Ricardinho fires Victory win

A 90th-minute goal from substitute Ricardinho has seen Melbourne Victory come away with a crucial 2-1 win at AAMI Park on Monday night.

A 90th-minute goal from substitute Ricardinho has seen Melbourne Victory come away with a crucial 2-1 win at AAMI Park on Monday night.

The game looked headed for a 1-1 draw before a piece of magic from striker Robbie Kruse unlocked the Newcastle defence for Ricardinho to tap home and hand Victory their third-straight win.

Kruse twisted and turned past three defenders before sliding a perfect ball across the box for Ricardinho to side foot home after a quality Ruben Zadkovich 54th-minute goal had cancelled out Carlos Hernandez’s sublime strike in the first half.

Victory were very fortunate to find the opening goal through Hernandez on 20 minutes with the Jets dominating much of the opening half.

Hernandez’s 35-metre rocket beat Jet’s keeper Ben Kennedy and despite Newcastle managing five shots on target to one in the first half they couldn’t unlock Melbourne’s defence.

Soon after the break, however, Zadkovich did his best to better Hernandez’s shot with a moment of brilliance from outside the box. His sweetly timed volley got the Jets back on level terms, but in the end it wasn’t enough.

The win sees Victory climb two points ahead of local rivals Melbourne Heart into fifth, with two games in hand, while the Jets remain in seventh but with a further game in hand over the Victory.

Before the game, the returning Danny Alssopp strode the touchline after re-signing on a 27-month deal for Victory last week. Unfortunately for Melbourne he wasn’t one of the five changes to the line-up that beat Perth last start as he waits for the next transfer window.

Ernie Merrick was forced to reshuffle after injuries to Archie Thompson, Surat Sukha and Matthew Kemp along with a suspension for Grant Brebner. In their place came Mate Dugandzic, Tom Pondeljak, Billy Celeski and Leigh Broxham, while Rody Vargas also started.

Jets skipper Ljubo Milicevic started positively, sliding a lovely long ball to Tarek Elrich on the right. His little dinked ball found an unmarked Jobe Wheelhouse but his volley flashed just wide.

The Jets continued to press and looked the more likely, with Ali Abbas and Ruben Zadkovich getting plenty of glory down the flanks as Victory shaped up with a back three.

Francis Jeffers’ hoooked volley on the turn was followed shortly by Milicevic’s left-foot effort that Michael Petkovic could only just keep out. At that stage the visitors were on top.

Enter Hernandez. The Costa Rican showed why he was last season’s player of the year with a goal from all of 35 metres after turning two defenders in the middle of the park. His swerving low drive was too hot for Jets’ goalkeeper Ben Kennedy to handle who was beaten to his left despite getting a touch.

The goal came out of nothing but changed the complexion of the match as Victory took a fortuitous 1-0 lead into the break.

Following the re-start, the Jets continued to look for a deserved leveler and after Jeffers had a shot blocked in the box, he soon turned provider.

An innocuous long ball from Nikolai Topor-Stanley found Jeffers whose headed layoff fell into the path of Zadkovich.

In reply to Hernandez’s impressive strike, Zadkovich’s on 54 minutes was arguably even better. He set himself five metres outside the box and volleyed past a stranded Petkovic in goal and in truth, it was no less than Newcastle deserved.

Former Victory man Milicevic continued to cop plenty from the home faithful after a coming together with Kevin Muscat in the first half. Despite that, he was outstanding in the heart of Newcastle’s defence all game.

There were few chances late on for either side to steal the points with Robbie Kruse missing a golden opportunity with the goal gaping on 85 minutes.

But he more than made up for it with his trickery on the left bamboozling the Jets’ defence before he provided a simple tap in for substitute Ricardinho.

Victory next play the Central Coast in Gosford while Newcastle will have to regroup before they host Sydney FC in another M3 derby in a week’s time.

Melbourne Victory 2 (Hernandez 20, Ricardinho 90)
Newcastle Jets 1 (Zadkovich 54)
Crowd: 16,378 at AAMI Park, Melbourne