A-League Rd 1 - Melbourne Victory v Melbourne City
A-League Rd 1 - Melbourne Victory v Melbourne City

Change the date: Why Derby delay is a must

Saturday night was one of the better Melbourne derby season openers. But it could have offered so much more had it been held back.

The next fixture - on December 21 at AAMI Park - looms as a Christmas cracker, after both teams showed great signs in Saturday night's 0-0 draw.

Victory was underdone - partly of their own doing, with several of their visa signings made late - but nonetheless, they will only improve individually and collectively with each week.

It is time to seriously consider pushing the Melbourne derby back a week, if not two or three.

It was a decent battle between two savvy teams wanting to play the right way. But this fixture would offer so much more in Round 2, 3 or 4.

 

"A draw was a fair result. From the beginning you saw teams play with good structure, no team wants to risk too much," Victory coach Marco Kurz said.

"You saw that City was the team that played more minutes together in official games. We need time for improvement, and a lot of work to do.

"I'm still confident, I believe in the boys and I'm 100 per cent confident we are on the right track. The result is not bad against a very strong side from City."

DERBY DELAY

From an A-League perspective, Round 1 should sell itself.

This season has been an unusual one due to the transition from FFA rule to independence.

Season 2020-21 will have a bigger marketing budget, a 12th team and hopefully bigger players.

But most serious competitions keep the big duels up their sleeve - AFL, Premier League and Spain's La Liga included.

While the marketing boffins decide the fixtures, players are split on the ideal timing of the derby.

Victory stalwart Leigh Broxham believes Round 1 may unfold similarly regardless of their opponent.

"I'm sure there's reasons for it (starting in round one), timing of other codes and things like that. For sure it's a possibility (to move). It doesn't have to be in round one," Broxham said.

"It's always been in round one or two, so we've always prepared for that.

 

Scott Jamieson and Andrew Nabbout compete. Picture: AAP Image/George Salpigtidis
Scott Jamieson and Andrew Nabbout compete. Picture: AAP Image/George Salpigtidis

 

"This is my 14th season, and every time we play at home, teams lift against you anyway.

"For a first game, it was not bad. Some of them have been boring affairs in the past.

"That wasn't perfect, the game was in spells - they had some good ones, we had some good ones. We both defended well.

"It wasn't a bad start, there's things to improve on. As the season goes on we'll do better."

City defender and man of the match Harrison Delbridge was in his groove, but admitted missing Socceroos striker Jamie Maclaren - after the international break was scrapped - hurt.

"It's out of our control. Starting the season with a derby is awesome for us because it's a big game and if you can get a win, you're flying," Delbridge said.

"If there wasn't an international break, where we could have our full squad - they had a few guys missing too - that would be great. It's part of the game in Australia though, so we have to deal with it.

"I love to have the first season like that. We've been working for 16 weeks and we're ready to go.

"We did well to get a point in the end."

NEW A-LEAGUE ERA

The 33,523 Marvel Stadium crowd was positive considering the low-key build up to the season.

Even more positive was City's away contingent - sold out for the first time in years.

City fans appear to have voted with their feet and returned to catch a glimpse of the FFA Cup finalists, after crowds slumped in the Warren Joyce era which produced decent results but laborious performances.

 

Fans turned out for the derby. Picture: Daniel Pockett/Getty
Fans turned out for the derby. Picture: Daniel Pockett/Getty

 

It's reassuring considering there was talk of some fans jumping ship to the A-League expansion club Western United, who'll play in Geelong and Ballarat this season.

Nonetheless, Victory's navy blue dominated the terraces and the fans seem to be buoyed by the new era under German Marco Kurz, who looks like he could become a fan favourite.

The pre-game light show was a taste of what's to come in the new era with the A-League clubs taking control from FFA, while TV viewers saw improved access via Fox Sports.

UPSIDE APLENTY

Both teams were close to full-strength for the opener, but also have key inclusions.

Maclaren's Socceroos hat-trick - making it nine goals in five competitive games, inclusive of the FFA Cup - reminded City what may have been had he led the line.

By virtue of missing their top scorer, French attacker Florin Berenguer (hamstring) - who's impressed in pre-season - and steady Austrian defender Richard Windbichler, who'll have to bide his time, City arguably had more crucial players missing.

 

Jamie Maclaren will add spark to City’s attack. Picture: Michael Klein
Jamie Maclaren will add spark to City’s attack. Picture: Michael Klein

 

But ex Schalke and Fulham defender Tim Hoogland (calf), Socceroos winger Robbie Kruse (hamstring) and Albanian midfielder, late sub Migjen Basha (delayed arrival due to visa) are all first XI players for Victory.

Additionally, Victory has greater collective improvement in them due to their patchy pre-season (late arrivals and a maiden Round of 32 FFA Cup exit).

Positives for both teams, and one senses they'll be jostling for places high up the table come the business end of the season.