Melbourne Victory made a winning start to the NPL 3 Victoria season, beating the Springvale White Eagles 2-1 on Friday.
Victory dominated the first half at City Vista Recreation Reserve, taking the lead through a Ryan Lethlean goal and Jack Morton penalty.
While Springvale improved after the break, it could only find a Nashir Hussainy free-kick to get one back before Nenad Nikolic was sent off as Victory secured three points.
Victory made a bright start and Aisen Ishak headed an early Gianluca Iannucci corner wide before the latter tested Springvale goalkeeper George Tzamouranis twice from distance.
Lethlean went close to opening the scoring in the 15th minute, denied from close range by Tzamouranis after a cross from Lleyton Brooks.
Victory goalkeeper Marko Bulic was also forced into a save two minutes later, tipping over a Brady Quinn effort, before Lethlean was thwarted in a one-on-one after being played in by Iannucci.
However, Victory was rewarded for a strong first half with two goals before the break.
Iannucci played in Brooks to cross for Lethlean to tap in the opener and make it 1-0 in the 41st minute.
And a second goal followed, Morton converting from the penalty spot after Lethlean was brought down following a fine pass from the excellent Edmond Lupancu.
Brooks forced a good stop from Tzamouranis from an angle shortly after the interval before the attacker’s cross was volleyed just wide by Lethlean moments later.
Victory continued to create chances and Lethlean headed a Lupancu cross onto the roof of the net in the 57th minute.
As Springvale started to build into the game, Brooks headed an Iannucci delivery into the side-netting for Victory with 20 minutes remaining.
The White Eagles pulled a goal back through Hussainy, who produced an excellent 30-yard free-kick, while Nikolic was sent off straight after, and Victory managed to control the final stages.
General Manager – Football Drew Sherman’s post-match thoughts
“This evening’s game was a solid start to our season, with a number of players getting their first exposure to senior competitive football and acquitting themselves really well. I thought it was a professional performance overall, where we created a number of excellent opportunities in transition in the first half and were perhaps somewhat unfortunate to be just 2-0 up coming in at the interval.
“Second half, in fairness to them I thought Springvale came at us and they had some dangerous individuals who created some half-chances but by and large, we managed the game effectively to limit the transition moments and their pace on the counter. There were again probably moments in that half where we needed to be more clinical and find the third goal that would have put the game to bed and of course it was then disappointing to give up our clean sheet with five minutes remaining.
“Having said that, it was then a great learning moment to hold on with six minutes of injury time and the opposition hunting for an equaliser, and I felt the boys did fantastically well to just control possession in the final stages of the game and secure a hard-earned victory.”
NPL 3 Victoria 2021 Round 1
Springvale White Eagles 1 (Nashir Hussainy 85′)
Melbourne Victory U21s 2 (Ryan Lethean 41′, Jack Morton 45+1′ pen)
Melbourne Victory: Marko Bulic (gk); Edmond Lupancu, Steven Havales, Matthew Bozinovski (c), Aisen Ishak (Thomas Lambiris); Luca Da Silva, Jack Morton, Brandon Lauton; Lleyton Brooks, Ryan Lethlean (Joshua Varga), Gianluca Iannucci (Darcy Anastovski).
Victory’s Under-19s side started their campaign in the Under-21s competition with a 6-1 win over Springvale.