After a Saturday full of football, it was a late night kick-off (for those of us in the East anyway) as the Glory were hosting the Victory in what is always a tough fixture for any of the A-League clubs making the trip to Perth.
Popa decided it was time to manage Diego Castro who didn’t make the team sheet, Chris Ikonomidis was on the bench recovering from his knee injury last month and the in-form Olyroo Nick D’Agostino slotted into the starting XI.
The visitors were missing Hoogland, Kruse and Broxham but Kiwi Messi this time wearing the number 23 was on the bench ready to hopefully become a super-sub if the need arose.
Early into the first half it was Popa’s side with the momentum and confidence heading into the match with a seven unbeaten streak and it was Chianese who tested Thomas’ keeping skills first, in the 9th. Then it was D’Agostino in the 16th but luckily (for those of us supporting the Vuck) the curling shot was deflected for a corner.
I was mentally bracing for a 3-4 goal loss knowing the travelling can often take its toll on players and with coming off an away trip (and win) against Kashima Antlers on Tuesday I would’ve been happy with a solid performance regardless of the result.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom however, the Victory were looking more and more settled and were showing glimpses of the confident Melbourne Victory we’ve become used to seeing the last few years. It paid off when Toivonen drew first blood in the 23rd via a great ball from Nabbout and Liam Reddy had no chance once Ola sent the ball flying over his head, it was a brilliant hit and the visitors were 1-0 in the good!
Perhaps it was a combo of Popa’s men hating to lose and the Vuck’s desire to keep their good form going in the league following their first away win in Asia, but tempers and emotions were starting to flare with some questionable tackles and a bit of a push and shove thrown in for good measure between the sides.
Sure enough, Bruno Fornaroli earned his side a free kick in extra time and he managed to draw Popa’s men level in the 45+2 following what looked like a deflection from the wall.
Half time and part of me was relieved we were heading into the sheds level but the other part of me was angry we gave a way a free that late into the half and let Perth back into the match.
Could either side find a winner in the second? When were we going to see Kiwi Messi? (Carlos we were going to have words).
For the neutral supporter it was panning out to be a decent game of football as the start of the second half was dishing up some free flowing football from both sides. It was pure shock, joy and a shout of FINALLY! When Nabbout and the Victory caught Perth on the counter in the 58th, they looked to be napping and the visitors took their chance. (To be brutally honest, that has been something the Vuck have been lacking this season).
The Vuck were looking more solid with each passing minute but we all know the quality of Popa’s side and you cannot count them out just yet. As the clock was ticking away two things were on repeat in my head, DON’T BOTTLE IT VICTORY and WHERE IS KIWI MESSI DAMN IT?!
Then… finally… after three years in Europe and a scary “Kiwi Messi to City?” rumour it was time.
The 75th minute had the great Kiwi Messi, the Chosen One, the Messiah (I thought it was witty ok) Marco Rojas make his Melbourne Victory return. Rocking a new look (longer hair and headband included), and some valuable experience playing in Europe for SC Heerenveen and SønderjyskE, I had missed seeing him run around the A-League.
*Ok back to the football*
Just needed the Victory to hold on, while the Glory were edging closer to their first loss in seven but both sides weren’t giving up just yet. I was losing my mind, we were about to secure a rare win in Perth and one of my favourites was back (albeit quiet only having 15 minutes of game time)!!!
True to form though following a fantastic cross, Nick D’Agostino ripped out a killer header in the 90th to draw Perth level 2-2!
It was a dagger through my heart but it was such a beautiful goal I couldn’t help but applaud. It was the Glory who controlled possession and tried to find the winner in stoppage time and it was D’Agostino again who was really unlucky not to score a brace and secure the win with chances in the 90+3 and 90+4 minutes.
Well it wasn’t a loss for the Vuck but why is the theme of this season “bottle a lead.” Perhaps it’s the perfect timing and catalyst for an A-League win against City on Friday with another Melbourne Derby to look forward to.
As for Perth, they host the Nix which should be a fantastic football match indeed.
By Jakie Manevski