Melbourne Victory played out a 1-1 draw with Whittlesea Ranges to begin its NPL 3 Victoria campaign on Saturday.
Victory’s Under-23s worked hard for a point at Epping Stadium, where Binyam Kebede cancelled out Billy Romas’ fourth-minute opener.
But after goalkeeper Marko Bulic was sent off early in the second half, Victory was unable to find a winner despite looking the more likely to do so.
Whittlesea opened the scoring in the fourth minute, Romas’ strike from distance finding the corner.
Victory created some decent chances for an equaliser in the opening 15 minutes through William Wilson.
The midfielder volleyed wide at the back post before heading a James Paneras cross from the right over.
Victory would deservedly equalise through Kebede in the 18th minute.
Wilson’s cross from the right found the forward, who finished clinically into the bottom corner to level.
Victory almost went ahead just after the half-hour mark, Anthony Leban denied by a good save from Whittlesea goalkeeper Stefan Taleski after composed lead-up play.
Adem Duratovic was the next to go close, his cross from the left side of the area picked out of the top corner by a scrambling Taleski with five minutes left in the first half.
The game turned in the 52nd minute, Bulic sent off after handling a strike outside his area.
Despite its numerical disadvantage, Victory created a great chance in the 67th minute as Kebede was denied by Taleski following a pass from Wilson.
Victory looked the more likely to find a winner, but the spoils were shared at Epping Stadium.
Head Coach Joe Palatsides’ post-match thoughts
“I think when we discussed it with the boys even at half-time I thought we started off a bit slow in terms of conceding the early goal, maybe first-game nerves perhaps as well. I think that after that early goal we composed ourselves, we controlled the game and that’s what we want to do – we want to be able to have that ball, and keep it and then penetrate when the time is right. I thought from the perspective of keeping possession, we did well and I thought we managed to come back into the game, we equalised, I think we created a few more chances but we felt like we were in control. Obviously the red card changed the complexion of the game, in the hot conditions we needed to try and conserve some energy but at the same time keep doing the things that were successful in the first half and that was our press was very good and we tended to win the ball back so that didn’t happen as well as what we wanted to. I thought the boys’ effort for that second half, playing with 10 men in these pretty tiring conditions, I thought their effort was good and I suppose we’re walking away disappointed and that’s probably how far we’ve come where we have 10 men, we’ve drawn and we’ve come away pretty disappointed with the result.”
Victory started the Under-21s season with a 6-0 win over Whittlesea.