Table-topping Victory move on from derby pitch invasion

High-flying Melbourne Victory are adamant they have moved on from last season's calamitous derby pitch invasion as they prepare to face Melbourne City a year on from one of Australian football's darkest nights.

The derby on December 17, 2022 was abandoned after just 21 minutes when Victory fans violently stormed the AAMI Park pitch.

That included then-City goalkeeper Tom Glover suffering concussion and facial lacerations when he was hit with a metal bucket.

Victory were fined and had supporter restrictions last season, and some suspended sanctions still hang over the club.

But one year on since Victory's 2022-23 A-League Men season was sent into a spiral, Tony Popovic's charges are top of the table and unbeaten.

"We went through a difficult period. But it's why Melbourne Victory is a big club," Popovic said.

Da Silva celebrates
Damien Da Silva and Paul Izzo celebrate Victory's victory against Sydney FC.

"We went through adversity off the field, we went through adversity on the field. And when we've come through that, we're building. 

"We're not there and there's still a lot of work to do. But after eight games, we're in a good position on the pitch. 

"Off the pitch you can see that the fans are there, the fans and members, they go and they're happy tonight. And they can now really look forward to watching their team next week in the derby.”

Popovic was confident his charges won't be distracted by the lead-up to next Saturday's match against City, the first Christmas derby since.

“A year goes quickly sometimes. We're already at that point and a lot has happened," Popovic said. 

"We've put a line in the sand, really, as a football club with that. We acknowledged what happened, looked at ourselves and what we can do better moving forward. 

"The question may come and I understand it, but we really have seriously moved on from that. 

"All we're focused on is recovering well, preparing well, and having everyone excited to watch a fantastic derby. And we want to play our part and put in a top performance in a special game.”

City counterpart Aurelio Vidmar wasn't at the helm for the abandoned game but wanted his players to stay focused, given the fiery nature of derbies.

"Everyone's going to have an opinion about it and what happened. It wasn't a very good look obviously," he said. 

"That was outrageous what happened but we hope that there's a lot of fire inside the pitch - that's, I'm sure, what everyone wants, what the fans want -and then hopefully it's an exciting game for everyone.

"What we have to do is just to make sure that we're playing the game, we're not doing anything silly or not playing the game well before it actually happens. 

"So yes, there's going to be a lot of talk and a lot of discussions during the course of the week but we just have to stay calm, play our football, do it better, do it for longer. And all the other noise, we can't worry too much about it."

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