Victory boss rues season-long ‘concern’ but finds positives for finals after goalless Roar draw

Catch all the highlights from Victory v Brisbane on Saturday night

A combination of missed chances and superb goalkeeping helped 10-man Melbourne Victory earn a point against the wasteful Brisbane Roar in a 0-0 stalemate at AAMI Park on Saturday evening.

Victory were reduced to 10 men early in the second half after Jason Geria’s tackle on Corey Brown which initially earned yellow but was upgraded by referee Jack Morgan after VAR’s intervention.

Brisbane dominated the chances but put just four of their 20 attempts on target at AAMI Park; Henry Hore and Nikola Mileusnic had the best of the chances for the away side but neither could capitalise as Victory keeper Paul Izzo played a key role in big moments to earn his team a point.

Saturday’s draw ensured Victory would hold onto third spot on the Isuzu UTE A-League table heading into the final round of the regular season. A third-place finish would earn Victory a home Elimination Final in Round 1 against the sixth-placed finishers – currently bitter rivals Melbourne City.

The result is Victory’s 12th draw of the season and while that number is higher than any other side in the league and something that needs addressing, head coach Tony Popovic believes it’s not cost them too much.

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“It’s (been) a concern all year,” said Popovic after the game when asked about the number of draws. “We we want to win more games than we draw.

“But we’ve also lost four games and Wellington’s lost four games so we’ve lost the least amount of games. We’ve been consistent enough, but you know, not good enough to get in the top two due to that.

He continued: “But good enough to be in the top three or four all year. So we’ve been consistently, I don’t think we’ve gone under the top four for the entire season. So we’ve been up there, but we haven’t been able to make that next step. But, you know, there’s aspects of this game today that gives me a lot of confidence in a one off match.”

Chances presented at both ends inside the first 10 minutes and it was Daniel Arzani who received the first genuine chance on goal, calling Macklin Freke into a save low to his right.

Nikola Mileusnic got on the end of a neat Brisbane attack which fed through Corey Brown and Henry Hore but the Roar forward’s first-time shot missed the target.

But Brisbane’s best two chances of the half would come shortly before the break; Hore failed to convert a golden opportunity when he arrived unmarked at the back post and headed the ball off the woodwork.

The visitors then earned a corner and captain Tom Aldred wheeled to the back post to meet Brown’s delivery but yet again, a big chance went begging.

Much like the first half, the second stanza began in breathless fashion. Another dangerous corner from Brown sparked chaos in Victory’s defensive box as a series of committed blocks stopped Brisbane from opening the scoring.

Bruno Fornaroli had a volleyed effort off Adama Traore’s inviting cross blocked by Roar defender Kai Trewin and as then, as the Roar looked to counter down the left wing, a rash challenge from Geria on Brown led to a red card to the Victory full-back.

Referee Jack Morgan initially saw the challenge as a yellow card offence but upgraded the card to red after reviewing the incident on the pitch side monitor.

Hore received yet another big chance to break the deadlock but failed to beat Victory keeper Paul Izzo from close range. Shortly after Hore had the ball in the back of the net but the goal was ruled out by the offside flag, raised after Florin Berenguer strayed past the last Victory defender before supplying what would have been the assist for the opening goal.

Brisbane continued to create chances and once again it was a ball to the back post providing the visitors an avenue to goal. Mileusnic made good contact with his header directed back across the target but a superb diving save from Izzo diverted the ball over the crossbar.

For all of Brisbane’s nearly moments, the visitors were ultimately fortunate not to fall behind when Fornaroli went one-on-one with Freke inside the penalty area.

Freke closed the space after Fornaroli’s deft first touch created the space for the Victory star to shoot; but, Fornaroli delayed on the ball and tried in vain to chop to the left and right of the Roar keeper.

Jonas Markovski came off the bench for Brisbane but joined his starting teammates in wasting a late chance as both teams were forced to settle for one point apiece.