Nine-man Fury claim point

Melbourne Victory and North Queensland Fury have shared a 2-2 draw at AAMI Park in a game where the Fury had two players sent off while three penalties were awarded.

Melbourne Victory and North Queensland Fury have shared a 2-2 draw at AAMI Park in a game where the Fury had two players sent off while three penalties were awarded.

The Fury took the lead in 15 minutes through Eugene Sseppuya, but the game turned on the half hour when Chris Grossman brought Robbie Kruse down in the box, earning a red card for his troubles. Kevin Muscat slotted the penalty.

Melbourne dominated the play for the remainder of the game, but it took until the 75th minute for them to take the lead, when debutant Geoff Kellaway’s marauding run was brought to an end and referee Chris Boyle pointed to the spot for the second time.

Again, Muscat had no trouble converting from the spot, but the drama was far from over. Fury won a corner in the 80th minute and while the players waited for the ball to come in, Diogo Ferreira was pinged for holding Mark Hughes and there was a third penalty.

In the ensuing ruckus, Eric Akoto pushed Muscat to the ground and Boyle produced another red card. Unruffled by all the goings on, Chris Payne converted the spot kick to make it 2-2.

Melbourne pushed hard for a winner but Justin Pasfield produced a number of quality saves at the death for his side to hold on for a remarkable point.

It means Melbourne are still without a win in the first three rounds, while Fury maintain a lofty position up the top end of the table after maintaining their unbeaten start to the season.

Fury assistant coach Stuart McLaren felt his players fully deserved a point for their efforts with firstly one man and then two men down.

“It was a very dramatic and eventful game. Certainly good viewing for people at home, good viewing for people in the stadium. A rollercoaster of emotions for everybody. All in all, it would have been a bit of an injustice for us not to have got a point,” he said.

But Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick said his team should have emerged with a win considering the amount of chances they created.

“We’ve pretty well dominated the game. With 28 shots on goal, you really have to show something for it. Our shooting was pretty much disgraceful. We had enough chances to the win the game,” he said.

After a slow start, North Queensland worked their way into the game and Sseppuya had his chance on 13 minutes well blocked by Rody Vargas after a clever cross from David Williams. Two minutes later they had the lead after Melbourne failed to deal with an Isaka Cernak free kick.

The flat ball completely deceived Michael Petkovic and fell for the Ugandan who hit his shot through a maze of legs before it eventually made it over the goal-line, despite the efforts of two Melbourne defenders.

Faced with a deficit, Melbourne sparked back into action, with Tom Pondeljak and Hernandez again failing to find the target from decent positions.

On 29 minutes, the game was turned on its head when Grossman brought down Kruse, while Muscat stepped up to slot his first spot kick since that infamous miss in last year’s Grand Final.

Melbourne bossed the game for the rest of the half and should have had a half-time lead with Hernandez having multiple chances either wide or straight at Pasfield.

Early in the second half, Mate Dugandzic was in the thick of the action, firstly booked for simulation, then hitting the post from a tight angle and having a shot cleared off the line as Victory looked to press home their one-man advantage. Kruse joined his team-mate in the book soon after for the same reason.

It took a powerful run from substitute Kellaway on 74 minutes to turn the game in Melbourne’s favour as he prompted a rash challenge from Osama Malik on the edge of the box. Muscat hit the penalty straight and true.

Six minutes later, however, things were back on an even keel as Boyle ruled Hughes had been fouled before the ball came into play and pointed to the spot. Payne eventually converted but not before Akoto was first sent off and then dragged away by coach Franz Straka

In the final minutes, Melbourne could have had a winner from any of Hernandez, Adrian Leijer or Dugandzic, but somehow, the Fury held on for a point despite their numerical disadvantage.

Melbourne Victory 2 (Muscat 30p, 75p)
North Queensland Fury 2 (Sseppuya 15, Payne 82)
Crowd: 13,318 at AAMI Park