City raring for do-or-die ALM derby final with Victory

Anna Harrington |

Jamie Maclaren scored the only goal as Melbourne City claimed a 1-0 win over Western United.
Jamie Maclaren scored the only goal as Melbourne City claimed a 1-0 win over Western United.

Coach Aurelio Vidmar insists Melbourne City’s late scramble to claw their way into the A-League Men finals has them perfectly prepared for a do-or-die elimination final against Melbourne Victory.

Sixth-placed City locked in finals and ended Western Sydney’s season in one fell swoop with a 1-0 win over Western United, their third win on the bounce, on Sunday.

They will face Tony Popovic’s third-placed Victory at AAMI Park next Sunday in a tantalising elimination final.

“The last three weeks we’ve known there’s no margin of error, it’s win, win, win, and we’ve done that, but now it’s completely different,” Vidmar said.

Melbourne City coach Aurelio Vidmar.
Melbourne City coach Aurelio Vidmar says his players are ready for a do-or-die elimination final. (Will Murray/AAP PHOTOS)

“I think there’s less stress and less pressure because I think a lot of the pressure came like ‘we have to make the six, we have to make the six’, and that takes a toll at some point. 

“But now we can be totally relaxed in terms of we’ve done a job – part one – which was getting ourselves into the six.”

City will focus on recovery before preparing for next Sunday’s game.

“It is – probably the last three weeks – ‘finals-type football’ because there was no tomorrow in a way,” Vidmar said.

“So we’ve done that for the last three weeks and managed that very, very well. Next week’s going to be exactly the same.”

Marco Tilio (quad) won’t be available, but Scott Galloway will push for selection after illness.

City had to win on Sunday against 11th-placed United at AAMI Park to reach the finals for a 10th consecutive season, as they were two points behind the Wanderers with one less win to their name.

The Wanderers put the pressure on City and kept their season alive with a dramatic 4-3 win over third-placed Victory on Saturday night.

“I was having a bath and then I threw the remote control at the TV,” Vidmar joked.

But Jamie Maclaren tapped home in the 19th minute on Sunday to snuff out Western Sydney’s finals hopes, with City finishing sixth on 39 points, ahead of the Wanderers (37).

United created plenty of chances, with two goals disallowed for offside and Jamie Young making several stellar saves.

John Aloisi’s charges finished 11th this season, but the contracted coach insisted he wasn’t feeling any pressure.

Coach John Aloisi.
Coach John Aloisi says he has no plans of leaving Western United. (Will Murray/AAP PHOTOS)

“If we didn’t play good, I’d feel pressure,” Aloisi said. 

“Yes, we want to get results, we want to be in the finals. 

“But as a club, we know that we’re in a transitional period, transitional year, and I think that we’ve shown what we’re capable of doing. 

“We’re not losing 8-0, 5-0, 8-2. No, no, no – we’re coming up against City … and we gave them one hell of a game. 

“If it wasn’t for Jamie Young tonight, I think we win (by) three or four, so that’s why I don’t feel the pressure.”

He also has no plans of leaving United, and dismissed the suggestion he had interest from elsewhere.

“I’m locked in. I’m here another year,” Aloisi said.

“I’d be silly to leave after going through what we’ve just gone through this season. 

“I don’t want other people to reap the rewards that we’ve worked for. I want to reap those rewards.”