Analysis: Victory still a force to be reckoned with

Western Sydney Wanderers’ never-say-die attitude may well see them win the A-League this season, but write off reigning champions Melbourne Victory at your peril after Saturday’s 1-1 draw.

Twice in the past four weeks, Victory have faced the team at the top of the A-League and earned four points in the process.

Clearly their best football is still hard to handle.

Wanderers strike late to earn point against Victory

In the end, a draw was probably a fair result at Etihad Stadium with Brendon Santalab’s stunning strike equalising for the Wanderers in the 89th minute.

Western Sydney had over 60 per cent possession and kept Victory pinned back for long periods throughout the match but the hosts showed plenty of character.

Although captain Carl Valeri will miss the rest of the season and the Big V have an AFC Champions League (ACL) campaign to navigate, no opposition A-League coach would want to come up against the title-holders in the finals.

Besart Berisha gave Victory the lead against the Wanderers, with the marquee striker nodding Kosta Barbarouses’ corner into the net in the 16th minute.

Victory striker Besart Berisha controls the ball in front of Wanderers winger Romeo Castelen.

It was Berisha’s 14th goal of the season – taking him level at the top of the goal-scoring charts with Melbourne City’s Bruno Fornaroli – and with such a prolific forward at his disposal, Kevin Muscat will always be confident going into big games.

This was hardly Victory’s best performance of the season – arguably that came when they thumped then-leaders Brisbane Roar 4-0 on January 15 – but having gone toe-to-toe with three title contenders in their last four matches, Muscat’s men are a force to be reckoned with.

The win over Brisbane was followed by a 1-0 victory against Sydney FC on Australia Day before Saturday night’s draw versus Western Sydney.

Wanderers coach Tony Popovic can also be proud of the character shown by his team.

Faced with losing top spot after Brisbane crushed Central Coast Mariners 4-0 earlier in the day, Western Sydney kept fighting and deservedly claimed a point when Santalab found the top corner with a 25-yard thunderbolt.

Wanderers players celebrate Brendon Santalab's late equaliser against Victory.