Victory knocks off defending champion in front of record crowd

Melbourne Victory knocked off the defending champion, Sydney FC by three-goals to two in an A-League second round match that had everything before a record crowd of 39,730 at Telstra Dome on Saturday night. Five goals, a controversial penalty, a sending off and several incidents which escaped the referee’s notice kept the crowd on its toes for the whole ninety minutes.

The Victory hammered Sydney by five goals to nil in the equivalent fixture last year and it seemed that this might go the same way after an explosive opening ten minutes. Striker Daniel Allsopp forced his way through three tackles in the Sydney penalty area but his shot was deflected for a corner kick. Grant Brebner sent over the corner and Geelong’s Adrian Leijer barrelled into Sydney’s Robbie Middleby helping to cause confusion in the Sydney defence and Allsopp hammered the loose ball into the net in the seventh minute.

Three minutes later a long ball from the back found Brazilian striker Alessandro in the clear but Socceroo and Sydney keeper Clint Bolton was adjudged to have brought him down by referee Mark Shield. Kevin Muscat did his usual immaculate job from the penalty spot.

Middleby was unable to continue and was replaced by Socceroo David Carney but Sydney was dealt a body blow in the 12th minute when Mark Rudan brought down Alessandro in full flight. That meant a yellow card, but when the big defender kicked out at Alessandro on the ground referee Shield gave him a straight red.

Down to ten men and two goals behind, Sydney went all out in attack and won a corner kick on the right. Defender Iain Fyfe outjumped the defence to head his side back into the match with his second goal in as many matches. For the rest of the first half the Victory struggled to impose its numerical superiority but apart from a couple of near things in the last minutes it failed to do so.

Six minutes after the break Victory skipper Muscat lofted the ball over the defence and Allsopp chipped it neatly over the keeper for what appeared to be the decisive third goal. Five minutes later Alessandro sprinted through and seemed to collect Mark Milligan with his elbow, but none of the officials had a clear enough view of the incident to take action, which left Sydney coach Terry Butcher and most of his players fuming. Ernie Merrick, the Victory coach, quickly removed Alessandro and replaced him with another Brazilian striker Claudinho, who should have scored a fourth goal for his team after being set clear in front of goal by Archie Thompson.

Even with ten minute the Sydneysiders kept pressing and David Carney’s deflected shot in the 83rd minute brought his team back into the game. Grant Brebner could have settled the nerves with a goal from another Thompson pass, but fired well over the bar, and the Victory held on for the win. Melbourne-Sydney rivalry is alive and well and the huge attendance really sets up the Victory’s season.

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