A slightly overcast Saturday afternoon at AAMI Park had the Melbourne Victory hosting the Wellington Phoenix in their last home fixture for the calendar year. Dubbed a “Very Victory Christmas” I was hoping for an early Christmas miracle with a win for the home side after once again giving up a lead last week to then lose to Western United. However, the rising from the ashes Phoenix who were unbeaten in their last four were not going to make it an easy afternoon for the Vuck.
Sure enough this was the case with Nix all over the Victory like a bad rash in the first few minutes of the game. There was a chance for Robbie Kruse in the 5th after being played in by Basha but DeVere managed to put him off with the ball rolling out for a goal kick.
A nifty link up in play in the box in the 14th by Nix’s Piscopo and Davila was finally cleared by the Victory and with each passing minute I was waiting for the visitors to hit the back of the net. I know, I try not to be too pessimistic but the Victory were definitely looking uncomfortable and there was little fluidity and spark in their build up.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Vuck just yet, when Stefan Marinovic pulled out a stunning save in the 17th to deny Toivonen’s shot. It was then time for the Nix to really put the home side on the back foot following a fever pitch wave of attacks first it was a Taylor header towards Piscopo who couldn’t keep his volley down in the 21st, then a Sotiro attempt after being played in from behind in the 23rd which was deflected for a corner and Lawrence Thomas needed to tip the ball over in the 24th but lucky for the Victory the ball had gone out of play.
Now most of us like the Nix, but it seems there was no love lost between Donachie and Steinmann in the 31st with both of them receiving a yellow for an altercation after Donachie dished out a late challenge. Kiki Dobras had a decent strike from 18 yards in the 45th but it hit the post in what was a great chance for the home side to gain the lead. With three minutes of stoppage time shown by the fourth official but neither side could find the back of the net and it was scoreless heading into the sheds.
In retrospect if you could name a half of football I would definitely have dubbed the second half “You get a card, and you get a card, everyone gets a card!”
Kiki Dobras started us off in the 48th minute receiving a yellow for a late challenge on Devlin. The 52nd saw DeVere jump up for a header which hit the crossbar and then bounced off the line. HOW that didn’t go in is beyond me (maybe that’s the Christmas miracle I had been hoping for?)
Then true to A-league form it was time for a bit of controversy…
Kiki Dobras was given his marching orders in the 60th and a straight red to match following a high boot on Devlin. Now, time for a quick disclaimer on initial view I thought it was reckless but he did get to the ball first. With the benefit for the 3-4 replays of the incident on the screens at AAMI Park AND on various social media platforms I am of the opinion that Dobras got to the ball, he was on his own and pretty damn unlucky that Devlin had started heading his way. At worst a yellow (which yes I am aware it would’ve been a second and sending off anyway) but a straight red? NO WAY.
The uproar from the home fans was intense, throw in cheeky comments by those sitting near me “he got hit in the chest why is he clutching his head” and you wouldn’t be wrong to think the Melbourne Derby had come early with the tension boiling on and off the pitch.
Back to the “cards for everybody” theme of the match it was Andrew Nabbout’s turn in the 73rd, Toivonen’s in the 76th, Broxham’s in the 80th and Poulsen’s in the 81st. Not to let Victory have all the fun in kicking the crap out of opposition and arguing with the referee, it was Sotirio’s turn to enter the book in the 74th for holding back Lesiotis.
In a second half of football that ended up being a contest to see how many cards could be given out in one match – quite a few it seems. It was easy to lose track of the football being played, the Nix were extremely unlucky not to score a couple and bag the three points on their trip across the ditch. They host Sydney FC next week in what will be a great match to watch indeed.
As for the Victory… I know… they’re my team, it was a draw and I should be supportive blah blah but it’s becoming difficult to support my team who seem to have lost every bit of creativity they once had. Don’t know what is happening over at Vuck HQ but something needs to change before we get an absolute beating in the Melbourne Derby next week.
By Jakie Manevski