Melbourne Victory suffered their first defeat of the campaign on Saturday night, as Nunawading City came from behind to secure a 2-1 win.
Head coach Joe Palatsides made three changes to his starting XI, as Jordi Valadon and Jack Pope returned to the lineup whilst Kasey Bos made his first start for the season.
Victory came into the game in high spirits, having beaten North Sunshine Eagles in last week’s top of the table clash.
Saturday’s game took place at the neutral venue of Olympic Village, as Palatsides’ side came out firing and quickly asserted their control of the contest.
Adem Duratovic came as close as anyone in the first 20 minutes, with his free kick flying narrowly wide of the post.
His initial attempt would prove to be nothing more than a warm up, as ten minutes later he was given another chance from a dead ball situation, albeit from much further out.
Duratovic though was up to the task, executing a brilliant free kick from a significant distance which bounced off the underside of the crossbar and into the back of the net.
A deserved lead for Victory who had been the dominant team in the first 30 minutes.
Nunawading though quickly hit back, scrambling the ball over the line following a corner just a matter of minutes later.
The scores were still level when half-time arrived, with everything still to play for in the second 45.
Victory continued to create the majority of chances in the second half, peppering the Nunawading goal throughout.
The home team’s goalkeeper made several excellent saves, as the ball somehow stayed out of the net despite the barrage of attempts.
As the chances continued to accumulate, it began to seem like one of those nights where things simply would not fall Victory’s way.
However, a brutal twist in the final 10 minutes of the game saw the ball given away deep in the Victory half, with Nunawading charging into the box and drawing a penalty.
The spot kick was converted, handing the home side the lead.
Victory were unable to pull back level, as Nunawading held on to secure the 2-1 win.
Head Coach Joe Palatsides’ post-match thoughts
On the performance:
“It’s probably one of the few times where you lose a game, and you congratulate the boys for what they did.”
“I thought we completely dominated the game. We created plenty of chances.”
“I was disappointed for the boys considering the effort they put in.”
“If you’re not clinical on a day where you could have beaten the opponent by four or five goals, you can easily end up losing.”
“It was really great to see Tony Popovic come into the rooms after the game and congratulate the boys for the way they played.”
“Congratulations to Nunawading for their win, but it was disappointing from our perspective.”
On the takeaways from this kind of game:
“If we are ever going to lose a game of football, you want to lose with this type of performance.”
“We’ll have to accept it and just get better again for next time.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever said this kind of thing to my boys after a loss.”
“It’s part of our learning curve – we’ll get better again.”
On Adem Duratovic’s goal:
“It was a great free kick.”
“He deserves it too because he’s worked pretty hard throughout the year.”
“It wasn’t just Adem – plenty of the boys had shots on target.”
Victory return home to Epping Stadium next Sunday 14 May, hosting Geelong SC in a match that kicks off at 3:00pm AEST.
NPL3 Victoria 2023 Round 8
Nunawading City 2
Melbourne Victory 1 (Duratovic 30′)
Melbourne Victory U23s starting XI: Ahmad Taleb (GK), Josh Inserra, Ryan Lethlean (c), Kasey Bos, Alex Menelaou, Adem Duratovic, Jordi Valadon, Tim Atherinos, Austin Ganino, Jack Pope, Will Wilson