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Dec 16, 2012   |  12:37AM AET

Victory held by Roar

Victory held by Roar

Mark Milligan’s driven strike has helped earn Melbourne Victory a point in a 1-1 draw against Brisbane Roar after a lively performance at AAMI Park on Saturday night.

Mark Milligan’s driven strike has helped earn Melbourne Victory a point in a 1-1 draw against Brisbane Roar after a lively performance at AAMI Park on Saturday night.

Ben Halloran fired the Roar into the lead in a first half Victory dominated, but Milligan confidently strode forward and netted an unstoppable strike four minutes after half-time to earn Victory a point.

Archie Thompson and Gui Finkler both had genuine chances to pick up all three points for the home side late on but Brisbane did enough to hang on.

The draw leaves Victory nine points adrift of runaway leaders the Central Coast Mariners and five behind second-placed Adelaide United.

Victory coach Ange Postecoglou handed 18-year-old Nick Ansell his Hyundai A-League debut alongside Adrian Leijer in the heart of defence, the fifth player tried in the position in 11 games.

Left-back Adama Traore returned from injury and Socceroos pair Thompson and Milligan were back in a strengthened side from the one that lost 4-2 to Adelaide United.

Looking to atone for the 5-0 drubbing Brisbane dished out on Postecoglou’s return to Suncorp Stadium in October, Victory started the match full of impetus and flair.

From Marco Rojas’ daring dribble along the touchline in the opening minutes, the home side were asking all the early questions and went close to opening the scoring with Thompson’s diving low header and Finkler’s follow-up shot.

Brisbane looked worryingly unconvincing in possession and were almost routinely forced into playing aimless through balls in a hopeful bid to break the offside trap.

Up the other end, Marcos Flores released Rojas and the confident New Zealander saw his low drive turned past the post by Roar goalkeeper Michael Theo.

Just minutes later Rojas turned provider for Flores, whose left-footed effort was nearly touched in by a diving Thompson.

On 20 minutes, Traore ventured forward and curled a sublime delivery in behind the defence to Rojas, but Theo stood firm to block the shot.

Traore darted back to continue his duel with former Gold Coast team-mate Halloran, who was virtually invisible until he bobbed up for the opening goal.

Diogo Ferreira failed to clear a looping header, allowing Halloran to smash the ball into the top left corner.

The goal, entirely against the run of play, seemed to stun the home side and wore on an increasingly frustrated crowd, who felt their dominance was deserving of at least one goal.

The second half had barely started when Mitch Nichols almost put the Roar up 2-0 with his neat one-two ending in a rather tame volley at Victory ‘keeper Nathan Coe from close range.

Victory finally made their pressure pay four minutes after the break with Milligan’s rasping strike arrowing into the top corner past a helpless Theo.

Playing in the holding midfield role, Milligan was rewarded for his enterprising dash forward and picked up Finkler’s pass at full stride before unleashing an unstoppable shot from outside the area.

Moments later Finkler again teed up Milligan, who tried with a curling left-foot strike but was thwarted expertly by Theo.

The home side continued to look the more likely and were presented with two golden chances to win it.

Thompson went straight through on goal but dallied with a team-mate offering an option on the right and fell in a heap on the edge of the area.

He made up for it in the 74th minute with an inch-perfect cross for Finkler, who lost his marker with a stunning turn but could only fire his shot straight at Theo from close range when the ball was begging to be hammered home.

Flores made way for the dangerous Andrew Nabbout 19 minutes from time and the forward drew a fumbled save from Theo with a powerful long-range effort.

Finkler had a final chance to set up the winner from a free kick, but Theo did enough to punch the ball clear of danger.

Melbourne Victory 1 (Milligan 49)
Brisbane Roar 1 (Halloran 24)
Crowd: 17,128 @AAMI Park