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Melbourne Victory deny Western Sydney Wanderers with last-gasp free-kick

Melbourne Victory 1 Western Sydney Wanderers 1

Brendon Santalab scores for the Wanderers.

Brendon Santalab scores for the Wanderers. Photo: Getty Images

A dramatic, last-gasp leveller from Brazilian midfielder Gui Finkler's sumptuous free kick gave Melbourne Victory a share of the points in a pulsating 1-1 draw with Western Sydney Wanderers in front of a raucous AAMI Park crowd of more than 22,000 on Saturday night.

Finkler had been brought down by Iacopo La Rocca with just seconds remaining as the visitors grimly defended the slender advantage given them, appropriately enough at this time of the year, by a player nicknamed Santa.

Guilherme Finkler wheels away in celebration after the equaliser.

Guilherme Finkler wheels away in celebration after the equaliser. Photo: Getty Images

Finkler dragged himself up and planted a wonderfully struck free kick past Ante Covic's dive to ensure honours were even.

Brendon Santalab, a Wanderers striker, had come off the bench to score with virtually his first touch of the game with 20 minutes to go, and Tony Popovic's side was surely banking the three points and their Christmas bonus before Finkler's tremendous intervention.

What a difference a day makes.

At AAMI Park on Friday night it was possible to hear the players shouts ring through the echoing rows of empty seats as Melbourne Heart and Wellington Phoenix stumbled through an error-prone 90 minutes where both struggled to take their chances in yet another defeat for Heart.

At the same venue just 24 hours later, things couldn't have been any more different.

These sides are close to the top of the table, amongst those jostling for position behind Brisbane Roar, while the Friday protagonists are propping up the ladder.

It would have only taken the casual viewer five minutes to understand why that's the case.

This was a game played with pace and purpose, enthusiasm and gusto, where both sides sought to move the ball quickly and slickly at a high and exciting tempo.

The contests in all areas of the field were intense and hard fought. The Wanderers coach fielded a line-up missing stars such as Shinji Ono and striker Tomi Juric, while he also left winger Youssouf Hersie on the bench: three games in nine days means a veteran like Ono has to be managed carefully, while Juric is only just back from injury.

But that didn't mean they would travel south with anything like an inferiority complex.

As the game unfolded in end-to-end fashion, it was clear that the Wanderers, so often a team that likes to squeeze the life out of opponents, had come to play. It was a stylistic change akin to that of a boxer who normally wins on points through weight of consistent punches deciding to slug it out and trade blows with his opponent instead.

The visitors could have got their noses in front in the 11th minute when Labinot Haliti drew a fine save from Nathan Coe with a header that the goalkeeper fingertipped centimetres over the bar.

The Wanderers were pressing and harrying the Victory midfield, giving them little time to play, and Tahj Minniecon was finding space well for himself, creating an opening to shoot over.

Still, Victory it was that had the clearest chance of the opening half when Kosta Barbarouses' terrific run down the left opened space for him to drive the ball into the Wanderers' penalty area. Covic could only parry and the rebound fell to Connor Pain, but, with the goal gaping, the young striker failed to even get a shot off. It was another to add to the ever-increasing catalogue of horror misses that A-League strikers are compiling this season.

It was end-to-end stuff as Pain linked with Nichols to set up James Troisi, who shot over, while at the other end Minniecon's curling effort flew just over the bar.

Victory's tendency to over elaborate frustrates their supporters no end - cries of ''shoot'' rang out every time they worked the ball to the edge of the area but looked for another pass instead.

They did look to have a reasonable shout for a penalty when Mark Milligan tried his luck from distance, his fiercely struck drive seemingly blocked by the hands of Nikolai Topor-Stanley as it headed for goal.

Referee Peter Green would have none of it then, and he did not blow his whistle shortly afterwards, when Minniecon's shot after a slaloming run appeared to strike Adrian Leijer's hand as it deflected away into safety.

The deadlock was finally broken with 20 minutes to go when Santalab, who had just come off the bench, scored with his first touch. Victory substitute Finkler's misplaced pass was seized upon in midfield by Minniecon, who slid the ball through to the Wanderers striker, who finished under Coe's body.

7 comments so far

  • How about an article on the ongoing feud between the MV board and Victory's biggest organised fan group, the North Terrace, Mr Lynch? Yet again a lack of atmosphere at the game because of a North Terrace boycott against the ridiculous conditions put on fans by the MV board. The WSW supporters were fantastic, but how does that make MV look when the visiting fans are more active and passionate than the home fans? Get out Ian Robson, we don't want you and your total lack of understanding of what makes football great to watch live.

    Date and time
    December 28, 2013, 11:21PM
    • Having followed the A League since its inception this is probably the best game that I have seen.

      There was, however, a vital element in the plot, which this piece should have been mentioned.

      Melbourne had the ball in the net some 20 minutes from time. Referee O'Leary disallowed it for a an alleged foul by Traore. From my position it was clear that the West Sydney defender had fallen over BEHIND Traore. Not only was it not a foul but it is impossible for a player to foul when the man is two metres behind him.

      This decision was so bad that it had people in the stand around me wondering if Indian Bookmakers were involved.

      Jasper The Labrador
      Date and time
      December 29, 2013, 8:26AM
      • I asked my soccer mad friends over here about Finkler and the universal response was: Who?

        Captain Grumpy
        Serra Negra - Brasil
        Date and time
        December 29, 2013, 9:47AM
        • Sorry mvfan, no we don't want an article about the feud between the board and the North Terrace.

          I watched the rise of football hooliganism in Europe. The level of behaviour at Millwall, Chelsea, Newcastle, Leeds, Nottingham Forest, Cardiff, Inter Milan and Roma (as a few examples) was an affront to any civilised society. The yobs were vile, violent and out of control. At two games which I attended: Newcastle v Spurs and Spurs v Leeds, spectators were knifed to death. At Feyenoord a policeman had his spine broken.

          This state of affairs did not happen overnight. It evolved over a decade or so.

          The number of incidents on the North Terrace last year was a direct counterpart to what I had witnessed in the early days of yobbery in Europe. The evolution to mass violence was on the march.

          The board, presumably, have advice about this and are doing things to stop it.

          Everyone wants to watch their team and cheer them on. The antics of some North Terrace fans were becoming too much. It is best to clamp down now while it is still possible to exert some control.

          If this is not acceptable to some of the yobs then perhaps they should look elsewhere to practice their yobbery!

          Jasper the Labrador
          Date and time
          December 29, 2013, 6:29PM
          • Joke of a sport where crowd violence is the norm and match fixing is the games main source of income.

            Date and time
            December 29, 2013, 9:21PM
            • Shameful, there is no denying that crowd violence has been the norm in some countries. I have been to games in England and Italy of late and on the whole it does appear, thankfully, to be under control. Both countries have put some effort into eradicating this evil and it is working. My general impression is that the police in Melbourne are at least as good as those in Rome or London in sorting out this cancer.

              As regards match fixing, perhaps you would enlighten us with some evidence?

              Jasper the Labrador
              Date and time
              December 29, 2013, 10:40PM
          • Have to agree with Jasper and totally disagree with mvfan. The northern terrace morons should pull their head in and feel ashamed for not suppporting the boys last night. In the end it was an enthralling game, non stop attacking football from the lads, and in the end a fair result given some of the chances that WSW missed as well.

            Northern terrace need to realise that the rest of us 20,000+ members don't need them there, we can enjoy our football regardless. Get over it and don't fool yourselves into believing you're the heart and soul. 20,000+ real supporters who show up and support week in week out, year after year, can't be wrong.

            Date and time
            December 30, 2013, 12:01AM

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