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Derby a Heart-warming tale

Date

Victory is the A-League's biggest club, but Heart has had the edge in their early encounters.

Heat's David Williams scores a goal against cross-town rivals Melbourne Victory.

Heat's David Williams scores a goal against cross-town rivals Melbourne Victory. Photo: Wayne Taylor

IT HASN'T taken long, but the Melbourne derby has quickly become the A-League's marquee fixture.

Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United might be the competition's most fervent interstate rivalry, but there is nothing quite like a spat in the same town between two clubs for the title of top dog.

The passion displayed in the Sydney-West Sydney game last weekend showed how the rivalry is beginning to build in the harbour city, but it has some way to go to match the drama and intensity that Victory and cross-town rival Melbourne Heart have generated the seven times they have met.

When Football Federation Australia wanted to open the season with a bang this year, it scheduled the Victory v Heart clash as a stand-alone fixture the night before the rest of the campaign kicked off – a decision that clearly illustrates its status as the jewel in the fixture calendar.

It's a cliche that in such highly emotional circumstances the form book tends to fly out the window, but it's also a truism.

How many times over the decades have the lower-placed teams in big-city rivalries risen to the occasion and struck a blow for the underdog by winning the derby.

Once it used to be said – in the pre-plutocrat days, when clubs could not simply buy a roster of superstar players – that London teams always struggled to win the English league simply because of the number of local derbies. There are usually four or five London sides in the top division at one time, which means the title-chasing teams can tend to drop points they would otherwise have been expected to pick up.

Heart leads 3-1 on the Melbourne derby scoresheet and the red and whites have, by common consensus, had the better of the three drawn clashes.

Heart chief executive Scott Munn says the club certainly puts huge store on the derby: it's a way for Heart to state to the footballing public what it is and to define itself in opposition to the biggest club in the country.

"History shows that Victory have been very successful. They won those championships when we didn't exist, so we can't match that. But the one way we can match them is on the pitch, particularly in these derby games. It was something John van 't Schip (Heart's first coach) was very keen to promote to the players, that when you get the big moments in your career you have to take the opportunity, especially when everyone is watching.

"Success in the derby only brings the same three points, but it gives us status and helps us to build support and obviously it's good for sponsors and fans."

John Didulica, Heart's football operations manager, says he can't quite be sure why his club has fared better than its better-funded, better-supported rival.

"We have played some excellent football in some of those games we have won, but whether the wins have come for tactical or emotional reasons, I don't know. Maybe our guys get up for the games, although we wouldn't want to think we focused on this one game more than any other."

The huge interest in the derby suggests, says Didulica, that the FFA erred in its initial one-team, one-city strategy. "It's proved to be the biggest game. It's shown that there should have been two teams in Melbourne and Sydney from the start. The people who made those decisions for one team, one town didn't understand the nuances of football, that it's about rivalry, passion.

"These derby fixtures are the lifeblood of the competition, and the fact that we went five years without them probably held the game back a bit. Look at the size of the crowds. Of the top 20 all-time A-League crowds outside the finals, the seven derby fixtures would probably be in the top 10, definitely the top 20."

So why does Heart seem to lift?

"It's natural that when you have got a rival, you want to do better," Didulica says. "We are competing every day for hearts and minds, corporate dollars and everything else. Perhaps that gets through to the players and they are more intense, perhaps they take responsibility for ownership and building the club, and beating Victory is an easy way to do that. We don't train or prepare any differently. The way the coaches set up is the same as every other week. But it is undeniable that playing in front of a sell-out crowd will motivate people.

"We haven't had the luxury of a five or six-year headstart building up our brand and image. So one of the easiest reference points for us is to do well against them on the field. The challenge is to leverage these results into a larger profile and a bigger membership base."

Victory doesn't say much about its poor derby record, but it is something that rankles deeply. After all, the navy blues are the biggest noise in soccer, not just in Melbourne but nationally, so they expect to put their upstart rivals in place.

New coach Ange Postecoglou was bitterly disappointed when Heart won the first game of the season, 2-1, and is anxious to set the record straight on Saturday night.

"You are aware of what it means," he said. "The round one defeat hammers it home. I understand how important it is for our football club. The supporters want desperately to win, everyone involved in our football club is desperate to win, as am I.

"I would just prefer to win in style. I like the aesthetics. But I understand that a good-looking performance with no result isn't going to satisfy anyone but me, so we need to win tomorrow night."

 

Hyundai A-League 2015-16

Round 1
Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
WSW 1vs BRI 3 Stats
Fri, 09 OctTimes shown AEDT
ADE 0vs VIC 0 Stats
Sat, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
CCM 3vs PER 2 Stats
SYD 1vs MCY 1 Stats
Sun, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
WEL 1vs NEW 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 16 OctTimes shown AEDT
ADE 1vs WSW 1 Stats
Sat, 17 OctTimes shown AEDT
NEW 0vs SYD 1 Stats
VIC 3vs MCY 2 Stats
Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
BRI 2vs CCM 1 Stats
PER 1vs WEL 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 23 OctTimes shown AEDT
NEW 1vs VIC 0 Stats
Sat, 24 OctTimes shown AEDT
WEL 3vs BRI 2 Stats
SYD 1vs WSW 0 Stats
Sun, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
MCY 3vs CCM 1 Stats
PER 3vs ADE 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 30 OctTimes shown AEDT
MCY 2vs NEW 3 Stats
Sat, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
CCM 1vs SYD 3 Stats
BRI 3vs ADE 0 Stats
Sun, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSW 1vs PER 0 Stats
Mon, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
VIC 3vs WEL 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Thu, 05 NovTimes shown AEDT
ADE 2vs MCY 4 Stats
Fri, 06 NovTimes shown AEDT
SYD 0vs BRI 0 Stats
Sat, 07 NovTimes shown AEDT
NEW 1vs WSW 2 Stats
Sun, 08 NovTimes shown AEDT
CCM 1vs WEL 1 Stats
Wed, 16 DecTimes shown AEDT
PER 1vs VIC 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 13 NovTimes shown AEDT
WEL 4vs ADE 2 Stats
MCY 0vs WSW 3 Stats
Sat, 14 NovTimes shown AEDT
NEW 1vs CCM 1 Stats
SYD 2vs VIC 4 Stats
Sun, 15 NovTimes shown AEDT
BRI 1vs PER 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Thu, 19 NovTimes shown AEDT
VIC 2vs CCM 1 Stats
Fri, 20 NovTimes shown AEDT
BRI 1vs MCY 1 Stats
Sat, 21 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSW 2vs WEL 1 Stats
PER 0vs SYD 0 Stats
Sun, 22 NovTimes shown AEDT
ADE 0vs NEW 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Thu, 26 NovTimes shown AEDT
SYD 0vs WEL 0 Stats
Fri, 27 NovTimes shown AEDT
MCY 5vs PER 1 Stats
Sat, 28 NovTimes shown AEDT
NEW 1vs BRI 1 Stats
VIC 2vs ADE 1 Stats
Sun, 29 NovTimes shown AEDT
CCM 0vs WSW 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Thu, 03 DecTimes shown AEDT
CCM 1vs MCY 5 Stats
Fri, 04 DecTimes shown AEDT
SYD 1vs NEW 0 Stats
Sat, 05 DecTimes shown AEDT
WEL 2vs VIC 0 Stats
WSW 2vs BRI 1 Stats
Sun, 06 DecTimes shown AEDT
ADE 1vs PER 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 11 DecTimes shown AEDT
ADE 2vs SYD 1 Stats
Sat, 12 DecTimes shown AEDT
BRI 2vs WEL 1 Stats
WSW 2vs VIC 0 Stats
PER 2vs CCM 1 Stats
Sun, 13 DecTimes shown AEDT
NEW 0vs MCY 4 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 18 DecTimes shown AEDT
NEW 0vs ADE 0 Stats
Sat, 19 DecTimes shown AEDT
WEL 1vs SYD 1 Stats
MCY 2vs VIC 1 Stats
PER 2vs WSW 2 Stats
Sun, 20 DecTimes shown AEDT
CCM 0vs BRI 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Thu, 24 DecTimes shown AEDT
WSW 2vs NEW 0 Stats
Sat, 26 DecTimes shown AEDT
ADE 3vs WEL 0 Stats
SYD 4vs CCM 1 Stats
Sun, 27 DecTimes shown AEDT
VIC 1vs PER 1 Stats
BRI 3vs MCY 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Thu, 31 DecTimes shown AEDT
CCM 3vs WEL 1 Stats
Fri, 01 JanTimes shown AEDT
WSW 0vs ADE 0 Stats
Sat, 02 JanTimes shown AEDT
BRI 2vs PER 1 Stats
MCY 2vs SYD 2 Stats
Sun, 03 JanTimes shown AEDT
NEW 0vs VIC 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Fri, 08 JanTimes shown AEDT
CCM 3vs VIC 3 Stats
Sat, 09 JanTimes shown AEDT
SYD 2vs NEW 0 Stats
MCY 3vs WSW 2 Stats
PER 1vs ADE 3 Stats
Sun, 10 JanTimes shown AEDT
WEL 0vs BRI 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Fri, 15 JanTimes shown AEDT
VIC 4vs BRI 0 Stats
Sat, 16 JanTimes shown AEDT
ADE 3vs CCM 1 Stats
WSW 1vs SYD 2 Stats
PER 2vs MCY 2 Stats
Sun, 17 JanTimes shown AEDT
NEW 3vs WEL 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 22 JanTimes shown AEDT
BRI 1vs ADE 4 Stats
Sat, 23 JanTimes shown AEDT
CCM 1vs WSW 2 Stats
Sun, 24 JanTimes shown AEDT
NEW 1vs PER 6 Stats
Mon, 25 JanTimes shown AEDT
MCY 3vs WEL 1 Stats
Tue, 26 JanTimes shown AEDT
VIC 1vs SYD 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 29 JanTimes shown AEDT
WSW 4vs MCY 3 Stats
Sat, 30 JanTimes shown AEDT
WEL 1vs CCM 3 Stats
SYD 1vs BRI 3 Stats
PER 3vs VIC 2 Stats
Sun, 31 JanTimes shown AEDT
ADE 1vs NEW 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 05 FebTimes shown AEDT
ADE 2vs SYD 2 Stats
Sat, 06 FebTimes shown AEDT
BRI 4vs CCM 0 Stats
VIC 1vs WSW 1 Stats
Sun, 07 FebTimes shown AEDT
WEL 0vs PER 1 Stats
NEW 2vs MCY 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 12 FebTimes shown AEDT
BRI vs NEW 20:00Suncorp Stadium
Sat, 13 FebTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs PER 17:15Allianz Stadium
MCY vs VIC 19:30AAMI Park
Sun, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs ADE 15:00Central Coast Stadium
WSW vs WEL 17:00Pirtek Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 19 FebTimes shown AEDT
VIC vs ADE 19:40AAMI Park
Sat, 20 FebTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs WEL 17:15Hunter Stadium
SYD vs WSW 19:30Allianz Stadium
PER vs BRI 21:40nib Stadium
Sun, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
MCY vs CCM 17:00AAMI Park
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 26 FebTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs MCY 17:30Westpac Stadium
WSW vs PER 19:40Pirtek Stadium
Sat, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs BRI 17:15Coopers Stadium
VIC vs SYD 19:30AAMI Park
Sun, 28 FebTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs NEW 17:00Central Coast Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 04 MarTimes shown AEDT
BRI vs WSW 20:00Suncorp Stadium
Sat, 05 MarTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs ADE 17:15Westpac Stadium
MCY vs SYD 19:30AAMI Park
Sun, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs VIC 17:00Central Coast Stadium
Mon, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
PER vs NEW 20:00nib Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Fri, 11 MarTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs MCY 19:40Coopers Stadium
Sat, 12 MarTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs WEL 17:15Allianz Stadium
BRI vs VIC 19:30Suncorp Stadium
PER vs CCM 21:40nib Stadium
Sun, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs WSW 17:00Hunter Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 24
Fri, 18 MarTimes shown AEDT
MCY vs BRI 19:40AAMI Park
Sat, 19 MarTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs SYD 17:15Central Coast Stadium
WSW vs ADE 19:30Pirtek Stadium
Sun, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs PER 15:00Westpac Stadium
VIC vs NEW 17:00AAMI Park
View All Fixtures
Round 25
Fri, 25 MarTimes shown AEDT
VIC vs WSW 19:40AAMI Park
Sat, 26 MarTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs PER 17:15Hunter Stadium
BRI vs SYD 19:30Suncorp Stadium
Sun, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs CCM 17:00Coopers Stadium
Mon, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
MCY vs WEL 19:30AAMI Park
View All Fixtures
Round 26
Fri, 01 AprTimes shown AEDT
WSW vs CCM 19:40Pirtek Stadium
Sat, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs VIC 17:15Westpac Stadium
SYD vs ADE 19:30Allianz Stadium
Sun, 03 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI vs NEW 17:00Suncorp Stadium
PER vs MCY 19:00nib Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 27
Fri, 08 AprTimes shown AEST
MCY vs ADE 19:40AAMI Park
Sat, 09 AprTimes shown AEST
CCM vs NEW 17:15Central Coast Stadium
VIC vs BRI 19:30AAMI Park
Sun, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
WEL vs WSW 15:00Westpac Stadium
SYD vs PER 17:00Allianz Stadium
View All Fixtures
Hyundai A-League 2015-16
Overall standings
Team P W L +/- Pts
Western Sydney Wanderers FC 18 10 4 10 34
Brisbane Roar FC 18 10 4 9 34
Melbourne City FC 18 8 6 11 28
Melbourne Victory 18 8 6 6 28
Sydney FC 18 7 4 5 28
Adelaide United 18 7 5 3 27
Perth Glory 18 6 8 -1 22
Newcastle Jets 18 5 9 -12 19
View all
 

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