Four things we learned from Victory's 3-0 win over City

Stricken City succumbed to the sucker punch from their cross-town rivals on Friday night with the Premiers making their chances count to book a place in the Finals Series decider.

Here's what we we learned from the Melbourne Derby semi-final at Etihad Stadium.

Victory's class tells for the opener

It was an understandably nervous start from both sets of players to what had been billed as the biggest match in Hyundai A-League history. A high-tempo opening to the game, one in which each team sought to impose themselves on the contest, led to a litany of misplaced passes and over-hit balls. 

In amongst all the huffing and puffing and hurly burly - and befitting their status as Premiers' Plate winners - Victory's three most convincing moves of the game all came in the opening 30 minutes. On each occasion, they cut the City defence apart. 

The first saw Fahid Ben Khalfallah combine with Guilherme Finkler to play in Besart Berisha, only for the Albanian to be incorrectly flagged offside.

The assistant referee couldn't save John van 't Schip's men a second time though as Victory crafted a superb team goal. Centre-back Matthieu Delpierre picked out Kosta Barbarouses with a raking long diagonal and the New Zealand international fed Leigh Broxham, overlapping at speed and unmarked down the right. Besart Berisha, completely free in the middle of the penalty area, met the fullback's chipped cross to score the type of big-game goal you pay international marquee wages for.

 

Victory's Besart Berisha celebrates his opener against Melbourne City.

Rallying City succumb to sucker punch

City deserve credit for not wilting after going behind. The blow of conceding first prompted the underdogs to enjoy their best period of the first half, threatening the goal of Lawrence Thomas on several occasions, notably through David Williams and Aaron Mooy.

You could go so far as to say the men in white and sky blue had the title favourites on the ropes, but it proved to be illusory. Emboldened by their apparent attacking prowess, City left a gaping hole in midfield for a counter-attacking Finkler to gallop into.

The Brazilian spread the play wide to Ben Khalfallah, who cleverly cut the ball back to Kosta Barbarouses. Cue one of the best goals you're ever likely to see in an A-League final, as the Kiwi, with the ball seemingly already behind him, somehow climbed high to dispatch an unstoppable volley into the top-right corner of Tando Velaphi's net. Extraordinary.

 

Victory's Kosta Barbarouses celebrates his spectacular goal against City.

Steely determination trumps freedom of expression

In the build-up to his game it was strictly business as usual for Melbourne Victory. Having come this far, they had no intention of failing now. City meanwhile talked about how much pressure was on the team that finished first in the regular season and how in contrast they, having defied expectations to reach this stage, would play without fear.

And that's exactly how the clash unfolded at a packed Eithad Stadium. Rather than sitting back and soaking up the pressure as they did against Wellington Phoenix a week earlier, City - particularly after going behind – went for it. And they had enough chances to win the game twice over. David Williams, Aaron Mooy, Harry Novillo, Jonatan Germano and Patrick Kisnorbo all should have scored, in some cases more than once each. 

Victory meanwhile, the A-League's top scorers in 2014-15, mustered barely four clear-cut opportunities throughout but, with ice in their veins, took three of them with aplomb. A week out from the Grand Final, such ruthless efficiency has a whiff of destiny about it.

 

Melbourne City captain Patrick Kisnorbo rues a missed chance.

Injury curse ends City hopes

As if missing chance after chance wasn't doing enough damage to their hopes of mounting a comeback, Van 't Schip's luckless team lost a barely credible three players to injury in the space of 20 minutes either side of half-time. 

David Williams limped off as early as the 39th minute after appearing to badly roll or hyperextend his ankle joint and Achilles. Aaron Mooy went off with what was later reported to be a knee problem six minutes into the second half. He was followed by chief attacking threat Harry Novillo in the 59th minute. 

The irony is, two costly defensive lapses and poor finishing aside, City can proud of their performance in this match. Fearlessly taking the game to the Premiers, they had fired off twice as many shots as Victory with 20 minutes still remaining. The glib sentiment will be of no consolation to those of a white and sky blue persuasion, but sometimes it just isn't meant to be. For City, this was just one of those nights.

 

David Williams shakes coach John van't Schip's hand after being subbed off with injury.