Victory held to draw in Big Blue


The Melbourne Victory were held to a 1-1 draw away to fierce rivals Sydney FC in a thrilling Hyundai A-League encounter on Saturday.

The Melbourne Victory were held to a 1-1 draw away to fierce rivals Sydney FC in a thrilling Hyundai A-League encounter on Saturday.

Mark Milligan put the Victory ahead in the third minute of the ‘Big Blue’ showdown at Allianz Stadium.

And Ange Postecoglou’s men had several chances to put the match to bed in the second half, but had to settle for a point following Yairo Yau’s late equaliser.

The result leaves the Victory third on the ladder, four points back from second-placed Central Coast Mariners, who are at home to Brisbane on Sunday.

The Victory got off to an ideal start, Milligan finding the back of the net with one of the first chances of the contest.

Striker Archie Thompson put young forward Connor Pain into space, and the teenager delivered a left-footed cross to the back post.

Milligan arrived first, hitting a one-touch strike on target that Sydney goalkeeper Ivan Necevski couldn’t keep out.

Sydney carved out their first chance in the ninth minute, when some dazzle from Alessandro Del Piero created an opportunity for Terry Antonis, but his header was comfortable collected by Victory custodian Nathan Coe.

Pain then had the Sydney defence scrambling when he chased down a high, long ball from Thompson, but he couldn’t quite find the final touch needed while running at full speed.

The half-cleared ball then fell to Spase Dilevski, who fired a speculative shot over the bar, but Pain’s work through in defence was positive enough for Postecoglou’s men.

Coe was then adjudged to have handled outside the area in the 16th minute, but Del Piero couldn’t keep the resultant free-kick down.

Thompson and Pain were at their brilliant best again moments later. A one-two started by the experienced Qantas Socceroos striker saw him put a shot on target, only for the Sydney defence to block for a corner.

Del Piero had a second chance on goal from a dead-ball situation, but he sprayed it worse than his initial effort in some rare signs of wastefulness from the Italian.

Pain then almost got in on the scoring himself, as he got in behind the final defender on another long ball, and even had Necevski out of the picture after he nudged past the shot-stopper.

But the youngster was out wide on the right, and couldn’t split the acute angle for the empty net, and the chance was wasted.

The Victory endured some early second-half pressure from Sydney, with Del Piero having several set-piece chances – one free-kick and multiple corners – only for them to amount to little.

Thompson then created a gilt-edged chance for Rojas on 57 minutes, with the Kiwi meeting the well-weighted through-ball as he hit his first-touch finish straight at the on-rushing Necevski.

Coe was then called upon to save an Antonis effort from range, which was parried around the bar.

Antonis earned the Sky Blues a penalty on the hour mark, as an attempted Victory clearance was deemed a handball by referee Strebre Delovski.

But Del Piero was denied by a desperate Coe, who lunged to his right to keep out the well-hit spot kick.

The Italian superstar was in behind the Victory defence again minutes later, but a desperate lunging tackle from Leigh Broxham denied him inside the area.

Thompson tried curling one into the bottom-right corner from distance on 73 minutes, but Necevski got across to parry it away, before Rojas then narrowly failed to secure the points when he was one-on-one with the Sky Blues keeper.

It looked like Victory were on track for maximum points, but Sydney’s late pressure eventually paid dividends.

In the 85th minute, Rhyan Grant flicked on a Del Piero corner, and substitute Yau was on hand to nod the ball home, ensuring the spoils were shared in the Harbour City.