IT'S not a local derby without drama and the Altona East Phoenix and Altona City showdown delivered plenty of twists and turns in a tense Football Federation Victoria men's state league 2 north-west clash at Paisley Park on Saturday.
The Phoenix came away with an important 1-0 win over their geographical rivals, but only after a frantic five-minute period after half-time, which saw City lose star signing and captain Tony Saric to a straight red card for dissent and a rare indirect free kick awarded in a separate incident leading to the game's only goal.
A relieved Phoenix president Jim Dimitriou told the Weekly that regardless of City going down to 10 men, his side deserved its hard-earned three points because in his eyes they were the better side.
"I don't think it was the turning point because we were playing a lot better than them," Dimitriou said. "It just gave us a bit more confidence and a man down made it easier for us. It's always good to beat Altona City because they are same-city rivals with us, but it was also a good result after losing the week before."
The Phoenix's winning goal came in an unlikely fashion 15 minutes after the break.
The City goalkeeper received a warning from the referee for time wasting but would not receive another reprieve when holding on to the ball for longer than his allotted six seconds a second time.
An indirect free kick was given to the Phoenix, which saw striker Ben Stafrace tap the ball in the direction of his captain Soner Kul, who slammed it into the back of the net.
The Phoenix held on for a bounce-back win to pick up their first three points of the season.
Dimitriou says a number of factors led to an improved performance, including the injection of new central defender Sam Winch, who transferred from Ballarat Red Devils over the Easter break, a new formation that had them playing five across the midfield and a refusal to stray from the game plan, unlike what happened in their four-goal loss to Keilor Park a game earlier.
"Our preseason form was great and we scored a quick goal against Keilor Park [in round 1] and the boys were thinking this is easy and lost concentration, didn't stick to the game plan and we let them back in the game," Dimitriou said.
"He [Antoniadis] said this week we're not going to panic; we're going to stick to our game plan, not going to worry about trying to score five goals or 10 goals and if they stick to the game plan they will get a result and over the 90 minutes we were the better team."
The Phoenix bullied City in the midfield battle.
That was largely duo to the dominance of Kul, preseason signing Andy Bourakis and former City player Paul Galea, who dictated the flow of the game. The Phoenix will be hoping to repeat the dose in what Dimitriou has declared a "grudge match" against FC Clifton Hill on the road at Quarries Reserve on Saturday.
SL2: Altona East Phoenix 1 Altona City 0.
SL3: Yarraville 0 North Sunshine Eagles 0, Melbourne University 1 Williamstown 2
PL1: FC Strathmore 3 Maribyrnong Greens 1
PL2: Laverton Park 0 Hoppers Crossing 0