Victory overcome Sydney in thriller

The Melbourne Victory has re-ignited its charge to the finals, coming from two goals down to defeat Sydney FC 3-2 in a fairytale result at Telstra Dome on Saturday night.

The Melbourne Victory has re-ignited its charge to the finals, coming from two goals down to defeat Sydney FC 3-2 in a fairytale result at Telstra Dome on Saturday night.

Returning home after several matches on the road, the Victory were caught out in an explosive opening by Sydney as Shannon Cole gave the sky blues the lead in the 32nd second, with Brendan Gan driving home from almost 30 metres out to double the lead three minutes later.

Despite the setbacks, the Victory hit back with purpose as they went about repairing the damage. Archie Thompson pulled one back in the 14th minute before Danny Allsopp missed a gilt-edged chance to level proceedings seven minutes before the break.

But Victory coach Ernie Merrick displayed the Midas touch in the second half, with both his substitutions, Nick Ward and Ney Fabiano scoring to give Melbourne a shock lead.

Ward fired home in the 71st minute while Fabiano slipped the ball in over Sydney stopper Ivan Necevski eight minutes later to send Sydney packing on another dark day for the sky blues.

The result takes Melbourne back into second on the Hyundai A-League table, while Sydney now finds itself in sixth, three points adrift of the top four and looking likely to miss the finals for the first time in competition history.

It was certainly a disappointing start for the Victory, though. There appeared little danger as Robbie Middleby squared the ball to Cole on the edge of the area, but given time and space, the sky blues’ deadball specialist curled it into the top right-hand corner for one of the fastest girls the competition’s seen.

It only got worse for Melbourne three minutes later as Sydney youngster Gan doubled the advantage.

Victory defender Sebastian Ryall could only get a slight touch on the ball as the visitors attacked with intent, but it fell sweetly for Alex Brosque to pass back to Gan, who slammed it home from 28 metres with the outside of his boot.

But having been on the road for five of the last six matches, the Victory were determined to give a massive 25,398 home crowd something to savour, as they refused to be daunted by the visitor’s opening salvo.

In the 14th minute a chipped free kick from Carlos Hernandez landed sweetly for an unmarked Thompson as Sydney’s defence attempted to spring the offside trap, allowing the star striker space to swivel and fire home past Ivan Necevski.

The sky blues almost recovered their advantage four minutes later as Victory goalkeeper Michael Theoklitos showed exceptional awareness, diving to smother an effort from Brosque, but that was about as good as it got for the Sydneysiders as Melbourne dominated the rest of the half.

In the 21st minute, Hernandez’s free kick was tipped over by Necevski, with the ‘keeper producing several inspired saves to keep his side in the match as Melbourne laid siege to the Sydney goal through a series of corners.

One of those corners saw Necevski make a great reaction save to palm away Rody Vargas’s glancing header at the far post, Gan doing well to block the defender’s follow-up effort.

The Victory produced some sensational passing to expose Sydney’s defence on the half hour but Thompson could only chip the ball onto the roof of the net before a diving Necevski thwarted the striker again a minute later, palming his snap shot around the post.

Seven minutes before the break, the Victory produced their best chance to level when Muscat, moved into central midfield for this match, chipped the ball to release Allsopp. But one-on-one with Necevski, Allsopp could only send his powerful drive wide of the upright.

Melbourne continued to press after the break as Tom Pondeljak saw his cross deflected onto the post by the Sydney defence, although the Victory were fortunate not to concede again on the hour when Brosque had the chance to pick his spot from ten metres out but blazed high and wide.

The miss came back to haunt the visitors 11 minutes later when Ward delivered just seconds after coming on for the lively Evan Berger.

The Victory caught Sydney’s defence napping after an injury delay and Ward fired home a brilliant angled drive that flew into the top right-hand corner of Necevski’s net.

Sydney striker John Aloisi was then brought on to give the sky blues extra firepower but the best chance the visitors had to take the lead once more fell to Brosque in the 73rd minute, but his weak effort under pressure was palmed clear by Theoklitos.

Once again, the Victory took their opportunity as another second-half substitute, Fabiano on for Billy Celeski, prodded home to give the Victory the lead 11 minutes from time.

It was a brilliant team goal from the home side, though as Thompson looked to run into the area from the right. Finding himself blocked, the striker passed back to Muscat, whose lofted ball to the far post was met by a glancing Allsopp header that Fabiano slipped home, ricocheting the ball off a desperate Necevski.

Melbourne Victory 3 (Thompson 14, Ward 71, Fabiano 79)
Sydney FC 2 (Cole 1, Gan 4)
Crowd 25,398 at the Telstra Dome, Melbourne