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Victory off to a flying start

The highly anticipated start to season ten began in spectacular fashion, with the Asian Champions League Grand Finalists Western Sydney Wanderers falling to the might of Melbourne Victory in a 5 goal thriller at Etihad Stadium.

With the Wanderers missing Topor-Stanley and Spiranovic in defence, the inexperienced partnership of Brendan Hamill and Anthony Golec struggled to hold Victory’s lethal attack, ultimately conceding 4 goals – 3 of which were scored in the first 30 minutes of the match.

Melbourne Victory began the more passionate and hungry of the two sides, with Kosta Barbarouses constantly providing on the right wing, and Berisha always getting into useful positions.

And in just the seventh minute, two of Victory’s visa players combined from a set piece for the first goal. Gui Finkler swung in the perfect cross for new signing Delpierre, who was unmarked in the box and easily tapped the ball in from close range.

Minutes later the Wanderers had a penalty call when Santalab went down in the box, though referee Jarred Gillett dismissed the cries of the strong Wanderers contingent.

Despite a shift of momentum favouring the Wanderers, Melbourne went 2-0 up after just 19 minutes when Golec handled the ball inside the box; this time Gillett getting the penalty decision correct.

Berisha stepped up calmly and professionally slotted his first Victory A-League goal in, giving Melbourne a comprehensive lead.

Barbarouses continued to menace Shannon Cole on the wing, and time and time again got in behind the Wanderers defence, which was uncharacteristically easy to get around. With neat footwork and a classy turn of pace, the Kiwi international managed a shot from the wing in the 29th minute, which Ante Covic palmed into the direction of Leigh Broxham, who then slammed the ball home from just inside the box.

3-0 down after just half an hour, and the Wanderers finally began to play like we knew they could.

La Rocca and Poljak were still underperforming, but they managed to hold possession much better, and work the ball up the park.

In the 41st minute, Mark Bridge capitalised on a rare defensive error by Leijer, and with Santalab providing a clever ball over the top, the make-shift captain struck from just inside the box to pull the scoreline back to 3-1 just before the break.

Popovic then made two substitutions at half time – La Rocca and Appiah off for Trifiro and Saba – and the Wanderers came out with more determination than the first half. Saba provided an attacking outlet that was previously missing, though he himself wasn’t enough to turn the game around, especially with the Victory defence performing so well.

Jason Geria showcased himself once again as an attacking full-back, though always made sure his defensive duties came first.

In the 53rd minute Archie Thompson struck with an assist to Berisha, who had been gifted possession in a dangerous area after Anthony Golec rather cheaply gave the ball away. Berisha then slid the ball through to Thompson, directing him in on goal and on the scoresheet this season.

The game wore on, both teams pressing and looking for goals, but neither could find any more. Victory lost a certain dimension when Thompson, Barbarouses and Georgievski were taken off, and the Wanderers could never find a real attacking threat, despite Castelen coming on for Santalab, and showcasing some clever feet on the wing.

Nevertheless, a fantastic match to begin the most exciting season of A-League football yet. 4-1 the final score to Melbourne Victory, and a deserved lead to a team that is rightfully a favourite for silverware.

About the author

avatarJames is a devout Melbourne Victory fan and a UQ Journalism student, writing for Ultimate A-League.

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