But with 10 minutes left a classic counter-attack ended with Gui Finkler scoring to snatch a win for the visitors and extend the Wanderers’ winless run this season to 12 matches.
Substitute Steve Kuzmanovski almost grabbed an equaliser in the final minute only for a superb reflex save from Victory ‘keeper Nathan Coe.
0-1 Valeri (26’) – Gui Finkler’s corner was headed away by Mark Bridge to the edge of the Wanderers box but into the path of Valeri. The ball bounced up nicely for the Socceroos midfielder to hit a powerful volley which blazed past ‘keeper Ante Covic as well as Yianni Perkatis into the top corner.
1-1 Kalmar (55’) – Mateo Poljak cut in from the left channel, linking up with Kalmar who switched the ball to the right to find Nikita Rukavytsya. The winger finally got his last pass right, cutting inside and returning a pass to Kalmar who hit a low drive first-time into the far corner, sending ‘Wanderland’ into raptures.
1-2 Finkler (80’) – A sweeping counter-attack started with a sweeping switch of play by Fahid Ben Khalfallah to opposite winger Kosta Barbarouses. The Kiwi international threaded a great cross to Besart Berisha, who showed doggedness to try and carve out a shot despite the attention of Brendan Hamill and Nikolai Topor-Stanley. With Covic closing him down Berisha then laid the ball off to Finkler who hit a clever shot up high into the roof of the net from eight yards out.
A sloppy pass in midfield was swooped on by Rukavytsya, who was able to run at a retreating Victory defence. When he got to the top of the box Rukavytsya cut back onto his left foot and his rasping drive looked headed for the back of the net but Nathan Coe somehow got a strong enough right hand on it to tip it over the bar. Less than four minutes later, Victory took the lead down the other end.
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
Kalmar’s strike was the Wanderers’ first goal in 475 minutes of play, their previous goal coming from the boot of Tomi Juric way back in round 8 in the 1-1 derby draw with Sydney FC. It’s Victory’s first win at Parramatta since November 2012, losing on their last two visits to ‘Wanderland’.
Whether it’s with the national team or in club-land, goals from Carl Valeri don’t come around too often. His last was way back in October 2012. But this one was worth the wait. The home side would have felt like that had cleared the danger when Bridge rose highest to clear Finkler’s corner but they were counting on what Valeri did next. Off balance and almost running away from goal, he showed amazing technique to keep the ball down as well as get so much power on it. Definitely a contender for goal of the season.
Given his reputation and relationship with referees, Kevin Muscat would have been pulling his hair out (metaphorically obviously) over Berisha antics with Wanderers defender Shannon Cole early on. After fouling Cole, who stayed down, Berisha then tried to pull him up off the ground. He was perhaps lucky referee Alan Miliner didn’t see it or he may have issued a yellow card. The action drew a huge howl from the crowd, Berisha living up to his pantomime villain role to a tee.
THE FINAL WORD
Given the huge amount of travel and hectic playing schedule, the Asian Cup break will be beneficial for the Wanderers although they will have to stew over the fact they remain without a win and planted on the bottom of the ladder. They return to action away against Melbourne City on February 1. Victory will hope their mini form-slump is now over as they get set for a crack at league-leaders Perth Glory on resumption – the side that beat them just last week – on January 25.
Western Sydney Wanderers FC: Covic, Cole, Hamill, Topor-Stanley, Golec, Perkatis (Trifiro 61’), Poljak, Haliti (Kuzmanovski 87’), Kalmar (Sotirio 73’), Bridge, Rukavytsya
Melbourne Victory: Coe, Galloway, Ansell, Broxham, Murnane (Georgievski 46’), Valeri, Makarounas (Mahazi 64’), Finkler, Barbarouses, Berisha (Nabbout 89’), Ben Khalfallah
Scorers: Valeri 26’, Kalmar 55’, Finkler 80’
Red cards: none
Yellow cards: Poljak 57’, Golec 58’, Mahazi 74’, Georgievski 86’
Conditions: 26C, Dry
Attendance: 14,619 @ Pirtek Stadium