Cure your Tuesday evening cravings for A-Leagues football with a mouthwatering clash between Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC at AAMI Park set to kick-off at 7.45pm AEDT.
It’s the first time these two sides have met this season, with the Sky Blues languishing in seventh spot on the Isuzu UTE A-League table. Victory, meanwhile, are leading the league under new boss Tony Popovic – and will be very eager to end an eight-game Big Blue losing streak which dates back to April, 2019.
KEEPUP followed on LIVE to bring you all the goals, highlights and biggest talking points from a blistering A-Leagues fixture at AAMI Park.
MATCH REPORT: VICTORY 2-2 SKY BLUES
‘Excellent’ Folami ‘a handful for any team’ (11.00pm AEDT)
Eight starts in eight appearances this season shows Victory boss Tony Popovic has put his faith in Ben Folami – and former Socceroos captain Mark Milligan says that faith is being paid off in full by the young Australian flyer.
The 22-year-old was outstanding against the Sky Blues on Tuesday night, scoring the opening goal of the game before teeing up Robbie Kruse for his side’s second in a 2-2 draw with the Sky Blues, weaving and winding down the right flank before putting the ball on a plate for the Victory stalwart to finish.
Folami wasted the chance to seal his brace in the second half, missing a chance co-commentator Daniel McBreen said the Victory youngster would lose sleep over this evening.
But all in all, it was a stylish performance from Folami which caught the eye of both Milligan and Sydney FC legend Alex Brosque.
“He’s been excellent,” Brosque said. “(It) was obviously a tough year for all at Victory last year, but he’s coming on in leaps and bounds at the moment.
“He’s just so positive with the ball, he likes getting at players, he has a final pass, whether that last one to Kruse was meant or not.
“He’s just so positive, and he’s a handful for any team they’ve played this season.“
Milligan added: “You can see that comes with confidence shown by the manager. With Tony Popovic, he’s played him in ever singe game this year, started him in every game.
“You look at that frontline they have with (Marco) Rojas, (Francesco) Margiotta, Robbie Kruse, (Nick) D’Agostino – an incredible lineup they have going forward. The fact he’s playing every game, that must give him as a young kid so much confidence, and you can see it.
“Every time he got the ball he looked confident, he was doing step-overs but with purpose and an outcome as well.”
‘We need your support’ – Ninković pleads with Sydney fans to replicate AAMI Park atmosphere (10.50pm AEDT)
In two of the most breathless encounters of the Isuzu UTE A-League season to date, AAMI Park has set the stage.
The first occurred between Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City in December, and the second took place on Tuesday night between Victory and the Sky Blues.
Both ended with a 2-2 scoreline. Both had that magic feeling of a game of football you can’t help but glue your eyes to as every second drips by.
After the Big Blue, Sydney goalscorer Miloš Ninković pleaded with his club’s supporters to get down to Leichhardt Oval on Sunday, January 30 to create a similar atmosphere for the Sky Blues’ clash with the Mariners.
Paramount+ sideline reporter Michael Zappone saw the Serbian’s request as an indicator of the undeniable effect a roaring home crowd can have in an A-Leagues clash.
“One of the things you really understand when you’re sitting here on the sideline is the energy the players feed off here at AAMI Park,” Zappone said.
“Ninković made a really interesting point after the game, he pleaded with Sydney FC fans to get to the stadium, to get to (Leichhardt) next week, because they need their support.
“He would’ve come here tonight and felt something different, something they haven’t seen at Kogarah this year.”
Fellow sideline reporter Archie Thompson added: “I think also with the performances of Melbourne Victory, a large part of it is due to the squad and what Popa is doing but (another) big part is the atmosphere, the supporters and what they bring.
“I can probably echo the same as what Ninković is saying to the supporters because they are sometimes the ones that get them out of situations.”
Archie: Sydney’s ‘amazing’ performance something to build from (10.40pm AEDT)
Some will call them excuses – Ninković calls them “facts” – and perhaps that’s what they are; the reasons why Sydney FC have struggled to get going this season with personnel issues aplenty.
On Tuesday night Steve Corica’s side travelled to AAMI Park without six key starters, equalising twice to clinch a hard-earned point off Melbourne Victory.
Former Victory star Thompson watched on from the sidelines as a “skinny” Sydney side took it to the league leaders and escaped with a point.
“Sydney FC’s performance tonight was fantastic,” Thompson said.
“When you’re looking at something to build confidence from, I look at all the obstacles they’re up against: they’re missing key players, they’ve lost Rhyan Grant, Joel King and Andrew Redmayne (to Socceroos duty), they’ve lost (Adam) Le Fondre, Kosta Barbarouses, Luke Brattan (to injury).
“I mean, this is a very skinny team at the moment. To come out here and put a performance on like that, it was amazing.”
FULL-TIME: Sky Blues equalise twice in 2-2 Big Blue (9.45pm AEDT)
“We’ve hardly had time to draw breath from one action to the next,” said Paramount+ co-commentator Daniel McBreen as eight minutes of additional time expired in the Big Blue.
You couldn’t take your eyes off the pulsating second half action as Victory pulled ahead for the second time on the night before a late Bobô equaliser tied the two sides up at 2-2. It’s the way the score remained to the final whistle as Sydney’s unbeaten record in this long-standing rivalry extended to nine games.
GOALS! Two subs make their mark in 2-2 Big Blue
Another moment of individual brilliance from Ben Folami turned the tide in the Big Blue – before Bobô came off the bench to level it up once again.
Robbie Kruse – Victory’s own super substitute – tucked home a magnificent Folami assist from close range in the 77th minute, sparking pandemonium in the AAMI Park stands.
But just minutes later it was Bobô finding another Sky Blues equaliser, launching to meet an Anthony Caceres corner and burying his header into the bottom-left corner of goal.
Don’t look away now! With 10 minutes to play there’s plenty of time left for either team to clinch the points.
Heward-Belle comes up clutch to deny Folami from point-blank range (9.00pm AEDT)
What a save by Thomas Heward-Belle!
Folami looked set to seal his brace with a volleyed attempt from within the six-yard box until the Sydney keeper produced a phenomenal save to deny the Victory forward.
Heward-Belle showed lightning reflexes to get across to his right and get a strong glove on a chance which was harder to miss than score.
HALF-TIME: Victory 1-1 Sky Blues (8.35pm AEDT)
There’s nothing to split these two sides heading into the break as the Sky Blues clawed their way back into the Big Blue to draw level at 1-1.
Watch the first-half highlights below.
GOAL: Ninković silences the crowd at AAMI Park (8.25pm AEDT)
The visitors have been well in this contest at AAMI Park, and after some brilliant wing play by Trent Buhagiar Miloš Ninković has levelled the scores.
It was a scrappy goal for the Sky Blues, but they’ll take it; it’s 1-1 after 40 minutes in the Big Blue.
GOAL: Clinical from Folami who puts the hosts ahead (8.05pm AEDT)
Elvis Kamsoba sparked a dangerous Sky Blues attack, but the turnover and subsequent Victory attack was swift and effective, with Folami getting on the end of a Marco Rojac cross-field pass to bury a strike into the bottom-right corner off his left foot.
Victory lead after 18 minutes in a Big Blue producing plenty of chances at either end thus far.
Margiotta wastes ‘glorious chance’ to put Victory ahead (7.55pm AEDT)
Paramount+ co-commentator Daniel McBreen described it as an ‘absolutely glorious chance’ for Melbourne Victory striker Francesco Margiotta, who skied his first-time strike well over the bar from close range in the eighth minute of play at AAMI Park.
Victory’s first scoring opportunity came two minutes after Trent Buhagiar called Ivan Kelava into a magnificent save down the other end as the Sky Blues went closest to going ahead early doors.
KICK-OFF: Underway in the Big Blue! (7.45pm AEDT)
The Australian National Anthem rings out around AAMI Park in a celebration of the nation’s multiculturalism ahead of Alireza Faghani’s first whistle blowing to get the Big Blue action underway.
TEAM NEWS! Miranda misses out through injury for Victory as Kamsoba looks to haunt former side (7.05pm AEDT)
Melbourne Victory centre-back Roderick Miranda and off-season recruit Brendan Hamill are missing for the home side tonight.
Jay Barnett (20) starts in defence, as Chris Ikonomidis and Nick D’Agostino loom large on the bench as two attacking weapons for Popovic to fire in the second half.
Bobô returns to the bench for the Sky Blues after a 2-1 home loss to Perth Glory last time out. Elvis Kamsoba, who spent three seasons at Victory, returns to face his former club for the first time since his off-season departure.
U-NITE match at AAMI Park a special occasion (6.55pm AEDT)
A total of 45 people from 26 countries will tonight become Australian citizens at a pre-game ceremony in the AAMI Park function rooms.
It’s a multicultural occasion which will see the the 45 new Aussies take to the pitch for the national anthem.
Speaking to club media before the U-NITE multicultural celebration, Victory winger Ben Folami – of Nigerian heritage – says he hopes to be an inspiration to Australians from different backgrounds in the future.