Sánchez strikes at the death to seal 4-3 win for ten-man United over Victory
A 95th-minute Victor Sánchez strike helped ten-man Western United defeat Melbourne Victory 4-3 in an unforgettable fifth instalment of the Battle of the Bridge at Marvel Stadium on Saturday night.
Braces to Sánchez and Besart Berisha helped United outlast Victory, who took a 1-0 lead, fell 3-1 behind and equalised again in the 82nd-minute after Tomislav Uskok's dismissal, only to concede defeat to United in the last minute of extra time in an instant classic between the local rivals.
30 shots combined between the two sides generated no goals in their Matchweek 6 meeting before Victory and United scored one each in a breathless opening half at Marvel Stadium.
Rudy Gestede and Iker Guarrotxena rattled the bar down either end between superb goals hit by Callum McManaman and Sánchez as honours were split in the first half.
Victory were yet to win an A-League contest with United before the Matchweek 10 fixture, and two goals in quick succession to former Navy Blue striker Berisha gave the hosts little hope of ending the winless run.
Alessandro Diamanti was at the heart of both of Berisha's headed goals, displaying left-footed wizardry to assist United's second and third of the night as the visitors came from behind to take a commanding 3-1 lead.
But the see-sawing contest was to take another turn soon after when Jacob Butterfield hammered Victory back into contention with a vicious left-footed strike buried past Filip Kurto into the back of the net. Just minutes later United defender Uskok received a second yellow card for a challenge on Robbie Kruse, and the hosts found their invitation to mount an unlikely comeback against the ten men of United.
Gestede's aerial presence grew all the more important for Victory as they spread the game wide to fire balls into the box toward the Benin international.
Kruse put the ball on a plate for Gestede who headed from inside the six-yard box directly into Filip Kurto with the goal at his mercy before he found an 82nd-minute equaliser, rising above the helpless Aaron Calver to thunder a floated Dalibor Markovic cross into the back of the net.
Gestede brought the score to 3-3 and a rocking home crowd could sniff all three points at Marvel Stadium. A decisive goal was to come, but from the ten-men of United, who struck with virtually the last kick of the game after a coming together of bodies left the ball to spill to Sánchez at the back post, who swept his shot home to spark chaotic scenes of celebration from the men in Green and Black.
The opening 20 minutes of play unfolded with Western United enjoying large amounts of possession in their attacking half, before Victory cut the Green and Black apart with a ruthless counter attacking move.
McManaman had the final say in the attack sparked a searching pass through midfield by Markovic to set Kruse running, who shrugged off Guarrotxena to play Storm Roux down toward the byline.
Roux's cut-back cross was played perfectly into the path of McManaman, who favoured precision over power as he struck a first-time volley into the left corner of goal.
United proceeded to mount a series of assaults on Victory's goal after a scuffed clearance from Aaron Anderson invited Green and Black pressure on his defensive box.
Guarrotxena struck the crossbar from a Dylan Pierias cross; the ball dropped on the right side of the goal line for Victory who cleared, but were under pressure again only moments later when Sánchez put Berisha on a silver platter to divert a header on goal.
The United striker headed truly and the equaliser seemed imminent, before Crocombe got across to his left to push the ball around the post in a display of incredible reflexes from the Victory stopper.
Down the other end Rudy Gestede showed his monstrous aerial presence, rising amongst bodies in the box to send a Jake Brimmer rattling into the crossbar.
It was the last chance down Victory's end before the visitors drew level. With minutes to play before the half-time break Brimmer was caught napping on the ball deep in defence, dispossessed by Berisha who took the ball toward goal.
Berisha took three Victory defenders out of the game with a run toward the box, sliding the ball to find Sánchez who cut around Roux to drill the ball past Crocombe and level the scores.
United began the second half on the front foot, and ramped up the pressure on Victory's goal after a Pierias' chest down and resulting venomous shot from outside the box called Crocombe into a fingertip stop, followed by a half-volley which Diamanti lashed past the top-left corner soon after.
Crocombe's valiant attempts to keep out numerous attempts from an incessant United frontline finally gave way when Diamanti and Berisha combined for two quick-fire goals to help the visitors take a stranglehold of the contest.
Berisha secured his brace with two headers converted after a pair of sublime crosses from the Italian maestro.
The first came from deep on the right flank before United went 3-1 to the good when Diamanti ghosted into the box, slid a quick touch through Leigh Broxham's legs and floated the ball to the back stick for Berisha to leap between two defenders and send his header into the back of the net.
United were in cruise control after coming from behind to take the lead with two goals scored within five minutes. But the tide of momentum turned again when Jacob Butterfield rattled a dipping effort from range past Filip Kurto into the bottom left corner to bring Victory back within one.
A second yellow card to Uskok came just two minutes after the Butterfield goal, reducing United to ten men and helping Victory envision a way back into the game.
The pathway to parity became abundantly clear to Victory as the clock ticked toward the final 10 minutes of play: stretch the ten-men of United, invade down either flank and find the head of the authoritative Gestede.
The tactic worked to great effect. Gestede failed to score a gilt-edged chance when found in the six-yard box by an inviting Kruse cross, heading into Kurto who stood at his mercy in the middle of United's goal.
But the towering number nine made no mistake at the second time of asking, relishing the opportunity to run and jump at a cross placed by Markovic on the head of Calver, who could only stand in wait as Gestede leapt high above the United defender to thump the ball past Kurto and bring Victory level.
Victory had thrown away a first half lead, conceded three unanswered goals and hit back twice more to bring the score to 3-3 with eight minutes to play, and somehow found themselves in pole position to go on and snatch all three points.
But it wasn't to be for Grant Brebner's men. Not only did Victory fail to find the winner, they conceded it to the ten men of United. Sánchez was the hero for United, finding his way to the back post as Nicolas Milanovic pressured Kurto in an attempt to head Lachlan Wales' dangerous ball across goal.
The ball instead fell to Sánchez, who put the finishing touch on a remarkable United win. The substitutes bench spilled out to meet Sánchez as he slid into their path; Mark Rudan jumped on top of the pile as his side celebrated the unbelievable win.
Melbourne Victory v Melbourne City
Saturday, March 6 2021
Kick-off: 7.10pm AEDT
Western United v Western Sydney Wanderers
Sunday, March 7 2021
Kick-off: 6.10pm AEDT
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