Ranked: The A-League’s best rivalries

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What is a football competition without a good rivalry to get us salivating?

Here we take a look at the best that the A-League has to offer. The games every fan circles on the calendar: The top five rivalries in the A-League.

  1. Adelaide United v. Melbourne Victory: The Original Derby

This one dates back to the early days of the A-League and feeds into the bitter state rivalry between South Australia and Victoria.

It peaked after the sides met in two grand finals in three years, both of which were won by Melbourne.

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In 2007 they humiliated Adelaide in a 6-0 thumping, the greatest ever margin in grand final history. Two years later, they got the better of them again 1-0.

It was the second title that established Victory as the powerhouse of the competition, while Adelaide was left empty-handed.

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This derby has been underscored by some fiery moments, most notably an incident in 2006/07 where Victory captain Kevin Muscat and Adelaide coach John Kosmina clashed on the sidelines.

Muscat knocked Kosmina to the ground, leading the Reds’ coach to bounce up and grab Muscat by the throat in a heated altercation.

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Overall the sides have met 56 times, with Melbourne leading 26 to 17, with 13 draws.

An extra wrinkle has been added this year with former Reds’ coach Marco Kurz crossing to Melbourne in the offseason.

  1. Central Coast Mariners v. Newcastle Jets: The F3 Derby

The F3 Derby proves that rivalries can flourish outside of the capital cities.

Put simply these two teams hate each other.

The two clubs are located about an hour away from each other on the New South Wales coast, and this matchup brings a unique regional appeal to a national competition.

The derby hit its peak in the 2007/08 season when the two sides finished at the top of the table and met in the grand final.

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Newcastle would win the match 1-0, but it came with controversy. Late in the game, a handball was not called against Newcastle midfielder James Holland in the penalty area, denying the Mariners a chance to equalise.

Overall the derby matchup places fourth as the spice has fallen out of it over the past few seasons, with both teams struggling for form.

However, their matchup earlier this season was a belter with a 1-1 draw, and a reminder of all that this rivalry can be.

Overall Newcastle leads 16 wins to 15, with 17 draws.

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  1. Sydney FC v. Western Sydney Wanderers: The Sydney Derby

There is always a special feeling when East meets West in the harbour city.

If the atmosphere in their round three matchup was anything to go by, the electricity has well and truly returned to this one upon the reopening of Western Sydney Stadium.

The buzz was back that night.

The Wanderers broke a 980-day winless streak against Sydney in a victory, it was a throwback to the early days of this rivalry when the Wanderers were flying at the top of the table.

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Who could forget the way they burst onto the scene in 2012 winning three of the first five derbies.

Unfortunately, they have spent a long time in the wilderness and during that time Sydney’s dominance cannot be disputed.

The Sky Blues have won 12 of 23 meetings, with Western Sydney claiming only five victories.

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Moreover, the Wanderers have only won two of the last 18 matches to Sydney’s eleven.

With numbers like that, it’s hard to elevate this one any higher up the standings.

  1. Melbourne City v. Melbourne Victory: The Melbourne Derby

Tempers flare (no pun intended) on and off the field every time these teams meet.

Despite being the little brother in Victoria, City has regularly taken it up to Victory, creating a contest that is unpredictable on every occasion.

Fierce, spiteful matches are the norm in this showdown, best encapsulated in a February 2017 meeting where Victory came back from a 1-0 deficit to steal a win in the dying minutes.

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In that game, an own goal in the dying minutes from City defender Manny Muscat was first disallowed, then approved, despite claims that Victory striker Besart Berisha was offside and impeding keeper Dean Bouzanis.

Ultimately, Tim Cahil was red-carded despite being on the sidelines, while in the wake of the match Bouzanis was suspended for vilifying Berisha.

Overall Victory holds a narrow 12 to 10 lead in the head to head, with eight draws.

Both of these teams have made the finals the past five seasons, adding to the marquee feel of this game whereby the match-ups have had ramifications on their final ladder placing.

Surprisingly they have never met in a final and have only played one knockout game, the 2016 FFA Cup semi-final, which City won 2-0.

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  1. Melbourne Victory v. Sydney FC: The Big Blue

Coming in at the top of the list is the battle of the two biggest teams in the competition.

It’s a match-up where more than points and pride are on the line. Rather it’s a fight for football supremacy in Australia.

So what elevates this one above all others? Simply put a tonne of blockbuster finals.

These sides have an uncanny ability to meet at the business end of the season, facing off in finals eight times, including three grand finals, with Sydney winning two.

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In recent years this has been ramped up, with the teams meeting in knockout games in five of the last six seasons.

The best of their grand final meetings came in 2017 in a fiery clash at Allianz Stadium that went to penalties where Milos Ninkovic slotted the winning goal after two magnificent saves from Danny Vukovic.

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The overall head to head is incredibly close. From 50 meetings, Sydney leads 17 to 16, with 16 draws.

In their most recent meeting, Sydney put six goals into the back of the net in last years semi-final.

The next instalment of this one is just days away, buckle up for another belter.

Feature Image Credit: Jaime Castaneda, Sydney FC

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Michael Patane
Student at Monash University and lover of all things football covering Melbourne City in 2019/20.