Victory take tough point


Debutant keeper Ante Covic was the hero as Melbourne Victory opened the club’s new era with an entertaining 0-0 draw against Sydney FC at Etihad Stadium.

Debutant keeper Ante Covic was the hero as Melbourne Victory opened the club’s new era with an entertaining 0-0 draw against Sydney FC at Etihad Stadium.

Covic, who only signed for the club on Tuesday as cover for the injured Tando Velaphi, saved a penalty in the first half and produced a run of outstanding saves throughout the match, with his efforts overshadowing the debut Hyundai A-League performances of Socceroos pair Harry Kewell and Brett Emerton.

In front of a crowd of 40,351, Kewell played the entire 90 minutes and set up several promising Melbourne attacks, as well as having a couple of chances to score but there was to be no fairytale.

Another Melbourne debutant shone brighter – young Kiwi winger Marco Rojas, who mesmerised both the crowd and the Sydney defence with his deft footwork. He set up several excellent chances late in the game, but his team-mates were unable to finish them off.

Sydney finished the game with just 10 men after Mark Bridge was sent off in the 73rd minute of a tense game for an elbow on Melbourne defender Rody Vargas.

It was a spectacular but remarkably also a scoreless first half as both keepers had terrific starts to the game.

Covic was called on inside the first two minutes to stop a Shannon Cole shot, while two minutes later Liam Reddy dived at the feet of an advancing Danny Allsopp to snuff out a Melbourne chance.

Kewell was having a strong start to the game and he set up Allsopp again soon after only for the striker to scuff his shot.

After a shaky start, both defences settled, with Rojas ending a long period without goal-mouth action with a shot that bit the side netting on 20 minutes.

It was Bridge who spurred Sydney back into life and after he forced a hurried block from Covic on 30 minutes, he won a penalty after a clumsy challenge by Brazilian defender Fabio.

Emerton stepped up for the penalty, but Covic read it brilliantly, diving sharply to his left to keep the ball out, much to the delight of both Fabio and the Victory fans.

Bridge was again on hand to test the keeper a few minutes later, with a curling drive well kept out by the former Elfsborg stopper.

Victory had the best two chances late in the half, with Archie Thompson pushing a good chance wide before a Kewell header from a Rojas cross was well stopped by Reddy.

Kewell had a greater influence in the second half, and on 56 minutes tested Reddy with a long shot, while 10 minutes later went millimetres over with a well-hit long effort.

The match was heating up and a collision between Michael Beauchamp and Thompson led to both seeking treatment.

It then exploded after Melbourne won a free kick and Sydney’s players repeatedly encroached around the ball. Bridge and Vargas got in a tangle resulting in the Victory defender going down and then a game of push and shove broke out among most of the players. Two further players, Adrian Leijer and Reddy, received yellow cards for the melee.

The late entrance of Jean Carlos Solorzano saw Melbourne dominate the closing stages. The Costa Rican combined beautifully with Rojas, who was brilliant in the final 10 minutes, but Reddy was repeatedly on hand to defy them.

Melbourne Victory 0
Sydney FC 0
Crowd: 40,351 at Etihad Stadium