A Nick D’Agostino thunderbolt has ensured Melbourne Victory lifted themselves off the bottom of the table, but they were forced to share the points with rivals Adelaide United in a 1-1 draw at Coopers Stadium.
Both sides came into this match under pressure, with both sides having only won one of their last five matches and both being outside of the top six at the start of play.
Tony Popovic made four changes to the side in an attempt to overturn his side’s slump, but it was Adelaide who got off to the perfect start in the seventh minute. Ben Halloran weaved his way through the Victory defence, before passing to Craig Goodwin who cut inside and lashed the ball into the top corner for his fifth goal of the season, sending the 11,000 fans into raptures.
The Reds were targeting the Victory’s left flank, which featured Noah Smith making his first start for the club at left-back, and Halloran got free and forced Acton to parry a shot away in the 11th minute.
The Victory began to slowly work their way into the game, and they had their best chance of the first half in the 26th minute when the returning Chris Ikonomidis found Jake Brimmer in the box, whose first attempt was blocked by Alexander Popovic – partly with his arm – and the follow up was well saved by Joe Gauci in the Adelaide goal.
The Victory struggled to fire for the rest of the first half, but roared into life four minutes into the second half, when Josh Brillante made a great run behind the Adelaide defence and fed Nick D’Agostino, who unleashed a rocket of a shot into the top corner, giving Gauci no chance.
The second half was and end-to-end affair as both sides struggled to retain possession, however meaningful opportunities were few and far between. Both sides rang the changes to try turn the tide fo the match, with Nestory Irankunda and George Blackwood coming on for the home side, whilst Rai Marchan was injected into the Victory midfield, though the Spaniard soon headed back down the tunnel after showing symptoms of concussion when a powerful shot hit him square in the face.
Irankunda made a dart down the right side with 10 minutes to go, but he opted to shoot instead of looking for a teammate, and his shot went wide of the goal.
Substitute Lleyton Brooks had a golden chance to win the game for the away side with minutes remaining, but compsoure deserted him and he skied the shot with the goal gaping.
Both sides huffed and puffed through eight minutes of added time to get the winning goal, but the eternal rivals couldn’t be split.
SAME ATTACKING ISSUES FOR THE VICTORY
Melbourne’s attacking issues have been well documented this season, and the problems were clear for all to see in the first half.
They had 10 shots, but Gauci was only seriously tested when he had to make a great reaction save from Brimmer’s effort in the middle of the box. the passing was off, and Nick D’Agostino looked like he was running on ice, falling over his own feet multiple times.
Tony Popovic was shown being highly vocal in the half-time break, and the Victory emerged with a renewed vigour that saw them equalise wonderfully through D’Agostino.
However, they were unable to capitalise from the burst of momentum directly after their goal, and continued to struggle to create clear cut opportunities. Adelaide’s defence was hardly rock solid, but the Victory’s attacking woes largely continued in the city of churches.
The boys in Navy Blue also had seven corners but failed to use any of them effectively.
THE BEN HALLORAN SHOW
By contrast, Adelaide looked threatening every time the Victory lost the ball in the middle of the park – which was often – and winger Ben Halloran was a particular standout at Coopers Stadium.
He showed great skill and composure to leave multiple Victory players in his wake and to also slip the ball to teammate Goodwin for the goal (though the defending from Melbourne left a lot to be desired), and much of Adelaide’s attacking forays were going down his wing. His impact was so strong that he forced Popovic to withdraw Smith from the game after less than an hour.
Goodwin also deserves credit for a bullet of a finish to put his side in front; the Adelaide fans unveiled a tifo of their favourite son before the match, and he repaid their love in quick time.
THE ROT STOPPED, BUT DARK CLOUDS STILL SURROUND MELBOURNE
It has been the week from hell for the Victory. Strong financial sanctions were lobbied against the club as a response to the pitch invasion at the Melbourne Derby, their star marquee Nani was found to have ruptured his ACL, forcing the early end to his season, and the Victory ended up dropping to bottom of the table.
The Victory showed good character to get back into the game in a hostile environment and ending their three match losing streak, but being second last on the table 11 games into the season is well below expectations for one of Australia’s biggest clubs.
With that in mind, squad clearly needs a boost in the January transfer window; but Melbourne’s questionable financial positions means it is uncertain as to whether Popovic will be able to bring in the adequate reinforcements to kickstart their season.
The result is a step in the right direction, but there are still more stormy skies to navigate for the Victory.
Isuzu Ute A-League Mens Round 12
Adelaide United 1 (Goodwin, 13′)
Melbourne Victory 1 (D’Agostino, 49′)
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