Melbourne Victory v Adelaide United: A Cross Border Rivalry

One of the great rivalries of the league, Melbourne Victory v Adelaide United, has taken a back seat to other derbies in recent seasons. But, as these two sides look set to challenge for the title once again, this rivalry looks set to once again heat up.

The derby itself, dubbed ‘The Cross-Border Rivalry’, was initiated through the rivalry that has existed between Victorians and South Australians for generations.

In the A-League, this rivalry has often been marred by controversy, which has often threatened to undermine the quality of football and the enthralling contests that we have seen these sides engage in over the last 10 years.

The derby itself was sparked by an altercation between two of the most competitive men in Australian football – John Kosmina and Kevin Muscat.

In a match in 2006, with Victory trailing United 1-0 and searching for a late equaliser, Kevin Muscat – then Victory’s captain – bundled over Kosmina – then United’s coach – as he attempted to pick up the ball for a quick throw-in. Knocking over Kosmina in the process, Muscat was given a yellow card by referee Kevin Breeze, while Kosmina was sent to the stands for retaliating with a choke-hold on Muscat.

This moment would shape the animosity between these two sides for a tightly fought 2006/07 A-League season.  For Adelaide fans, the scars of this derby run deep, stemming from the 2006/07 Finals Series in which they were defeated in cruel circumstances 2-1 on aggregate in the Major Semi Final.

After a 0-0 result at home in the first leg, Adelaide went ahead in the 4th minute away in Melbourne meaning that Victory would need two goals to book their place in the Grand Final. A 48th minute goal from Danny Allsopp in the 48th minute gave Melbourne a glimmer of hope, before a James Robinson header gave Victory the win in the 90th minute, sending the home fans into raptures.

The Reds eventually reached the final, but were again left red-faced, as the Victory handed them a 6-0 defeat, with Archie Thompson bagging five in his side’s dominant display.  The season was a disaster for Adelaide, with embarrassing defeats to their newly found worst enemy, leaving them empty-handed after consecutive top two finishes in the inaugural two A-League seasons.

But the animosity does not end there. The Cross-Border Rivalry would again flare up in the 2008/09 season as both teams again made a play for the A-League crown.  Cruising along at 0-0 in the sides’ first encounter for the season, Ney Fabiano and Robert Cornthwaite collided in what seemed to be an innocuous incident. It was, until Ney Fabiano proceeded to launch a mouthful of saliva into the face of Cornthwaite, earning himself a red card, and a six-week suspension in the process.

Despite this, Victory would go on to win the game 1-0.

But they would meet again. This season saw both sides, like the 2006/07 season, finish top two. But the differences in quality were even smaller. Melbourne and Adelaide ended the season with 38 points and a goal difference of +12; Victory only earning the minor premiership with 39 goals scored compared to the Reds’ 31.

However, Adelaide’s title charge looked dead and buried after a 6-0 aggregate defeat to Victory in the Semi-Finals, with a 4-0 defeat away particularly damning when considering that two win the Championship, Adelaide would have to return there and win.  They would return, but they would again taste defeat, as Victory ran away 1-0 winners in a far more closely fought encounter, with Tom Pondeljak scoring the winner in the 59th minute.  Since then, the rivalry has somewhat died down, with neither team really threatening to win the A-League title.

Until this season of course.  In 2014/15, Adelaide and Melbourne again looked destined to battle it out after very successful off-seasons.  They recommence their rivalry on Friday night at the Adelaide Oval, with both teams enjoying opening day victories against last year’s Grand Finalists.  While very few members of the 2006/07 and 2008/09 squads remain, the action will nevertheless be likely entertain, with the addition of characters such as Besart Berisha, and the cross-border transfer of Jimmy Jeggo from Melbourne to Adelaide.

But expect even more far-fetched controversy, as both sides resume rivalries on Friday night.