Dylan Wenzel-Halls scored a superb solo effort as Brisbane Roar responded from an opening round defeat with an impressive 3-1 win against Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park.
Wenzel-Halls had caused Victory problems all evening and the 23-year-old finally struck in the 79th minute when he ran from half way, jinked past a defender and added a toe-poke finish to seal Roar's first points of the season after Warren Moon's side fell 1-0 at home against Melbourne City in Matchweek 1.
Roar had made a strong start when the returning Scott McDonald netted from close range on 16 minutes. The veteran striker appeared to think he was offside until the VAR rightfully awarded a goal, but the Navy Blue seized control of the clash when debutant Callum McManaman struck with a sensational equaliser.
The English attacker had lit up the half-capacity AAMI Park with a dazzling 45-minute display, highlighted by a world-class curling effort into the top corner after intercepting Macauley Gillesphey’s sloppy pass and bursting past the away side's defence in the 26th minute.
A breathless first half turned into a more subdued second and, after Roar quelled both Victory and McManaman’s momentum, Gillesphey went from villain to hero when the English centre-back rose highest to head Brisbane into a 2-1 lead on the hour mark, netting his second A-League goal.
Victory coach Grant Brebner’s misery was compounded when star forward Marco Rojas limped off in the 72nd minute, after playing through the pain barrier, and Wenzel-Halls had the final word as Big V followed up on their worst ever A-League finish, tenth in 2019/20, with an opening game defeat.
Starting alongside the returning McDonald for the first time, Joey Champness teed up the ex-Socceroos striker to drag a fourth-minute attempt wide and Wenzel-Halls saw his shot blocked before Rahmat Akbari drilled an effort over as Roar made a statement from the off.
Victory strung together some early pressure without testing Jamie Young in the visitors’ goal and Roar showed the extra cutting edge when Corey Brown charged forward in the 17th minute and Wenzel-Halls’ drive was touched in by McDonald at close range, with VAR confirming the 39-year-old was onside.
With Roar settling into possession, their advantage was suddenly wiped out in the 24th minute when Gillesphey's pass went astray and McManaman collected the loose ball, cut inside and unleashed a rifled shot into the top corner of Young's net as the 29-year-old celebrated his spectacular debut A-League goal.
McManaman caught another sight of goal on 32 minutes, his 18-yard snapshot on the swivel was deflected wide, and from the resulting corner Nick Ansell climbed highest and thundered his header off the foot of the post and across the goal-line as Brisbane recovered to scramble the ball away.
McManaman was causing Roar serious problems when his 39th-minute cross was headed goal-wards by Jack Brimmer, but the effort was blocked in front of the line by Jack Hingert, and after some more superb skill, the English attacker bent an effort wide of Young’s goal on the stroke of half-time.
After losing their impetus, Victory coach Brebner introduced star striker Rudy Gestede on 57 minutes but Jay O’Shea gave a reminder of his threat, slamming a 30-yard effort narrowly over, before Gillesphey climbed highest from Brown's corner and headed Brisbane into the lead.
Victory were in danger of losing their foothold in the game as Wenzel-Halls showed neat footwork and lashed a 20-yard shot wide of the post, but he made sure of the result after breaking away in the 79th minute, adding a composed finish to a surging run to make it 3-1 and clinch all three points for Roar.
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