History-making Fornaroli bolsters Asian Cup case as Victory survive to end Wanderers’ unbeaten start

Bruno Fornaroli scored an incredible quadruple against Western Sydney, bringing up his 100th goal in the Isuzu Ute A-League

Bruno Fornaroli became the third player in history to score 100 Isuzu UTE A-League goals, firing home all four goals as Melbourne Victory hung on to a thrilling 4-3 win over Western Sydney Wanderers at CommBank Stadium.

Fornaroli took his tally to 11 goals in just seven matches this season and by the same token, reaching his A-Leagues century as he fired Victory to all three points on Sunday evening.

It continues an incredible start to the campaign that has Fornaroli sitting well clear atop the Golden Boot standings after seven rounds and right in contention for a call-up to the Socceroos squad for next month’s AFC Asian Cup in Qatar.

It’s the second time ‘El Tuna’ has scored four goals in a single game this season, with his fourth goal in the 75th minute making him the third player to reach the feat after Melbourne City’s Jamie Maclaren and former Victory striker Besart Berisha.

However, Western Sydney almost spoiled the party with a late fightback.

Marcus Antonsson scored a brace either side of Fornaroli’s fourth to spark a late fightback, before Valentino Yuel’s first goal in Wanderers colours set up a grandstand finish in stoppage time but Victory were able to hold on to hand Western Sydney their first loss of the Isuzu UTE A-League season.

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The win ends a run of four consecutive draws for Victory – who are also still undefeated – leapfrogging the Wanderers into fourth place in the standings.

Victory started strongly and almost had the lead through Zinedine Machach, forcing a great save from Lawrence Thomas to keep the scores level.

Minutes later, Victory had reward for their effort. Jake Brimmer’s cross to the back post found Machach, whose effort on goal was once again denied by Thomas, but the ball fell straight to Fornaroli to tap home.

The Wanderers – who battled back from two goals down to get a point against Brisbane last weekend – responded brilliantly as both Antonsson and Marcelo came close to an equaliser, with the latter having his header saved by Paul Izzo.

But Victory weathered Western Sydney’s storm and doubled their lead right as the first half was coming to a close.

Fornaroli was played through beautifully by Machach, leaving him in a two-on-one with Nishan Velupillay against Tate Russell. ‘El Tuna’ composed himself, feigned a pass to Velupillay, which created more space for Fornaroli to blast his effort back across Thomas and into the top corner.

And Bruno wasn’t done there.

Shortly after half-time, Jack Clisby handled Connor Chapman’s just inside the penalty area and referee Ben Abraham immediately pointed to the spot. After a check from the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), the decision was upheld.

Fornaroli stepped up and blasted home his third goal of the game, to take his season tally into double digits.

Victory’s three-goal advantage only lasted a matter of minutes after Chapman handled the ball inside the Wanderers penalty area, giving the home side a lifeline.

Antonsson buried the resulting penalty, setting up a frantic ending to the contest as the home side looked to cause a stunning turnaround.

Western Sydney had a pep in their step after the Swede’s goal and were inches away from bringing it back to a single goal, when Dylan Pierias fired his stinging volley against the crossbar.

But Fornaroli would cut short any fightback, nodding home Daniel Arzani’s free-kick to seemingly wrap up the win and reach the tonne.

With time expiring, Antonsson had the ball in the back of the net again, but his tap-in was disallowed after Marcus Younis – who played the pass to the Swede – was offside in the build-up.

However, the Swedish striker wouldn’t be denied a second of the game, nodding home Yuel’s cross in the 88th minute, before the latter helped himself to his first goal in Red and Black diving in to head home Jorrit Hendrix’s free kick in second-half stoppage time.

Western Sydney huffed and puffed, but Victory did just enough to hang on and come away with the win.

The talking point

Bruno Fornaroli made history on Sunday night, becoming the third player to reach 100 A-Leagues career goals.

The 36-year-old’s bag of four goals against Western Sydney saw him reach the tonne, joining Jamie Maclaren (148 goals) and Besart Berisha (142 goals) as the only players to reach the milestone in the history of the competition.

Since arriving in the A-Leagues in 2015, Fornaroli has gone on to become one of the competition’s deadliest strikers, firing home 48 goals for Melbourne City, 34 for Perth Glory and now, 18 with Melbourne Victory.

Fornaroli came into the season with 89 goals to his name, but has managed to reach the mark in only seven games, scoring a whopping 11 goals – including two bags of four goals against Newcastle and now, Western Sydney.

For context, ‘El Tuna’ had only a combined 15 goals in his last two seasons, where he split his time between Perth Glory and Victory.

As a result, he’s thrusted himself back into the frame for a Socceroos call-up at the upcoming AFC Asian Cup in January. Graham Arnold is expected to announce his squad in the coming weeks and Fornaroli’s current form is extremely hard to ignore.

But whether his form over the first seven rounds has been enough for a first call-up since March 2022 remains to be the question.

Fornaroli was asked post-game by Daniel McBreen as to whether he’s waiting by the phone for a call from Arnold.

“It’s 5G! It’s on 24/7,” Fornaroli joked on Paramount +.

“Nah, look, I have I have to do my best, do my job, work hard for the team. If the team do well and it helps me to score goals, the chances increase.

“But I cannot think much about this. I have to be focused, which I am. So that’s it. I have to keep scoring.”

The star

Surprise, surprise, it’s Bruno Fornaroli.

Four goals on the night. 100 A-Leagues goals in his career and 11 goals for the season. Just incredible.

“It’s amazing. Great feeling,” he told Paramount + post game about reaching the milestone.

“I certainly didn’t expect it to get my 100 goals, but this is football.

“I’m feeling good. I’m feeling great and most importantly? I’m happy and when you’re happy you show you your best football. So I try to keep pushing myself. I try to keep pushing with my team and and I hope we can we can still win games.

Fornaroli paid tribute to his family post-game, dedicating the match ball to them.

“To my kids, my wife. It’s difficult when the things don’t go well and the family is always there,” he said.

“Especially my kids and my wife. So I think this ball is for them.”

What they said

Hear from Western Sydney Wanderers coach Marko Rudan and Melbourne Victory boss Melbourne Victory in their post game press conferences.

What this means

Melbourne Victory head into Round 8 as one of two teams alongside Macarthur FC, yet to taste defeat this Isuzu UTE A-League season.

Tony Popovic’s side return home for the first time since Round 3, when they host Sydney FC in a blockbuster at AAMI Park on Saturday night, kicking off a run of three huge home games – with matches against Melbourne City and Adelaide United to come later this month.

Meanwhile, Western Sydney have a short turnaround ahead of their next clash, when they host the Reds on Friday night.