Melbourne Victory kept their premiership hopes alive with a dominant 4-1 win over Sydney FC on Saturday night.
A sizeable crowd were in attendance for the second and final clash between rivals Sydney and Melbourne of the season, with Victory looking to extend their record unbeaten streak to 15 games and remain in the premiership race.
Ivan Kelava was called into action early on as the pacey Trent Buhagiar was played through one-on-one, but Victory’s veteran keeper was quick off his line to deny the home side a perfect start.
Victory responded quickly to the early scare, as both Brendan Hamill and Ben Folami were handed gilt-edged opportunities to give their side an early lead, but both players failed to convert.
It did not take long though for Victory to put away one of their early chances.
In the 14th minute Nick D’Agostino showcased his blistering pace and elite skills to bypass several Sydney defenders and fire a wonderful strike into the roof of the net, opening the scoring for Victory.
However, Sydney drew the game level just two minutes later when Adam Le Fondre unleashed a sublime left-footed finish on the edge of the box from a tight angle.
The game showed no signs of slowing down as the half progressed, with both sides continuing to play at a high tempo throughout.
Victory found themselves appealing for a red card just before the half-hour mark following a potential last-defender challenge from Paulo Retre, although the appeals went unheeded by referee Alex King.
The subsequent free-kick though allowed Victory to take back the lead.
Brimmer continued his red-hot form with a delightful free-kick lifted expertly over the Sky Blues’ defensive wall. Three goals in four games for Brimmer means he is perhaps the form player in the competition heading into finals.
Victory’s midfield maestro was involved yet again as Victory scored their third, delivering a pin-point corner for Jason Geria to head home in the 38th minute.
Geria’s goal meant Victory ended a breathless first half of football with a commanding 3-1 lead.
The second half was a far less open affair, with Tony Popovic opting for a more conservative game style to capitalise on the lead his side had built.
Sydney struggled to generate chances against their more defensive opposition, whilst Victory continued to threaten on the counter with the pace of D’Agostino, Folami and Marco Rojas.
Victory added the icing on the cake when Hamill made amends for his earlier miss by heading home Victory’s fourth following a corner.
The win means Victory have moved top of the A-League Men’s table with just days remaining in the regular season, although whether that will be enough to secure the premiership will be determined over the next 48 hours.
What they said – Nick D’Agostino
On the game…
“We knew we needed to win to be top of the table after this game. Obviously it is up to other results now but it was a top performance tonight and I’m glad to have finally reached double figures (in goals this season).”
On his goal…
“I don’t know where it came from to be honest. It’s probably the best goal I’ve scored so far. But I know I’m capable of it and it fell nicely for me.”
On the team’s form…
“We’re feeling top. We said a few weeks ago that it’s crunch time and now we’re playing unbelievably well. We just have to keep going and work hard.”
Player in focus
Brimmer scored and assisted in what was another electric performance from midfield. In many ways the glue that holds Victory’s attacking moves together, Brimmer will surely play a pivotal role in his side’s finals campaign.
Over to you, Melbourne City and Western United. Victory have done their job by securing the three points which lifts them to the top of the table, but the fate of the premiership depends on how the other Victorian teams perform over the next 48 hours. Should both fail to win, Victory will be premiers.
Isuzu UTE A-League 2021/22 Round 27
Sydney FC: 1 (Le Fondre 16’)
Melbourne Victory: 4 (D’Agostino 14’, Brimmer 30’, Geria 38’, Hamill 87’)
Sydney FC: Redmayne (gk), Grant, Donachie (Warland 70’), Wilkinson (c), Talbot, Retre (Amini 56’), Yazbek, Caceres, Barbarouses (Kamsoba 56’), Le Fondre (Segecic 85’), Buhagiar (Bobo 70’).
Melbourne Victory: Kelava (gk), Geria, Hamill, Miranda, Davidson (Nigro 90+2’), Brillante (c), Marchan, Brimmer (Broxham 75’), Rojas (Velupillay 90+2’), D’Agostino (Margiotta 86’), Folami (Ikonomidis 75’).
Yellow cards: Retre 28’, Marchan 68’, Yazbek 77’
Red cards: Nil
Venue: Netstrata Jubilee Stadium
Victory’s next match will be a final, but when and against whom remains to be seen. A third-place finish will mean Victory play the sixth-placed team next Saturday at AAMI Park. Alternatively, a top-two finish will see Victory enjoy a week off to prepare for their two-legged semi-final later in the month.