A shattered Ivan Franjic lamented Melbourne City’s late fadeout as Melbourne Victory won a pulsating derby at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night.
A scrappy first half made way for a pulsating second that had goals, a missed penalty, a red card to City’s Tim Cahill and a tinge of controversy.
Despite going ahead on 70 minutes when Neil Kilkenny’s shot was deflected in off Alan Baro, City could hold on under a wave of Victory pressure.
Besart Berisha – who had earlier missed a penalty – equalised with six minutes left before an own goal from Manny Muscat decided the contest.
“We’re very disappointed,” Franjic told Fox Sports after the match.
“We never should have let them back into the game. But what happens, happened.”
It was a typically feisty and physical clash between the two fierce rivals, with 11 yellow cards dished out by referee Chris Beath and more 50 fouls conceded.
“Derbies are always physical contests and tough games,” Franjic said.
“Credit to both teams they really fought hard.”
But the biggest talking point surrounded Victory’s winner, with City feeling the goal shouldn’t have stood as Berisha was in an offside position when Muscat diverted the ball in.
The referee’s assistant flagged for offside, only for Beath to overrule him and allow the goal to stand, with Cahill – who was preparing to come on as a substitute – sent off for comments to the officials.
“I don’t think I need to say anything,” said Franjic when asked about the goal.
“Anyone who knows football knows that Berisha interfered with Muscat sliding in.
“If he wasn’t there, Muscat doesn’t slide in, that’s all I’m saying.”
The defeat means City missed the chance to close the gap on second-placed Victory, remaining in fourth spot.
And they take on Brisbane Roar next week with what is likely to be a depleted side.
Skipper Bruno Fornaroli, defender Manny Muscat and midfielder Osama Malik all picked up their fifth yellow cards of the season, while Cahill is also likely to be suspended and Michael Jakobsen was forced off at half-time with an injury.