Original Rivalry triumph keeps Victory unbeaten as Asian Cup-bound star signs off in style

Check out the highlights from a thrilling edition of the Original Rivalry with Adelaide United travelling to AAMI Park to take on the high-flying Melbourne Victory in the Isuzu UTE A-League.

Melbourne Victory remain unbeaten in the Isuzu UTE A-League after earning a 2-0 win over old foes Adelaide United in the Original Rivalry.

Zinedine Machach broke the deadlock with 17 minutes remaining in Saturday night’s blockbuster clash at AAMI Park.

Bound for next month’s AFC Asian Cup in Qatar with the Socceroos and in his last game before the tournament, Bruno Fornaroli then sealed the points with his 13th goal of the season in the final minute of regulation to preserve Victory’s unbeaten season through 10 rounds.

JETS SOAR: Buhagiar brace helps Newcastle to A-Leagues first against Western
‘SHE FELT SORRY FOR CHIEFY!’: Talay shares brilliant anecdote after defeating former assistant

‘YOU HAVE TO BE OPEN TO THAT’: Mariners boss discusses how Central Coast will replace Marco Tulio

The only undefeated team remaining, Victory are level on points with Wellington Phoenix atop the standings but adrift on games won heading into the New Year, while seventh-placed Adelaide slumped to a third defeat in four games.

Both teams were greeted to a great atmosphere at AAMI Park, where the Northern Terrace were in full voice, while Adelaide fans travelled in strong numbers for the Original Rivalry.

It was end-to-end on the field, with Victory and the Reds creating chances throughout the 45 minutes.

Adelaide had an early opportunity after Zach Clough released Luka Jovanovic down the flank and the latter delivered a ball into the box that was spilled by Paul Izzo, but the home side survived.

The woodwork prevented Victory from breaking the deadlock in the 17th minute when Roderick Miranda’s header hit the post.

Victory talisman Bruno Fornaroli and Adelaide’s Hiroshi Ibusuki both had half chances, while Jonny Yull caused plenty of problems for the home side in and around the penalty area.

With eight minutes before half-time, Adelaide and Socceroos goalkeeper Joe Gauci produces a stunning diving save – at full stretch – to keep out Daniel Arzani.

Victory started to turn the screw and they had the ball in the back of the net two minutes later as Fornaroli and the crowd celebrated, however, his sublime header was deemed offside.

As tensions simmered with each passing minute – the Victory bench unhappy with some of the fouling, Connor Chapman saw his goal-bound volley blocked 21 minutes from the end.

Victory finally breached Adelaide’s stubborn defence with 17 minutes remaining via Machach.

Velupillay’s mazing run through Adelaide’s defence was the architect as he picked out the fan favourite to fire home.

Moments later, Victory almost had a second goal but Damien Da Silva’s header was swatted away by Gauci.

Gauci’s outstretched left foot thwarted Velupillay five minutes from the end to keep Adelaide in the contest.

In the 90th minute, Fornaroli – re-called by the Socceroos for the Asian Cup – capped a fine run with a goal to spark wild celebrations.

The Talking Point

All eyes were on Bruno Fornaroli for his final game in a Melbourne Victory shirt before linking up with the Socceroos for the Asian Cup in Qatar.

Fornaroli entered the contest having scored 18 league goals in 2023, with 12 of those for Victory this season.

On Saturday night, the 36-year-old – back in the international fold for the first time since March last year, struck at the death to extend his league-leading tally to 13.

Tony Popovic’s Victory are now facing the prospect of being without their talisman for up to six matches.

“He is a star and a killer. When he leaves, it is difficult because he is a striker and a leader on and off the field,” Machach told Network 10 post-match when asked about Fornaroli’s upcoming absence.

“But we will work and try to find a solution.”

The Socceroos will face Bahrain in a friendly on January 6 before kicking off their Asian Cup campaign against India on January 13, followed by Group B fixtures versus Syria and Uzbekistan.

In that time, Victory are set to meet Perth Glory (January 6), defending champions Central Coast Mariners (January 13), high-flying Wellington Phoenix (January 19) and rivals Sydney FC (January 26).

Discussing Fornaroli’s absence and how Victory will cope, Network 10 analyst Bruce Djite said: “I think it’s culture.

“Listening to Machach and seeing their togetherness on the field. They know they’re missing their star player but his answer was perfect: ‘we will find the solution’.

“They’re going to find a solution and a way to do it. Popa has this team really tight knit, they really believe, they’re undefeated. They have a lot of momentum going into 2024.”

Melbourne Victory legend Archie Thompson added: “I heard Popa talk about maybe going into the market to get a player, but you have players who can play that number nine role.

“Chris Ikonomidis can play. Maybe not gonna hold the ball up as well as Bruno Fornaroli. You have Velupillay can play central. Ben Folami’s played in that position too.

“Just a different dynamic to Bruno brings in holding up the play but you still have the speed and pace in behind. But you probably don’t have that consistent quality finisher in that area.

“He has scored 13 goals – that’s hard to make up but there is quality around. When you have a good culture, you do find a way.”

The Star

While Fornaroli sealed the deal at the end, Machach was the man to send Victory on their way against the Reds.

The former Marseille and Napoli midfielder – who has established himself as a crowd favourite since arriving at the start of the campaign – popped up 17 minutes from the end to break Adelaide’s stubborn resistance.

It was also his third goal of the season – matching a career high in league football. He also scored three goals for Hungarian outfit Honved in 2021-22.

“I need for scoring,” Machach joked with Network 10 after a fan asked for his boots.

What it means

Through 10 games, no one has been able to stop Victory.

The title hopefuls will now turn their attention to Saturday’s trip to Perth Glory on January 6.

Adelaide have now lost four of their past five matches to slide down to seventh in the table, one point outside of the top six. The result also snapped their five-game unbeaten streak against Victory in Victoria.

The Reds welcome high-flying Wellington to Coopers Stadium on Thursday night.