Victory coach Kevin Muscat says team faced toughest test against Wanderers

Melbourne Victory boss Kevin Muscat has admitted that his side faced its toughest test of the season against Western Sdyney Wanderers at Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

The visitors left with a point after a torrid encounter which saw them dominate the second half but finish with 10 men after the stoppage-time dismissal of centre-half Alberto Aguilar.

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Late Santalab strike helps Wanderers draw with Victory

Western Sydney Wanderers get an 89th minute equaliser to salvage a 1-1 draw away to Melbourne Victory.

The draw means Wanderers remain top of the table, equal on points (34) with Brisbane Roar, 4-0 winners over Central Coast Mariners earlier in the evening.

Victory has moved into fourth place but Muscat's team is six points behind the leading pair. They are behind Melbourne City on goal difference, although their cross-town rivals could go three points clear if they can beat Newcastle on Sunday afternoon.

Wanderers' coach Tony Popovic has a word to referee Ben Williams as they leave the field after the match.
Wanderers' coach Tony Popovic has a word to referee Ben Williams as they leave the field after the match. Photo: Getty Images

Rarely has a team come to Etihad Stadium and had Victory on the back foot as much as Wanderers had Muscat's team on the defensive on Saturday night.

The league leaders are hard, tough, skilful and relentless in their approach and they forced Victory to defend for most of the second period.


It is to the hosts' credit that they were able to hold out until the dying moments until Brendon Santalab's superb late strike from outside the penalty area gave the visitors a point.

It was the least they deserved from a fascinating encounter only marred by the behaviour of the travelling Wanderers' fans, who let off a series of flares and firecrackers which caused the game to be stopped for several minutes in the first half as the teams waited for the smoke and haze to clear.

Leigh Broxham of the Victory poses for a photo after a presentation to mark his 200th game.
Leigh Broxham of the Victory poses for a photo after a presentation to mark his 200th game. Photo: Getty Images

Muscat was delighted with the resilience his team showed, but disappointed that their defensive wall had been breached so late in the game.

''I don't think anyone has asked us as many questions as they did in the second half. They asked us some serious questions in the second half. We had to do a hell of a lot of defending... the boys worked very hard to hold on.

''Sitting back and holding on was not premeditated, it's how the game panned out. They were behind, took some calculated risks and chances, and penned us in for the second half. It was disappointing to concede so late (but) I thought it was fairly even in the first half. ''

There are injury concerns over midfielder Gui Finkler, who was taken off just after the hour mark, and French centre-half Matthieu Delpierre, who, after an awkward fall on the stroke of half-time, was able to finish the game.

Both will be hoping to be fit to face City in the Melbourne derby next week.

''He (Finkler) landed heavily, he was in discomfort. That disrupted us. He can keep hold of the ball and unlock a defence.

''(Delpierre) he's got through the game. It's the only encouragement I can give. It looked bad when you see the replay. He landed as he tackled. At half-time he was desperate to stay out there, I thought he was immense.

''Matthieu finished the game, so from that perspective we are optimistic. Gui will be assessed, everyone wants to be fit for the derby.''

Tony Popovic, the Wanderers coach, was delighted with the spirit his side showed.

''It just shows the players never give up. It's not the first time we have had to come back and score late goals. It was thoroughly deserved. Their keeper made a lot of fantastic saves.''

He did not make a fuss about the Aguilar dismissal.

''If you raise your arm it's deemed as a red. If you want to call it a slap to the face, then I guess that's what you call it, a slap to the face.''

Team P W D L GF GA GD Pts
Western Sydney Wanderers 18 10 4 4 30 20 10 34
Brisbane Roar 18 10 4 4 30 21 9 34
*Melbourne City 17 8 4 5 43 31 12 28
Melbourne Victory 18 8 4 6 28 22 6 28
Sydney FC 18 7 7 4 24 19 5 28
Adelaide United 18 7 6 5 26 23 3 27
*Perth Glory 17 5 4 8 26 28 -2 19
*Wellington Phoenix 17 4 4 9 20 31 -11 16
*Newcastle Jets 17 4 4 9 13 26 -13 16
Central Coast Mariners 18 3 3 12 23 42 -19 12

*denotes teams yet to play