Tim Cahill is given a red card before even being substituted on to the field during the Melbourne derby.
Tim Cahill is given a red card before even being substituted on to the field during the Melbourne derby. JOE CASTRO

Cahill sent off in chaotic derby finish

FOOTBALL: A chaotic Melbourne derby finish made up for a forgettable first hour as Besart Berisha's blushes were spared after his penalty miss looked set to cost Melbourne Victory.

Melbourne City midfielder Neil Kilkenny exploited Berisha's miss by netting with 20 minutes left, in what was the catalyst for an extraordinary finish in front of 35,426 at Etihad Stadium.

But a demoralised Berisha pushed to net the equaliser before his pressure forced Manny Muscat to turn the ball into his net as tensions reached boiling point.

Berisha exchanged words with City keeper Dean Bouzanis and several other City combatants, while Tim Cahill was sent off before he even got on the pitch.

The win reopens a seven-point buffer for Victory in second, though for 84 minutes - until Berisha's equaliser - it looked like their barren run would continue.

The bumbling teams have adopted contrasting approaches in their desperate attempts to rediscovering form as they enter the final third of the season.

Victory's team can be picked with your eyes closed - a 4-2-3-1 where the only changes come through suspension, injury or, on the rare occasion, fixture cluster fatigue.

City change formations and personnel with regularity, with Nicolas Colazo's weekly role always a point of great intrigue.

Last night it was back to left-back, just a fortnight after coach Mike Valkanis declared it was time to persist with him in an attacking role.

City's coaching staff has either decided to persist with Colazo at left-back in favour of Josh Rose, or they did not want to leave the veteran exposed against Marco Rojas.

The Victory winger causes problems for the best of them, and his quick feet won them a penalty early in the second half after a game of Mexican standoff for the first hour.

Rojas skipped past Colazo before winning a penalty after Luke Brattan had tugged his shirt.

Berisha stepped forward and went left, but keeper Bouzanis picked the right way.

Kilkenny, playing in a more advanced midfield role, found space on 70 minutes to score via a deflection off Alan Baro after Fernando Brandan's layoff.

Berisha made up for his earlier blemish by tapping in to equalise with six minutes left, refusing to celebrate as he sighed relief.

Chaos ensued, as the ball hit the back of Victory's net but uncertainty reigned as the linesman's flag went up.

There was argy bargy between the players as referee Chris Beath and his assistant agreed that while Berisha was offside when Jason Geria crossed, the goal stood as Manny Muscat turned it into his own net.

Cahill was then sent off as he was preparing to come on in the 88th minute for something he said to referee Beath.

Tensions remained high until the final whistle and beyond, while Brattan was floored for several minutes before limping off the ground.