Nishan Velupillay’s 94th-minute goal gave Melbourne Victory a 1-0 win over the Central Coast Mariners in the Isuzu UTE A-League on Saturday.
Velupillay came off the bench and produced a stunning cameo at AAMI Park, capped off by his late winner.
The goal was reward for Victory’s strong finish as it ended a three-game losing run.Victory had the better chances of what was an otherwise tight opening 45 minutes.
Jake Brimmer saw a corner headed onto the roof of the net and Marco Rojas curled over in the 25th minute.
Brimmer had a goal ruled out for offside following good work from the lively Ben Folami down the left before also seeing a free-kick saved by Mariners goalkeeper Mark Birighitti.
The cagey encounter continued to begin the second half before Victory went close in the 62nd minute.
A goalscorer in the Australia Cup Final win over the Mariners earlier this month, Jason Davidson sent another dead ball just wide with Birighitti scrambling to make his ground.
Another chance fell to Chris Ikonomidis immediately after his introduction, but the forward’s strike was blocked in the area.
Victory goalkeeper Ivan Kelava was forced into his first save in the 74th minute, comfortably holding a Nicolai Muller shot.
The best chance of the game appeared to fall to Francesco Margiotta in the 86th minute.
Velupillay did superbly with a driving run through the middle before playing a pass to the Italian, who fired wide in a one-on-one with Birighitti.
Victory pushed hard late and Ikonomidis saw an effort flash across the face before the 94th-minute winner.
Ikonomidis’ cross from the left was met at the back post by Velupillay, who headed in a dramatic late winner.
What they said – Velupillay
on instructions from Head Coach Tony Popovic…
“Just basically that – give energy, play with freedom, forward runs, everything that’s part of my game and he gives me the confidence to do that and thank God we got the win tonight.”
on whether this winner was better than the one against Adelaide…
“Probably this one because of the home fans. The atmosphere is still electric and it was good to get the win because we needed it after a bit of a rocky period so hopefully we can push on from here.”
Player in focus
Who else but Velupillay? The attacker scored the winner but was the star of the show even before that, bringing Victory to life after coming on in the 81st minute.
Back to winning ways, Victory is sixth on a congested top half of the table.
Isuzu UTE A-League 2021/22 Round 15
Melbourne Victory 1 (Nishan Velupillay 90+4′)
Central Coast Mariners 0
Melbourne Victory: Kelava (gk); Nigro, Spiranovic (Kirdar 45+1′), Roderick, Davidson; Broxham, Brillante (c); Rojas (Velupillay 81′), Brimmer (Kruse 81′), Folami (Ikonomidis 67′); D’Agostino (Margiotta 67′).
Central Coast Mariners: Birighitti (gk); Miller, Hall, Rowles, Farrell; Goddard (Muller 69′), Steele (Balard 54′), Bozanic (c) (Tongyik 90+2′), Nisbet; Urena, Cummings (Moresche 90+2′).
Yellow cards: Farrell 52′, Broxham 73′, Davidson 89′
Red cards: Nil
Venue: AAMI Park
Victory is back in action with a trip to Brisbane to face the Roar on Friday.