Melbourne Victory have denied the Wellington Phoenix a valuable point in the race for the Isuzu UTE A-League finals.
The Victory have beaten the Phoenix 3-1 at a waterlogged AAMI Park in Melbourne after the match was level at 1-1 at halftime.
The Video Assistant Referee took centre stage on a wet night in Melbourne, intervening to award both sides penalties and to disallow a Victory goal.
Gael Sandoval drew Wellington level from the spot in the 26th minute after Nick D’Agostino gave the Victory an early lead.
Jake Brimmer put Melbourne back in front with a 68th minute spot kick before Marco Rojas completed the scoring 12 minutes from fulltime.
Ufuk Talay made two enforced changes to the XI which started Sunday’s 1-0 win over Western Sydney Wanderers at Eden Park, with Louis Fenton and Ben Old returning in place of the injured Jaushua Sotirio and David Ball.
“We thought that we’d protect him (Ball). He was very sore after the last game so we gave him some extra days to recover.”
D’Agostino put the Victory ahead inside two minutes, beating Oli Sail with a first-time effort after being picked out by Rojas.
The hosts dominated the opening quarter of an hour, coping better with the wet conditions which left surface water in front of both dugouts.
But the Phoenix managed to weather the storm and Reno Piscopo had a chance to draw them level in the 21st minute when the VAR awarded the Nix a penalty for a handball.
Victory ‘keeper Ivan Kelava guessed the right way to deny Piscopo from the spot, but he won a second penalty just moments later when the VAR deemed veteran Melbourne defender Leigh Broxham struck Piscopo with a stray elbow in the box.
This time Sandoval took responsibility and while Kelava guessed right again the Mexican managed to squeeze his penalty past the big Croatian.
The Phoenix limited Victory to long-range shots for the next 20 minutes until defender Jason Geria headed narrowly wide from a corner shortly before halftime.
Wellington left back Sam Sutton also rattled Kelava’s left-hand post with a thunderous strike in first-half stoppage time but it remained level at the break.
Sail did well to parry away a powerful shot from Jake Brimmer six minutes into the second-half as Victory searched for a go-ahead goal.
D’Agostino looked to have scored his second in the 61st minute, but the goal was overturned by the VAR for a foul in the lead-up. Instead, Melbourne were awarded a penalty for a Phoenix handball in the box.
Seven minutes later Brimmer converted from the spot, sending Sail the wrong way.
Ben Waine, the match-winner at Eden Park on Sunday, had a couple of opportunities to draw the Phoenix back level in the 75th and 76th minutes. Unfortunately for the Nix Waine wasn’t able to head an enticing Sandoval free-kick on target and couldn’t quite get on the end of a great cross from Sam Sutton.
Rojas punished the Phoenix moments later by heading home a Jason Davidson cross at the back post and scoring Victory’s third.
Kelava ensured Wellington weren’t allowed a way back into the match, making a great save to deny Waine from a tight angle in the first minute of second-half stoppage time.
The Wellington Phoenix will return to Sydney on Saturday to prepare for Thursday night’s match against Western Sydney Wanderers.
Coach Ufuk Talay: ‘It’s still in our hands whether we make the top six’
“There was a bit of controversy within the game,” Phoenix head coach Ufuk Talay told media post-game. “At the end of the day it is what it is. It’s a game that we’ve lost.
“I thought the boys did well to get themselves back into the game at 1-1 and then a few controversial decisions.
“I thought the boys worked well today, they defended well. We had some good opportunities even when it was 2-1 where we could have equalised again but at the end of the day we lost the game.”
The result leaves the Nix fifth on a congested ladder with two regular season games remaining, while Melbourne Victory have jumped up to second after extending their club-record unbeaten run to 14 matches.
“We’ve still got two very important games to play,” Talay said.
“The good thing is it’s still in our hands whether we make the top six or not.”
20. Oli SAIL (gk) (c), 4. Scott WOOTTON, 6. Tim PAYNE, 7. Gael SANDOVAL (36. Riley BIDOIS 87th), 8. Ben OLD (34. Jackson MANUEL 87th), 10. Reno PISCOPO, 13. Nicholas PENNINGTON (5. James MCGARRY 84th), 16. Louis FENTON (43. Oskar VAN HATTUM 87th), 18. Ben WAINE 19. Sam SUTTON, 33. Finn SURMAN (88. Gary HOOPER 75th)
Unused substitutes: 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 3. Matthew BOZINOVSKI
20. Ivan KELAVA (gk), 2. Jason GERIA, 3. Jason DAVIDSON (16. Stefan NIGRO 90+3), 4. Rai MARCHAN, 6. Leigh BROXHAM, 8. Joshua BRILLANTE (c), 11. Ben FOLAMI (7. Christopher IKONOMIDIS 54th), 18. Nicholas D’AGOSTINO, 21. Roderick MIRANDA, 22. Jake BRIMMER (14. Jay BARNETT 90+3), 23. Marco ROJAS (24. Nishan VELUPILLAY 86th)
Unused substitutes: 30 Marko BULIC (gk), 9. Francesca MARGIOTTA, 13. Birkan KIRDAR
18. Nicholas D’AGOSTINO (Melbourne Victory) – 2nd
7. Gael SANDOVAL (Wellington Phoenix) – 26th pen
22. Jake BRIMMER (Melbourne Victory) – 68th pen
23. Marco ROJAS (Melbourne Victory) – 78th
4. Scott WOOTTON (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 13th
6. Leigh BROXHAM (Melbourne Victory) – yellow – 24th
Tony POPOVIC (Melbourne Victory) – yellow – 27th
18. Nicholas D’AGOSTINO (Melbourne Victory) – yellow – 39th
23. Marco ROJAS (Melbourne Victory) – yellow – 54th
33. Finn SURMAN (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 71st
Ufuk Talay (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 71st
13. Nicholas PENNINGTON (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 77th
This story is reproduced with the assistance of the Wellington Phoenix.