With a second wooden spoon finish in three seasons a real possibility for the Melbourne Victory, they’d take all three points to leap off the bottom of the ladder, running out 2-1 victors over Macarthur FC at AAMI Park.
Having thrown everything at Macarthur, a desperate Victory outfit would get reward for effort with substitute Lleyton Brooks coming off the bench and scoring the winner deep into stoppage time.
Having peppered the goals in the final moments of the game, it was only a matter of time before the Victory eventually found the net, and it’d be their young winger who’d find the winner. Having found space at the right post after been spotted up by Chris Ikonomidis, his header from very close range caught Bulls shot-stopper Filip Kurto out.
Occupying last spot on the ladder for nearly half of the season, the Victory jumped their opponents heading into Round 26. Meanwhile for the Bulls, the loss means they now occupy last spot on the ladder heading into their final game of the season.
Signs were good for the Victory early with Paraguayan maestro Fernando Romero breaking the deadlock for the home side in the opening five minutes. With the chain of attack starting deep in the Victory’s defensive half, they’d go coast to coast. It’d all start with Ben Folami, going on a daring run he’d spot Cadete, the Spaniard’s cross to the near post would then slotted home by Romero. Having been notorious this season for not taking their chances, it’d be one the side’s best plays of the season.
With the Bulls sitting back and playing a deep defensive line, they’d continue to invite the forward pressure from the Victory. Though the attacking duo Romero and Bruno Fornaroli who caused headaches for Macarthur’s back four wouldn’t be able to add to their side’s lead, going into half time ahead 1-0.
They’d be made to pay for not taking their chances, having threatened to extend the lead in the opening stages of the second half, the Bulls equalised against the run of play through Tomislav Uskok in the 66th minute.
Having conceded a corner, the Victory would fail to clear the subsequent Oliver Jones cross, Uskok pouncing on the defensive mishap to head home the equaliser.
The goal would get the Bulls tails up, though it’d be short lived with Fornaroli finding the net in the 74th minute. Though it’d be be ruled out for offside, the momentum would be halted.
Having threatened to take the lead again thereafter, the Victory would leave it late with the aforementioned Brooks netting with seconds left on the referee’s watch. With finals out of reach, the Victory now look to end of the season on a high.
Lack of polish almost haunts Victory again
Having been criticised for their inability to the find the net, the Victory being unable to take their chances and find the net almost came to plague them again.
Having scored the second fewest goals of the season thus far, it’s certainly not down to a lack of opportunities, with the side creating a lot of chances on goal for a team which has occupied the last spot on the ladder for most of the season. It’s their lack of polish in their final third which has haunted them.
Scoring early, the Victory would pepper the goals. Having registered 25 shots on goal, 10 of which found the target, they’d struggle again to find the net despite getting good looks on goal.
Though they’d be happy to still come away with the three points, coach Tony Popovic would be disappointed this trend has continued all campaign long.
Winless run snapped for the Victory
Without a win in their last three fixtures, the Victory are back on the winners list, coming away with all three points in a crucial fixture.
Having been inconsistent throughout the 2022/23 A-League Men’s campaign, it appeared the Victory were limping to the finish line, though a win will hopefully spark the side to finish the season strongly.
Having lacked spirit and direction in a lot of fixtures this season, their performances against the Bulls was one of their better ones.
Brooks coming up clutch again
Scoring just his third goal in his young A-League Men’s career, Lleyton Brooks is starting to make a name for himself as a big moments player. All of his goals thus far having come in moments where he’s come to the rescue for his side.
With his first goal for the Victory having been a late winner against the Jets back in the 2020-21 season, and his second being a late equaliser against City weeks later, his third goal would also come late, and prove to be a winner.
Having been subbed into the game late in the 89th minute, it would be a case of right place, right time for Brooks who steered home the winner.
Having struggled for minutes in recent seasons, the midfielder is now starting to slowly assert himself into the first team, hopeful his knack to stand up when called upon will be rewarded with more opportunities next season.