Hyundai A-League - 2010/2011 - Season 6

Victory three in a row
By Alan Clark

2010/2011 Hyundai A-League - Round 20
6pm, Monday 27 December 2010 - Melbourne Football Stadium

Melbourne Victory FC 2
(Carlos Hernandez 20', Ricardinho 90'+3)
Newcastle United Jets FC 1
(Ruben Zadkovic 54')

(Photo linked from FFA site)

Melbourne Victory made its fans wait until added time for the winner against Newcastle Jets at the Melbourne Football Stadium on Monday evening after Jets looked to deserve at least a draw.

Carlos Hernandez put Victory ahead midway through a first half which looked to be going the Jets' way. His thunderbolt shot from 25 metres arrowed into the net low by the post.

Rueben Zadkovic levelled early in the second half with a cleverly worked goal which gave him a shooting chance from 18 metres.

And as both sides sought the two extra points on offer for the win which would boost their Finals chances, it was Victory substitute Ricardinho who sidefooted home from close-range after excellent set-up work from Robbie Kruse in the third minute of added time.

Melbourne can think itself fortunate to gain the win - its third in a row, such was Jets' claim for return on investment. Too many Victory players were shaded on the evening, illustrating Victory's thin ranks in the absence of injuries to Archie Thompson and Matthew Kemp, and ill-discipline of Grant Brebner.

Marvin Angulo, who had shown in previous games he'd come into reckoning as a fully-fledged member of the squad, was scarcely involved this game, too easily brushed off the ball as he'd been earlier in the year, and failing to make the passes and runs he needs to in order to be considered a key member of the squad.

As it was, Kruse, as influential as he's ever been in a Victory shirt, took the load on his own young shoulders, setting up the pass which was converted by Ricardinho to win the game, and paper over some of the Melbourne short-comings which surely won't be missed by its coaching staff.

Jets started the game strongly, and had created three decent opportunities by the quarter-hour as Melbourne took its time to get into game gear. Jobe Wheelhouse was only narrowly wide from Tarek Elrich's cross after the wing-back had found his way beyond the Melbourne defence, wide on the right.

Shortly after, Francis Jeffers took a sharp chance on the turn after chesting down Ali Abass's feed, creating space in a single move despite the marking attentions of Kevin Muscat.

And only minutes later, Jeffers again found space for a shot from just outside the penalty-area directly in front of goal after another effective cross from the right.

Ljubo Milicevic, roundly booed by a large section of the home support throughout the game in remembrance of his less than satisfactory departure from Victory ranks, also had an effective shot from distance Victory goalkeeper was grateful to grab low to his right after it came through a forest of players.

Milicevic tangled with Muscat not long after, requiring referee Matthew Breeze to intervene to separate these two old warriors, still harbouring grudges from their time together as team-mates.

But as just it seemed Jets had a stranglehold on the game, up popped Hernandez with a magical shimmy after Muscat's forward ball found him mid-pitch, and with Kasey Wehrman and Zadkovic closing. With ease, the Costa Rican slipped the double challenge, allowing him to race towards goal with only Milicevic in front of him. Now about 25 metres out, Hernandez drew back his foot and shot low into the net by the post, with Jets' goalkeeper Jason Kennedy unable to get a finger to it.

Victory being ahead after scarcely being in the contest was as stunning to the spectator as it was to the Jets' players.

Nikolai Topor-Stanley had been solid at the back, and had brushed aside what small incursions Melbourne had sought to launch. In addition, he had provided some good links whilst Jets had the ball.

Elrich had been effective down the Jets' right wing, stretching the Victory back three which hoped to defend more narrowly.

But the effort produced no dividend until ten minutes after the re-start. Topor-Stanley played a forward ball from the half-way line targeting Jeffers. The Englishman's headed nod-down fell for Zadkovic who shot truly beyond Michael Petkovic from outside the penalty-area, bringing the score into better balance with the direction of the game.

It wasn't pretty football from that point. Both sides are hoping to scramble into one of the two realistically remaining Finals spots, from which they'd seek to launch a campaign for honours, and neither are worried about how they get there. The midfield battle was uncompromising, turnovers and fractured football more frequently evident than of the flowing, cultured variety.

But the only passage of beauty resulted in the winner. Kruse had held possession at the outer edge of the penalty-area fending off the defensive attentions of substitute Marcello Fiorentini and Elrich, beating both twice as he danced his way inside from the bye-line, and cutting back a pass which Ricardinho could not have failed to convert even if he'd tried.

Kruse could be grateful this piece of match-winning brilliance overshadowed his putting the wrong side of the post a golden opportunity just a few minutes beforehand after set-up work by Adrian Leijer and Ricardinho. It seemed as if Melbourne's chances for the win had vanished at that point, but the large home support is practised at not giving up hope until both teams have disappeared down the tunnel.

2010/2011 Hyundai A-League - Round 20
6pm, Monday 27 December 2010 - Melbourne Football Stadium

Melbourne Victory FC 2
(Carlos Hernandez 20', Ricardinho 90'+3)

Newcastle United Jets FC 1
(Ruben Zadkovic 54')

    Crowd: 16,378


    Melbourne Victory FC :
    Player listing:
    (3-4-1-2) 1. Michael Petkovic (gk), 23 Adrian Leijer, 2. Kevin Muscat (c), 12. Rodrigo Vargas, 3. Mate Dugandzic (9. Ricardinho +77'), 14. Billy Celeski, 6. Leigh Broxham, 15. Tom Pondeljak, 11. Marvin Angulo (13. Diogo Ferreira +81'), 21. Robbie Kruse, 16. Carlos Hernandez (19. Evan Berger +90'+3)

    Substitutes not used: 20. Sebastian MATTEI (rgk)

    Coach: Ernie Merrick

    Yellow Cards: Nil
    Red Cards: Nil

    Newcastle Jets FC :
    Player listing:
    (4-3-2-1) 1. Ben Kennedy (gk), 11. Tarek Elrich, 5. Ljubo Milicevic, 4. Nikolai Topor-Stanley, 3. Adam D'Apuzzo, 5. Kasey Wehrman, 19. Ali Abbas (17. Marcello Fiorentina +76'), 12. Jobe Wheelhouse, 10. Ruben Zadkovic (14. Labinot Haliti +89'), 18. Marko Jesic, 24. Francis Jeffers

    Substitutes not used: 50. Jack Duncan (rgk), 13. Saso Petrovski

    Coach: Branko Culina

    Yellow Cards: Ljubo Milicevic 21'
    Red Cards: Nil

    Referee: Matthew Breeze
    AR1: James Nicolopoulos, AR2: Luke Brennan; Fourth Official: Kevin Dochert

    BOTN Player Points:
    3. Robbie Kruse (Melbourne Victory)
    2. Nikolai Topor-Stanley (Newcastle Jets)
    1. Carlos Hernandez (Melbourne Victory)

    Pitch rating: 8/10

    Game rating: 7/10

    Match Report and ratings: by Alan Clark

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