Debutant’s stunning goal seals opening win for Melbourne Victory at Sydney FC

Sydney FC v Melbourne Victory: highlights

Maybe Melbourne Victory should ask to start their season away at Sydney FC every season, as Tony Popovic’s side have drawn blood in R1 for the second consecutive year.

Goals for Bruno Fornaroli and Zinedine Machach in the second half punctured the optimism of Sydney’s Australia Cup win, and left home coach Steve Corica smarting after his team had made much of the running.

In a stop-start encounter, and despite Sydney’s territorial advantage, the most significant early chances had fallen to Victory, as these two heavyweights tried to flex some early season muscle.

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As early as the 10th minute, Roderick Miranda’s sweeping pass out left to Nishan Velupillay allowed the winger to cut in and set up Zinedine Machach for two chances, the first saved by Andrew Redmayne and the follow-up desperately deflected over.

Velupillay had a glorious hance seven minutes before halftime, having himself begun a rapid break by driving the ball out wide for Adama Traore then haring into the box to receive a disguised cutback. With the goal gaping, though, the finish was scuffed wide.

Sydney’s best moments had tended to involve Joe Lolley and Antony Cacares, the latter in particular finding pockets of space in midfield to drive Sydney forward, but Victory’s defence was suffocating.

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In such a tightly contested encounter it need a moment of class or calamity to divide the teams, and Luke Brattan literally played the fall guy for Sydney just past the hour.

It came from nothing, Redmayne rolling the ball into the feet of Brattan just outside his own box, but as the midfielder turned he slipped and fell. Fornaroli fastened onto the loose ball and in a flash had swept it into the bottom corner.

The Sky Blues sought to strike back, as Brattan’s free kick struck the wall and the rebound was hit narrowly wide by Lolley. But in the final minutes Machach burst in from the left wing like an elegant bulldozer, dancing past some players and flattening others before striking a shot past a static Redmayne to confirm the win.

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The talking point

At halftime the sprinklers had drenched the surface at Allianz Stadium and several players had trouble with their footing afterwards – but none so bad as Luke Brattan. The slip from the Sydney captain had Steven Gerrard vibes, and while it’s hardly as fatal as the former Liverpool great’s slip famously was, it was a hard pill for the Sky Blues to swallow. There were half-hearted claims of a foul on Brattan, but the real villain was the surface in this instance thanks to the moisture.

The star

Zinedine Machach sounds halfway to being a great footballer, but he’s fully endeared to Victory fans already after his startling contribution near the end. The Frenchman had already shown his pace in the first half, and come close to breaking the deadlock, but there seemed scant danger as he received the ball out wide. Instead, he simply charged through a succession of markers before scoring – though some might well question how a shot so close to him could get past Andrew Redmayne so easily.

What they said

Sydney FC coach Steve Corica: “It’s pretty hard to take because you don’t want to lose your first game at home. But we have to take out those mistakes, we can’t make those, it’s as simple as that.

“They were costly and we need to be better next week and we need to pick up points next week. It’s still early on and there were a lot of good signs – I think we played really well with the ball but this was always going to be really tight as the first match (of the season).

Victory coach Tony Popovic: “Today was more about the performance, the result is a bonus. But I think the performance showed that we’re not the same team as last year and then getting an away win at Sydney in the Big Blue, our fans going home happy, that’s the icing on the cake.

“I thought the performance showed where we’re heading and there’s a lot more to come.”

What it means

Sydney don’t have long to dwell on the sour taste of defeat as they kick off the second round of the season, away to Brisbane on Friday. Neither Joel King nor Jack Rodwell will be fit to return, while young fullback Keeley Adamson – who impressed in the Australia Cup – has also picked up a knock. Corica will be keen to see supply lines established to Brazilian striker Fabio Gomes, whose movement against Victory was clever but unrewarded.

Victory by contrast can rest limbs that Popovic predicted would be weary until they host Newcastle next Sunday, and the minutes accrued by Chris Ikonnomidis and Ben Folami off the bench – both of whom have been injured for the past six weeks – suggests they may earn bigger roles against the Jets. One cicada doesn’t make a summer though; Victory won this fixture in R1 last year, and finished 11th so there is much more work ahead of them.