Melbourne City have struck a hammer blow to Melbourne Victory's finals hopes with a 2-1 A-League derby win at AAMI Park.
Melbourne City have claimed A-League derby bragging rights and struck a hammer blow to Melbourne Victory's finals hopes with a 2-1 win at AAMI Park.
Florin Berenguer handed City the lead after eight minutes, then delivered a delightful assist for Jamie Maclaren in the 71st minute, before Ola Toivonen responded with a 78th-minute free kick.
City consolidated their hold on second place, while Victory remain at least five points outside the top six and also had star winger Robbie Kruse limp off.
"We have an offensive style of play but also sometimes you need to be strong defensively, and today it was also this case," City coach Erick Mombaerts said.
"So we were strong defensively and that's good, it's also a good reaction from the players after the last game (losing to Adelade United)."
Both sides made a number of changes.
Tim Hoogland slotted into Victory's back three, and coach Carlos Salvachua started attackers Marco Rojas and Kruse on the bench.
City reverted to a back four, while Tom Glover replaced Dean Bouzanis in goal.
It took just eight minutes for City to break the deadlock.
Latching onto a long ball, Adrian Luna flicked a header past Ben Carrigan and followed up his own work to find Berenguer, who powered a shot past Lawrence Thomas.
Victory came close to equalising from an indirect free kick in the 30th minute, after Glover handled a back pass.
Toivonen powered the ball to the near post where a sliding Hoogland attempted to toe-poke home, but the ball hit the upright and bounced into Glover.
Salvachua summoned Kruse and Rojas in the 55th minute, to rapturous applause - but it would be City who broke through.
Craig Noone slipped a pass to Berenguer, who deftly backheeled for Maclaren to smack the ball into the roof of the net.
The Socceroos striker came off a minute later, with Mombaerts saying he had felt sore in his hamstring.
Victory responded seven minutes later when Toivonen stepped up to take a free kick after Rojas was brought down outside the area.
Toivonen looked set to be denied by Glover, but the City goalkeeper fumbled a relatively straight-forward stop into his own net.
Victory were unable to find an equaliser, and Kruse headed gingerly down the tunnel in the 84th minute to further sour their night.
"Today was not our night," Salvachua said.
"With the ball we had problems - we didn't create chances, just a few, a couple of chances in the first half in one corner and another free kick.
"It was too easy for them to score the goals and then City, they dropped and they were really compact and it was difficult for us to open the defence."