day didn’t end there – remarkably netting a fifth against City’s arch-rivals in the 75th minute. Kate Gill is the only other player in the competition’s history to score five goals in the same game, back in 2014.
Victory found a consolation goal in the 84th minute when 20-year-old substitute Maja Markovski showed fantastic composure to slot one past experienced City goalkeeper Melissa Barbieri.
After the game, talking to Ten’s Michael Zappone, Wilkinson modestly suggested each of her goals were the end result of her side’s ‘pressing strategy’.
They were “Melbourne City’s goals”, she said.
While this was a clash to savour for Wilkinson and City, Victory – which defeated City 6-0 in the first derby of last season – will look to quickly bounce back when they next take on the Brisbane Roar on January 2. City next faces the Newcastle Jets later the same day.
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