Melbourne Victory have moved to the top of the A-League after overcoming Western Sydney Wanderers 3-0 at Pirtek Stadium on Friday night.
Besart Berisha finished with a brace after a goal in each half, either side of veteran Archie Thompson’s goal to ensure a comfortable night for the visitors.
Wanderers boss Tony Popovic made eight changes to his starting side from Wednesday night’s win over Melbourne City – including the inclusion of controversial striker Kerem Bulut.
But it mattered little as Victory finished all over the top of the home side to jump from fifth to first, at least until Perth Glory and Wellington Phoenix play on Saturday night.
0-1 Berisha (26’) – Fahid Ben Khalfallah turned Sam Gallaway inside out down the left, driving into the box before a cheeky clipped cross which found the head of Berisha, who made no mistake from close range.
0-2 Thompson (62’) – A classic counter-attack saw Ben Khalfallah in space down the left and he curled a superb pass with the outside of his right foot into the path of Thompson. The veteran attacker took one touch to steady himself before slotting it past Ante Covic.
0-3 Berisha (82’) – Ben Khalfallah was involved again, showing great vision with another pinpoint ball over the defence which Berisha raced onto, getting to the ball just before Covic, knocking it past him from the edge of the box and into an open goal.
Barely a minute after Victory took their first-half lead, only a heroic double save from their goalkeeper Nathan Coe maintained their advantage. A deflected Wanderers shot landed at the feet of Yianni Perkatis just eight yards out and Coe showed great reflexes to bat away the midfielder's snap strike. The loose ball rolled into the path of Bulut who let rip from a tight angle, with Coe doing well to get back up and race across and keeping it out with his right foot. It was a stunning double save from the Victory gloveman and went a long way towards securing a valuable three points.
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
The defeat was the Wanderers' fourth in a row against Melbourne Victory and their fifth in a row on a Friday night. Thompson and Berisha have loved playing the Wanderers of late, with Thompson scoring in his last three matches against them while Berisha has found the net in five of his last six matches against the Asian champions. Thompson has now scored 85 A-League goals to move two clear of Sydney FC’s Shane Smeltz on the all-time scorers' list.
Wanderers winger Romeo Castelen and Victory’s left-back Daniel Georgievski were involved in a titanic one-on-one battle down the home side’s right flank all night. Most of the Wanderers’ best attacks came via the Dutchman with a mix of silky skill, raw power and speed. To Georgievski’s credit he continued to try and make things difficult for Castelen and played his part in a solid defensive display, but we think Castelen just shaded it in an engrossing and all-action tussle. The individual performance of Ben Khalfallah was just as good.
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
Popovic started young defender Gallaway at left-back but switched him over to the right after about 15 minutes. It proved a poor decision with both of Victory’s goals coming down that side, with Ben Khalfallah’s class and trickery exposing Gallaway’s weakness as the Tunisian set up all three of the visitors' goals.
THE FINAL WORD
Despite playing seven games in just 20 days there’s no rest for the Wanderers, who head to Korea later this weekend ahead of next Wednesday’s AFC Champions League clash with FC Seoul before they return home to play Newcastle Jets on Saturday in a match which could decide who ends up with the wooden spoon. Victory are on the road again for a blockbuster Saturday night clash with Adelaide United.
Western Sydney Wanderers FC: Covic, Tanaka, La Rocca, Topor-Stanley, Gallaway, Trifiro (Ward 76’), Perkatis (Kuzmanovski 84’), Castelen, Kalmar (Haliti 70’), Sotirio, Bulut
Melbourne Victory: Coe, Galloway (Broxham 60’), Ansell, Delpierre, Georgievski, Valeri, Milligan, Finkler (Mahazi 82’), Thompson (Pain 86’), Berisha, Ben Khalfallah
Scorers: Berisha 26’, Thompson 62’, Berisha 82’
Red cards: none
Yellow cards: Trifiro 25’, Ansell 38’, Finkler 65’, Gallaway 90+2’
Conditions: 18C, Wet
Attendance: 11,073 @ Pirtek Stadiumcomments