Weary Victory win at the death
A leg weary Melbourne Victory conjured up another goal in injury time—this time the winner against Sydney FC in the A-League Elimination Final at Docklands on Good Friday evening.
As the 20,802 crowd settled, anticipating extra time, somehow Victory forced themselves forward and James Troisi combined with Adam Traore to get the ball into the centre of the penalty area for Gui Finkler to deliver the coup de grace. Troisi had completed a similar move on Tuesday night against Guangzhou Evergrande in the Asian Champions League, so the Victory dream run rolls on.
After a fluctuating opening series of exchanges, in the 27th minute Pablo Contreras robbed Alessandro del Piero in the Victory half and set off on a run of his own, releasing the ball to Troisi who used the outside of his foot to place it delicately in front of a charging Archie Thompson. Victory’s leading scorer will not have executed many better finishes than the one which curled the ball round Sydney keeper Vedran Janjetovic and just inside the far post.
As expected Sydney immediately lifted their intensity and poured forward in a sustained series of attacks before del Piero fed Ali Abbas out on the left and his low cross found former Victory defender Sebastian Ryall who swept the ball through Nathan Coe’s legs. Ryall had said before the game that he was intent on scoring against his old club, and made good the promise. Then it was Victory’s turn to put on some spirited attacks. Thompson was through again but Janjetovic saved with his legs then the ball was put behind for the first of five corner kicks in succession to the home team, none of which could be converted into a goal.
In the 42nd minute del Piero hit Victory’s goal post with a shot and the ball was spirited downfield for Thompson to curl another shot at goal, only this one drifted past the post. That single minute summed up an exciting end to end first half, in which the home team had the edge, especially early on when its passing was crisp, accurate and rapid.
Neither side made changes at half-time to personnel, but Sydney began to dominate the game in its normal rebounding style. Victory’s attacks became more labored as they faced two solid walls of defenders. Joel Chianese cut in from the wing and fired over a cross shot which Coe managed to turn on to the crossbar and over. Mark Milligan tried to lift his team with a surging run through two tackles but dragged his shot wide of the near post. Sydney brought on Branko Despotovic for Chianese and the substitute announced himself with shot which narrowly missed. Nick Ansell and Mark Milligan were both booked for fairly innocuous tackles which earned the ire of the crowd of 20,802. It seemed odds on that they were going to watch extra time when Finkler popped up with his stunning winner.
Kevin Muscat has repeated that he has a group of players who are all desperate to take part. However, with Adrian Leijer and Tom Rogic injured and Finkler unavailable for the midweek game against Jeonbuk Motors in South Korea followed by an away final in the A-League next weekend the resources are going to be stretched. Yet it would he hard to write Victory off given the collective spirit they have shown in the last 180 minutes of football.