A-League stalwarts Archie Thompson and Shane Smeltz wound back the clock as Melbourne Victory drew 3-3 with Sydney FC at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night.
The evergreen club favourite was on target twice in the first half and once in the second to deny the Sky Blues, as both sides took advantage of some uncharacteristically generous defending at Etihad Stadium.
The visitors have cause for complaint after Victory skipper Mark Milligan escaped a red card for a blatant early elbow on Terry Antonis, while the hosts may consider themselves fortunate to escape with their unbeaten record intact after missing likely starters Guilherme Finkler, Scott Galloway and Daniel Georgievski.
What They Said
Archie Thompson (Melbourne Victory)
"It actually doesn't feel like a hat-trick because we didn't win. Obviously I'm happy about it but tonight it was important to get three points and we didn't.
"Age is a number. I don't feel 36 and I certainly hope I'm not playing like a 36-year-old. For me it's important that the team does well and wins trophies."
Shane Smeltz (Sydney FC)
"We're really pleased with how we played tonight especially in the front third. Having Marc Jenko up front next to me is a big threat and I think we did quite well tonight.
"I think it works (the 4-4-2 system). Obviously every time we scored we copped a quick one back which is something we'll have to work on but there are a lot of positives to take away."
1-0 (Archie Thompson 12')
Besart Berisha found himself in space on the right-hand side of the penalty area, cutting inside and firing a shot at Vedran Janjetovic. The goalkeeper could only parry his effort and Thompson bounced on the rebound. Janjetovic blocked the veteran's first attempt but was left powerless for the follow-up, Thompson slamming the ball into the roof of the net.
1-1 (Marc Janko 17')
Shane Smeltz showed awareness and vision to flick on Pedj Bojic's pass without needing to look, Janko collecting the smart back-heel and placing a good finish out of Nathan Coe's reach.
2-1 (Thompson 47')
Kosta Barbarouses, receiving a Jason Geria pass, turned and ran at the Sydney defence, slipping in Thompson down the right of the penalty area. The Victory stalwart doubled his tally with aplomb, blasting a low shot beyond Janjetovic and into the far corner of the net.
2-2 (Shane Smeltz 50')
Alex Gersbach swung in a tempting corner from the right and Smeltz rose above Leigh Broxham to power home a firm header.
2-3 (Smeltz 76')
Collecting the ball at the top of the penalty area and with his back to goal, Smeltz was left with enough time and space to turn and evade two Victory defenders, before firing a good finish past Nathan Coe, giving the Sky Blues the lead for the first time in the match.
3-3 (Thompson 79')
Berisha did brilliantly to hold the ball up and take three Sydney defenders out of the equation, turning and slipping in Thompson, who got away from substitute Rhyan Grant to guide the ball past Janjetovic's out-stretched finger tips.
Referee Peter Green will have some explaining to do after failing to spot Milligan's blatant elbow on Antonis, one that left the young midfielder with a deep cut above the eye and should have seen the Victory captain given his marching orders mid-way through the first half. The Match Review Panel could yet act to suspend the Big V skipper, whose dismissal on the night would have changed the game.
Opta Data key stats
Sydney completed a whopping 24 interceptions to Victory's five on Saturday, demonstrating the amount of defensive work Arnold's men had to get through to earn a point in Melbourne.
Besart Berisha looked like scoring a brilliant solo effort part-way through the second half, getting into the box and beating two defenders before getting the ball trapped under his feet, allowing the Sky Blues to snuff out the danger. He also nearly won it with the last kick of the game, Janjetovic parrying a shot after the Albanian marksman was played in on goal deep into injury time.
The Final Word
Victory will hope to get Finkler back and exercise considerably more control in the derby against Melbourne City next weekend, while Sydney FC await what could be an entertaining clash against the Wellington Phoenix in the Harbour City.
Melbourne Victory: Coe, Geria (Ansell 69'), Leijer, Broxham, Murnane, Valeri, Milligan, Thompson (Makarounas 81'), Ben Khalfallah (Pain 69'), Barbarouses, Berisha.
Sydney FC: Janjetovic, Ryall, Petkovic, Bojic, Gersbach (Grant 57'), Antonis, Dimitrijevic, Ibini, Brosque (Carle 93'), Smeltz, Janko (Triantis 81').
Scorers: Thompson (12', 47', 79'), Janko (17'), Smeltz (50', 76')
Red cards: None
Yellow cards: Barbarouses (62'), Broxham (74'), Petkovic (87')
Conditions: 29 degree, dry
Attendance: 25, 203 @Etihad Stadiumcomments