Melbourne Victory secured a thrilling come-from-behind win against Whittlesea Ranges following a late flurry of goals in the NPLM 3.
Head Coach Joe Palatsides made several changes with Jay Barnett moved to the centre-back position, Adem Duratovic brought in to lead the line and Luka Prso making his return off the bench following a two-week injury layoff.
Victory headed into the game desperate to bounce back following last week’s disappointing 4-2 loss to Nunawading City.
Nishan Velupillay and Lleyton Brooks got Victory off to a bright start with several dangerous runs down the wings.
Whittlesea withstood the early onslaught, clearly focused on surviving the early exchanges unscathed.
The game took a dramatic turn just over 20 minutes in though, when Whittlesea had a player sent off following a fiery incident in the middle of the park.
The early red card placed Victory in prime position to dominate the contest and collect a crucial three points.
Whittlesea though continued to offer a staunch resistance, making the contest highly physical and constantly disrupting Victory’s rhythm.
Neither side could find a breakthrough in the first half with the score level at 0-0 at half-time.
The second half brought even more drama than the first.
The first 20 minutes were controlled by Victory, with the best chances falling to Brooks and Duratovic.
However, it was not until just before the 70th minute that the drama truly escalated.
Victory goalkeeper Marko Bulic became the second player sent off after giving the ball away and committing a foul in his own area.
The subsequent penalty though was not converted, with the shot firing off the post.
Whittlesea didn’t take long to make amends, winning the ball back in their forward half and scoring the opener following a cross into the area.
The tide was turning against Victory, who needed someone to stand up and drag them back into the contest.
That individual was Will Wilson, who scored the equaliser just minutes later with a composed finish following a corner.
A much needed reprieve, but Victory were desperate for all three points.
A strong spell of Victory possession and territory dominance followed the equaliser, leading to a free-kick opportunity from a dangerous position.
Birkan Kirdar was tasked with taking the opportunity, and take the opportunity he did.
An absolute thunderbolt of a free-kick was drilled into the top corner, giving Victory the lead with under 10 minutes left to play.
Whittlesea were forced to throw numbers forward following the goal, which left plenty of space in behind their defence.
Victory made the most of the space with another counter-attack in the final minute eventually falling to the feet of substitute James Paneras who made the score 3-1.
A dramatic contest which was decided by several late goals has ensured Victory return to the winner’s circle and remain well positioned in the promotion race.
Head coach Joe Palatsides’ post-match thoughts
On the performance…
“We definitely weren’t at our best and I think all of the boys know that. We were lacking a bit of connection between the team in many areas of the game and we tried to address that at half-time. We obviously had the advantage of playing against ten men but I think we just held the ball without penetrating which we wanted to change at half-time. Second half was a better performance but it still wasn’t the level we know these boys can play.”
On the team’s recent strong finishes to games…
“It is a positive, although the area of concern is why we don’t perform at that level for the entire 90 minutes. Today we probably started better than than last week, but we still didn’t perform to the expected level.”
On Kirdar’s stunning free-kick
“Birkan under pressure put it in the top corner to help the team get over the line. I thought Birkan showed a lot of fight especially in the second half and he helped lift the team to a win. Credit to him for that and a great free-kick which is an execution of a really tough skill, so he did really well.”
Victory face Melbourne City next Saturday 11 June at 3.00pm AEST at Epping Stadium.
NPLM 3 Victoria 2022 Round 12
Whittlesea Ranges 1 (Nardella 70′)
Melbourne Victory 3 (Wilson 74′, Kirdar 82′, Paneras 95′)
Melbourne Victory U23s starting XI: Marko Bulic (gk), Zaydan Bello (c), Jay Barnett, Ryan Lethlean, Franco Lino, Anthony Leban, Birkan Kirdar, Will Wilson, Lleyton Brooks, Nishan Velupillay, Adem Duratovic
Victory secured an impressive 8-3 win over Whittlesea in a high-scoring contest.