Victory survive late Western United rally in deadlock draw
Melbourne Victory held on to record their first ever point against Western United as an absorbing ‘Battle of the Bridge’ ended 0-0 at AAMI Park.
The Green and Black had beaten their state rivals in each of their three previous clashes but Mark Rudan’s side were denied a fourth straight win as Alessandro Diamanti rattled the crossbar twice in the space of three minutes and United had two goals closely, but correctly, chalked off for offside.
Taking up residence in the central Melbourne stadium for the first time, United were given an early scare by the nominal away side as Jacob Butterfield and Luis Lawrie-Lattanzio forced saves from Filip Kurto, and Brandon Lauton cracked a shot against the post inside the opening 10 minutes.
The A-League’s all-time top scorer Besart Berisha saw his first strike of the season called back after the VAR spotted an offside against Connor Pain in the build-up, and the derby atmosphere heated up in the second half with seven yellow cards dished out, five of them to United players.
It was Victory feeling the heat in the closing stages as inspirational United captain Diamanti sent two rocket strikes bouncing off the frame of the goal and substitute Dylan Pierias saw what would have been his third goal in two games ruled out despite a cacophony of fireworks echoing around AAMI Park.
Grant Brebner’s team almost snatched all of the points in the final minutes when Birkan Kirdar’s attempt was pushed away by Kurto, but the spoils were shared as United defender Andrew Durante marked his 400th appearance in Australian national leagues football with a clean sheet.
Western United made themselves at home at AAMI Park with Alessandro Diamanti almost swinging the ball into the Victory goal directly from a corner, landing it on the roof of Max Crocombe’s net, but the away side soon had the hosts rocked. Adama Traore put in a dangerous cross and Jake Brimmer’s strike was blocked by Connor Pain, before Jacob Butterfield drew a palmed save from goalkeeper Filip Kurto inside five minutes.
Victory were growing in stature with teenage attacker Luis Lawrie-Lattanzio bursting through the lines and forcing another save form Kurto after Andrew Durante had lost out to Butterfield and, after Diamanti’s optimistic effort with his back to goal flew over, Marco Rojas slipped Brandon Lauton through on goal in the 10th minute and the young winger cracked an attempt against the woodwork and to safety.
The Green and Black managed to weather the storm and slow down the pace, controlling the larger share of possession without threatening the Navy Blue goal in the first half hour. Ivan Vujica was living dangerously when a mistimed tackle on Storm Roux only brought a caution, and United finally carved out a chance when Pain found Besart Berisha following a twisting run but the veteran's finish was ruled offside by VAR.
Victory opened the second half in a similar vein to the first, with Traore flying down the left and delivering a cross but Lawrie-Lattanzio could not direct his bullet header on target. The rough tackling continued with Tomi Uzkok flattening Leigh Broxham to collect United’s fifth yellow card as Durante and Lawrie-Lattanzio butted heads, before a tumbling Berisha was denied a penalty while chasing Diamanti’s set-piece.
Victor Sanchez pulled a shot wide as Western United began to build a spell of dominance after the hour mark, and the Green and Black saw another penalty shout waved away when Berisha’s shot struck Dylan Ryan’s arm. The pressure was mounting when the Navy Blue turned the ball over and substitute Iker Guarrotxena stung Crocombe’s palms before Diamanti rattled the Victory crossbar with a stinging drive.
Less than three minutes later, Diamanti found a pocket of space and sent another rocket shot crashing back off the frame of Big V’s goal and United thought they had the breakthrough when Sanchez sent substitute Dylan Pierias clean through to shoot, but the flag was raised with the ball nestled in the net and fireworks lighting up the skies. One final chance fell to Victory as substitutes Elvis Kamsoba and Birkan Kirdar combined but Kurto was equal to the latter's strike as the final whistle blew on a stalemate draw.
Next Fixtures – Gameweek 7
Brisbane Roar v Melbourne Victory
Saturday, 6 February 2021
Venue: Dolphin Stadium, Redcliffe
Kick-off: 5.05pm AEDT
Central Coast Mariners v Western United
Sunday, 7 February 2021
Venue: Central Coast Stadium
Kick-off: 6.10pm AEDT
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