Young striker the hero as Victory pull off great escape in FFA Cup re-match

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In a game that struggled to get started in the opening hour, a sudden flurry of action from Melbourne Victory resulted in a last-touch goal from substitute Nishan Velupillay.

The first genuine chance of the game came in the 12th minute, as Matthew Spiranovic attempted to capitalise on a corner kick but was unable to maintain his balance in a packed six-yard box.

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The Central Coast Mariners managed to put the ball past Ivan Kelava and into the back of the net two minutes later, but the assistant referee’s flag had already, well and truly, gone up.

Marco Rojas was heavily involved in almost all of Victory’s forays into attack, and he was the next player to give the keeper any cause for concern, firing one just over the crossbar in the 24th minute.

It was Victory’s turn moments later to have their opening goal denied by the assistant referee, with Jake Brimmer well offside when he tapped the ball over the goal-line.

The resulting VAR check brought the game to a grinding halt, and once again both sides were on the defensive, having to regain whatever momentum they had managed to find up until that point.

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Referee Adam Kersey found an unusual way to get involved in the contest as he inadvertently hampered Kye Rowles’ potential shot attempt, drawing the ire of the Mariners squad.

A challenge on the left flank saw Spiranovic forced out of the contest, with Birkan Kirdar activated in extra time.

Rojas was brought down inside the box in the 54th minute, however, the referee remained unmoved, on this occasion sparking the temper of Victory coach Tony Popovic.

A bad turnover from Victory nearly opened the door for Jordan Nisbet, but his shot was deflected with ease by the Victory defence. So far this was the story of the match, with neither side able to muster a serious opportunity outside of the two offsides.

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When Ben Folami was brought down on the right flank by Oliver Bozanic, and Jason Davidson stepped up to the free kick, the entire stadium must have been getting a dose of deja vu from the FFA Cup Final. On this occasion though, Davidson’s attempt was well wide of the right post.

Popovic made two substitutions in the 67th minute, and one of them almost produced a goal instantaneously, with Francesco Margiotta’s strike forcing a valiant save from Mark Birighitti.

The match came to a standstill, with both sides trading semi-opportunities and half-chances, without really turning them into something for either sides fans to get excited about.

It all looked set to change in the 85th minute, as Margiotta flew down the right side of the field, and really should have put his chance away. Instead, he sent it wide of the near post, with the game still stuck at 0-0.

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Kruse again created a brilliant opportunity moments later, finding Chris Ikonimidis on the left side, but the cross was to no one.

With a third chance falling right to the Birighetti, the frustration was palpable. And Davidson took it out on poor Lewis Muller, cleaning up the right back and earning himself a yellow.

Just when all seemed lost, at the very last gasp of the contest, Ikonimidis found fellow substitute Nishan Velupillay, whose header was too good for Birighetti. Finally, Victory had capitalised on a dramatic final 15 minutes to make it 1-0.

Despite the win, Victory did not look dominant in this contests. There will be plenty of positives and negatives for both teams to take away from what was an ultimately dramatic affair.

Central Coast Mariners: 0

Melbourne Victory: 1 (Velupillay 94′)

Venue: AAMI Park
Referee: Adam Kersey

Melbourne Victory: Ivan KELAVA, Jason DAVIDSON, Matthew SPIRANOVIC (Birkan KIRDAR 45+1′), Leigh BROXHAM, Josh BRILLANTE, Ben FOLAMI (Chris IKONIMIDIS 67′), Stefan NIGRO, Nicholas D’AGOSTINO (Francesco MARGIOTTA 67′), Roderick MIRANDA, Jake BRIMMER (Robbie KRUSE 81′), Marco ROJAS (Nishan VELUPILLAY 81′)

Unused subs: Matthew ACTON, Edmond LUPANCU

Central Coast Mariners: Mark BIRIGHETTI, Lewis MILLER, Josh NISBET, Cy GODDARD (Nicolai MULLER 69′), Oliver BOZANIC (Ruon TONGYIK 90+2′), Jason CUMMINGS, Marcos URENA, Kyle ROWLES, Jacob FARRELL, Daniel HALL, Harrison STEELE (Maxilien BALARD 54′)

Unused subs: Lawrence CARUSO, Matheus RODRIGUES, Beni NKOLOLO, Storm ROUX

Feature Image Credit: Ngau Kai Yan

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Mitchell Turner
Mitchell Turner
Third Year Undergraduate Arts Student at Monash University (Journalism Major). Generic sports tragic living out my failed dreams of going pro vicariously through other people.

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