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Berisha pinches breathless A-League derby

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 17/12/2016 Ben McKay

Tim Cahill delivered and Marco Rojas starred, but Besart Berisha has pinched a breathtaking A-League derby for Melbourne Victory.

Berisha tied the A-League's scoring record by finishing Rojas' cross in the 78th minute on Saturday night, ending Victory's derby dry spell and leapfrogging Melbourne City on the A-League table in the process.

There was little between the two sides at AAMI Park, where 24,706 people enjoyed another edition of the rivalry played at breakneck tempo.

There was rough and tumble, nine bookings, spilt blood and bandages, touchline antics, chants, tackles, plenty of chances - and goals; good ones at that.

Cahill began the scoring on 16 minutes, leaping above Carl Valeri and Leigh Broxham from Luke Brattan's corner to plant a header at the back post beyond Lawrence Thomas.

Cahill might have scored a similar goal dozens of times through his career, but his celebrations went above and beyond.

There was no corner flag punch, instead a run through Brattan's outstretched hand and over the advertising hoardings head-first into Victory's substitutes.

After more chest-pumping, it became apparent Cahill had cut his forehead somewhere between the goal and calming down, requiring a bandage before his return.

When he did, the jungle drums must have still been pounding in his head as he fouled Oliver Bozanic several seconds after a referee's whistle, which brought a minor melee.

City looked lively going forward but susceptible at the back, where an out-of-sorts Neil Kilkenny was assisting second-gamer Ruon Tongyik in the absence of Michael Jakobsen.

And so it was that Victory's equaliser came from a piece of naive defending, with Tongyik unable to clear Jason Geria's cross.

The driven James Troisi beat Tongyik to the second ball, heading down for best afield Rojas to control and beat Dean Bouzanis at his near post.

Victory might have shaded the half but went into the break on terms after Berisha made a hash of three gilt-edged chances.

After halftime, Cahill went close with two more chances in the box, failing to test Thomas both times.

Tongyik's kung-fu clearance gave James Donachie a bandage to rival Cahill's as the game got bogged down with a procession of fouls and cards.

The otherwise quiet Bruno Fornaroli sent a volley just over the bar, while Tongyik had perhaps City's best chance for a second with an unmarked header in the box.

But after snatching at his first-half chances, Berisha made no mistake from Rojas' close-range cross to settle the contest.

In doing so, he joined Archie Thompson at the top of the A-League's scorers list with 90 goals.

If there was any doubt what the win meant to Victory - which hadn't tasted derby success in four matches - it was erased by Kevin Muscat's reaction.

The Victory coach roared into the crowd on fulltime then walked solo towards his team's support, imploring them to cheer louder and louder.

They obliged.

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