Christmas crackers: The best of the festive derbies

There have been six Melbourne Christmas derbies in the A-League, and every one has turned out to be a cracker of sorts for fans of both teams.

These games in the week leading up to December 25 always have a little extra edge, and while it might be the festive season there is certainly little generosity in the air when the cross-town rivals meet at AAMI Park.

In the six matches that have taken place, honours are even – three apiece for Victory and City (known as Heart in some early editions).

Emphasising the winner-takes-all nature of these games, there have been no draws.

There is rarely anything more sensational in a football match than a last-minute winner, and the derbies have featured two – with both teams claiming one each.

They are perhaps the most dramatic of the Melbourne encounters to date.

If Saturday night’s special turns out to be as thrilling, fans will enjoy true value for their money.

December 22, 2012 Ange Postecoglou was still in charge at Victory and enjoying what would turn out to be his only Christmas derby in the hot seat at AAMI Park.

Marco Rojas had put Victory in front midway through the second half before former Victory star Fred, now City’s (then Heart) marquee man, levelled with nine minutes to go.

Fred scored for Melbourne City – then Heart – in the 2012 clash. Photo: AAP

Honours looked as though they would be split until Victory’s Archie Thompson – always a man with a sense of occasion – intervened with a dramatic stoppage-time winner, chipping goalkeeper Clint Bolton with a shot that struck the bar on the way in to send Victory fans into pre-Christmas raptures.

Archie Thompson celebrates breaking the deadlock in 2012. Photo: AAP

December 20, 2014 Victory was on a ten-game unbeaten run and pressing hard at the top of the table, while City had taken until its previous home match to win a game at AAMI Park, so no guessing who the bookmakers had favourites going in.

Erik Paartalu scores the winner for Melbourne City in 2014. Photo: AAP

But this was a typical hard fought, keenly contested, physically confronting derby where form counted for little.

As the clock ticked towards time neither side had been able to break the deadlock and a scoreless draw looked inevitable – until City’s giant midfielder Erik Paartalu got on the end of a 90th-minute cross from Mate Dugandzic and headed home past Nathan Coe to give the hosts a 1-0 win.