Melbourne Victory secured a gritty 2-0 win away to Geelong SC on Saturday night, despite playing the second half with just nine players.
Victory made 5 changes to the starting lineup from the game against North Sunshine Eagles two weeks ago. Adem Duratovic, Birkan Kirdar, Matthew Bozinovski, Linus Bourke and goalkeeper Ahmad Taleb all came into the side.
The game was fiercely contested from the start, with several strong challenges in the opening minutes setting the tone for a high intensity affair.
Victory were dealt a very early setback though, as just over 10 minutes into the game Will Wilson was sent off.
The talented midfielder made a late challenge which initially earned him a yellow card, however, consultation between the referees led the card to be upgraded to red.
A major blow for Victory so early in the game, but the visitors responded admirably with a series of strong attacking moves.
Adem Duratovic forced the goalkeeper into a close-range save, before the subsequent corner was headed marginally wide of the post.
Duratovic though would not waste his next opportunity, scoring the opener just a few minutes later with an expertly taken header.
Duratovic’s ninth goal of the season was a crucial one for Victory, who now had a lead to defend with their 10 players.
The remainder of the half was an entertaining affair, with both sides having chances to find the back of the net.
The challenge for Victory would become even greater just before the break though, as Birkan Kirdar was shown a second yellow card.
Now down to nine players, Victory had set themselves up for a night requiring plenty of defensive work.
Victory were able to see out the remainder of the first half, talking their 1-0 lead into the sheds.
The visitors came out for the second half with a more defensive game plan to compensate for the red cards.
Kayne Razmovski was brought on for goalscorer Duratovic as Joe Palatsides’ side prepared to repel Geelong’s attacks for the remaining 45 minutes.
Victory’s second half performance showcased their adaptability as they executed a very strong defensive display.
Geelong struggled to create clear-cut chances and were becoming increasingly desperate as the half progressed, opening up opportunities for the likes of Patrick Hogan to threaten on the counter-attack.
Victory’s excitement was building as they edged closer to a supremely impressive win on the road.
The strong defensive showing was eventually rewarded on the counter-attack, as Alex Menelaou went on a memorable run from inside his own half to score Victory’s second and seal the three points.
A moment of magic from Menelaou, who won the ball back himself before running the majority of the length of the pitch, rounding the keeper and finishing with great composure.
One of the most impressive wins of Victory’s season and a much needed return to the winners’ list.
The result guarantees a play-off spot for Victory and places them in prime position for a third-place finish with just one regular season game remaining.
Head Coach Joe Palatsides’ post-match thoughts…
On the performance…
“I said to the players after the game that there are certain games that define teams, players, football clubs. We know what Melbourne Victory stands for as a football club…I think today the boys showed a different area of quality that we all want our footballers to achieve. In the face of adversity and difficult times, the resilience, work ethic and those cultural aspects, I think the boys displayed them all unbelievably well today.”
On Alex Menelaou’s goal…
“To be honest I was concerned for Alex and Franco Lino who had just come back from the Under-20s Socceroos talent ID camp. I didn’t know how long they would last. But I thought both were fantastic, and to see Alex have that composure in the 88th minute I thought was unbelievably good.”
On the upcoming final weeks of the season…
“We are in a good position. We just have to make sure we don’t sit on a win like this and say the job is done, because it’s not. We still have two more weeks. We want to finish the season on a high because we want to get promoted, we expect to get promoted, and the players are focused on getting that job done.”
Victory’s final regular season game is back at Epping Stadium to welcome Nunawading City on Saturday 20th August at 3:00pm.
NPLM 3 Victoria 2022 Round 21
Geelong SC 0
Melbourne Victory 2 (Duratovic 18′, Menelaou 88′)
Melbourne Victory U23s starting XI: Ahmad Taleb (gk), Linus Bourke, Matthew Bozinovski, Ryan Lethlean, Franco Lino, Alexander Menelaou, Birkan Kirdar, Will Wilson, Binyam Kebede, Patrick Hogan, Adem Duratovic
The Victory machine did not stop having secured the league title in their most recent fixture, winning 7-0 against Geelong earlier in the afternoon.