Melbourne City savour Cahill's debutant's ball

It was only fitting that the greatest Socceroos hero of all time should choose his A-League debut to score one of the finest goals of his glorious career.


Tim Cahill celebrates his first-half goal Source: AAP

"I'm not here to make up the numbers," guest marquee Tim Cahill said after setting the Melbourne derby alight with a superlative strike straight out of his rich repertoire of 'worldlies'.

We have learned never to be surprised by Cahill's jaw-dropping achievements on the world stage.

But when he let loose from 35 metres out with a dipping and swerving shot that ended up at the back of the net, one had to accept that there is nothing - absolutely nothing - this extraordinary footballer cannot do in the front third of the field.

I have not seen all of the 200-plus goals Cahill has scored in every corner of the world but, apart from his left-foot screamer for Australia against the Netherlands at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, he would not have scored too many more uplifting goals than his derby dazzler that helped City crush their cross-town rivals 4-1.

He certainly did not disappoint the 43,188 crowd and an estimated 132,000-strong television audience.

Although he has yet to reach peak match condition, Cahill lived up to all the hype and expectation of his homecoming after a rewarding career in England, the United States and China.

With the match won and lost, City coach John van't Schip did the right thing and replaced Cahill after 67 minutes so his talisman could receive the standing ovation he deserved.

He had played a key role in City's thumping victory - he also was involved in captain Bruno Fornaroli's headed goal - and as the media scrambled to get a piece of the newest star to hit the A-League at the end of the match, Cahill had some urgent business to attend to first.

Straight after the final whistle, Cahill went straight over to Victory coach Kevin Muscat.

The two played together for Millwall in 2003-2004, the season the Lions reached the FA Cup final, and the old friends embraced warmly.

The limelight understandably was all on Cahill at Etihad Stadium but Australia's leading scorer, who is just two goals away from half a century in green and gold, wanted the world to know that he cared as much about the losing coach as he did about his own exultant team-mates.

City's emphatic and highly impressive victory will send shockwaves across the A-League and it could well change the landscape of Australian football.

City have always been regarded as the other team in Melbourne due to the disparity in size and stature of the two organisations.
Who knows, perhaps the time finally has come for City to shed that 'little brother' image and be seen as the team in Melbourne after a performance and result that left no doubt as to their aspirations of domestic bliss.

It was not the first time that Victory played a poor game, but I cannot recall the three-time champions being reduced to such a rabble and made to look as distinctly second rate as they were on Saturday night.

Which of course is all credit to City, who played so beautifully that Socceroos playmaker Aaron Mooy, who left the club at the end of last season to play for Huddersfield Town in England's Championship, was not missed one bit.

It is still early days yet it is already abundantly clear that the combined threat of Cahill, Fornaroli and Bruce Kamau up front plus the industry of Luke Brattan, Nicolas Colazo and Fernando Brandan make City genuine title contenders.

The Melbourne derby will rightly be remembered for Cahill's special debut strike which no doubt will be up there with the best goals of the season when the dust settles.

Goodness knows how many fans he will draw to City's games this season that is shaping as one of the best in the league's 12-year history.

Football Federation Australia could not have wished for a stronger impact of Cahill's much-heralded return home at the cost of a reported $3 million a year.

The first Melbourne derby of the season might have much wider ramifications than that.

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4 min read
Published 16 October 2016 at 10:10am
By Philip Micallef
Source: SBS