Five games that define Melbourne Victory
The off-season break is the football fans’ equivalent of solitary confinement. Even this year’s World Cup, with its 4:30am kick-offs, ensured that no sunlight was seen, and social life was barely evident.
Now that Spain has been crowned champions, one finds themselves pondering over the past, in anticipation of what is to come.
Over the coming weeks I will inevitably reminisce of the moments that make this club great; the times that we have stood together in celebration; and the time I would rather have stayed home drowning in a bottle of cheap wine.
As Nick Hornby would suggest, football fanatics can remember football events just as vividly, if not more so than they do their life milestones. I can recall the semi final trip to Adelaide in 2009 in much more detail, and perhaps much more fondness, than any family function of the past five years.
Hence, I provide the top five matches of my football club – Melbourne Victory. They may not be the best, nor the highest quality football matches, but they are the matches which have signaled the birth of our club, and perhaps the true arrival of our biggest rival, Sydney FC.
5: Hyundai A-league Grand Final- 2009/2010
Melbourne Victory Vs Sydney FC March 20, 2010
Football fans are not the same as fanatics of music, theatre or other arts. Over the course of a football fans’ life, you would expect more disappointment than celebration. And yet at very few times did they ever consider giving up the club they love.
The grand final of the 2009/2010 A-league season was such a disappointment for Melbourne Victory.
Goals to Mark Bridge and Adrian Leijer resulted in a 1-1 score-line. Due to notable misses to Chris Payne, Aziz Behich and Leijer once more, the game went to penalties. Silence filled the stadium as Kevin Muscat and Marvin Angulo failed with their spot kicks, and Sydney FC was crowned champions for the second time.
I argue that this game ended the invincibility of the Melbourne Victory, yet at the same time made the club that much more important to those who followed it.
4: Asian Champions League 2008
Melbourne Victory Vs Gamba Osaka April 9, 2008
I’m sure many in attendance will consider this one of the best football matches they have seen Melbourne Victory take part in. Having gained qualification to the continental showpiece for the first time, Melbourne met the Japanese powerhouse at the then Telstra Dome. Despite taking the lead on two separate occasions, Melbourne lost the match to a late Osaka goal.
Despite the loss, Melbourne showed that they had created an impressive team within a few short years, and could match it with the best of Asia on its day.
3: Hyundai A-League Round 8 2005/2006
Melbourne Victory Vs Sydney FC October 16, 2005
At a time when the league was still finding its feet, this match stands out. Many things went wrong for Melbourne in their first season, and they eventually finished outside finals contention.
One thing which did go right was the support from the fans, and a large crowd was in attendance to see Archie Thompson score two goals in a 5-0 thumping of Sydney.
The memory which stands out to all Melbourne fans is Thompson twisting and turning within the penalty box, surrounded by a number of Sydney defenders, before coolly slotting the ball past Clint Bolton.
Despite the poor season, this was the first sign of the Melbourne Victory we all now know; ruthless and attacking football.
2: Hyundai A-League Grand Final- 2008/2009
Melbourne Victory Vs Adelaide United February 28, 2009
Melbourne had gained a psychological edge over their close rivals, and after beating Adelaide both home and away to gain hosting rights, they once again found themselves against the Reds in the decider for the second time in three years.
In a match riddled with red cards and defensive tactics, Melbourne were crowned champions for the second time when Tommy Pondeljak scored past former Victory player Eugene Galekovic from outside the penalty box.
The picture of Pondeljak celebrating, shirt aloft, is still vivid for those who witnessed.
1: Hyundai A-League Grand Final 2006/2007
Melbourne Victory Vs Adelaide United February 18 2007
In a season when Melbourne broke records both with their performances and crowds, they completed their season with a resounding exclamation.
Five goals to Archie Thompson and the late solitary strike to Kristian Sarkies blew United out of the competition and delivered Melbourne their first championship and premiership double. The match would mark the last time we would see the diminutive Brazilian Fred in Melbourne Victory colours.
It is also perhaps the first and last time any individual player will score five goals in the league decider.
As season six gets closer, fans can only dream about what is to come next. In a league which has been riddled with some of the poorer professionals I have seen, the number of exhilarating matches and moments is a testament to the A-League and the clubs and players who have brought them all to us.
Memories always belong to fans, and I’m sure others have vivid and perhaps conflicting images which warm them through their own off-season troubles.
This season is looking to be most competitive season yet. The confinement is nearly over.