VAR controversy fails to derail a dominant Victory performance

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In one of the most drama-fuelled matches of the season, Melbourne Victory came away with the three points against Wellington Phoenix on Friday at a rain-soaked AAMI Park.

They simply could not have asked for a better start, as Jake Brimmer ran straight at the Phoenix defence, finding Marco Rojas with a through ball. Rojas’ pass to Nick D’Agostino was perfect and “Daggers” slotted one past the keeper to earn the opener exactly 120 seconds into the match.

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Rojas nearly made it two in five minutes, his shot from just inside the box inches over the crossbar. Victory were relentless, as Brimmer fired one just left of the target in the seventh minute, to make it three genuine chances for the match, while Phoenix had barely crossed into their attacking half of the pitch.

A Brimmer strike from outside the box yielded a handball free-kick, and a yellow to Scott Wootton, in the 13th minute. While Victory did not capitalise, it represented another shot on goal, while the Nix had failed to register a shot of any kind.

Controversy struck in the 20th minute as Josh Brillante was called for handball right on the border of the box, with VAR confirming his arm was inside the box. But Ivan Kelava was not going to let Wellington back into the game easily, as he dove to his left to save Reno Piscopo’s effort.

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Incredibly, in the aftermath to the save, Leigh Broxham’s elbow made contact with Piscopo’s head, and another VAR check resulted in another penalty. Gael Sandoval stepped up in the 26th minute, and this time Kelava was powerless to stop the strike which found the bottom left corner of the net.

Referee Shaun Evans was then forced to step in and book an irate Tony Popovic, who was clearly frustrated with his side giving away two penalties within minutes of one another.
The game settled into a stalemate, with neither side able to create a genuine chance. Victory turned the ball over in a precarious position in stoppage time, however, Sutton’s first-time chance ricocheted off the post.

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When the second-half started in similar fashion to how the first ended, Popovic clearly believed a change had to be made, and so he brought Ben Folami off in exchange for the electric Chris Ikonomidis.

After a pair of potential handballs went uncalled, Victory seemed to find new motivation, and an aggressive foray into attack saw D’Agostino pounce on a spillage from Oliver Sail to put Victory back on top in the 61st minute.

At least, that’s how it appeared to have played out, however a VAR check revealed that Rai Marchan had infringed on Ben Old in the lead up to the opportunity. After a seven-minute delay, it was further revealed that Louis Fenton had committed a handball inside the penalty area. The end result was a disallowed goal, but a Victory penalty, which Brimmer coolly slotted to restore their advantage in the 68th minute.

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Victory doubled their advantage 10 minutes later, as Jason Davidson crossed the ball over a hapless Phoenix defence, right onto the waiting forehead of Rojas, who finished the job with ease.

With Victory’s control of possession hovering around 80 per cent at various stages, Ufuk Talay’s men simply were unable to generate the volume of chances necessary to get the job done, with their only real opportunities coming in the form of the aforementioned penalties early in the piece.

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The win for Victory allows them to leapfrog Western United for the time being, however with one game in hand to United’s three, it seems unlikely they will hang on to that spot.

Referee: Shaun Evans
Stadium: AAMI Park

MELBOURNE VICTORY: 3 (D’Agostino 2′, Jake Brimmer 68′ P, Marco Rojas 78′)

WELLINGTON PHOENIX: 1 (Gael Sandoval 26′)

MELBOURNE VICTORY

Ivan KELAVA, Jason GERIA, Jason DAVIDSON (93′), Rai MARCHAN, Leigh BROXHAM, Josh BRILLANTE, Ben FOLAMI (Chris IKONOMIDIS 54′), Nick D’AGOSTINO, Roderick MIRANDA, Jake BRIMMER, Marco ROJAS (Nishan Velupillay 86′)

Unused Subs

Marko BULIC, Francesco MARGIOTTA, Birkan KIRDAR, Jay BARNETT

WELLINGTON PHOENIX

Oliver SAIL, Scott WOOTTON, Tim PAYNE, Gael SANDOVAL (Riley BIDOIS 87′), Ben OLD (Jackson MANUEL 87′), Reno PISCOPO, Nicholas PENNINGTON (James MCGARRY 84′), Louis FENTON (Oskar VAN HATTUM 88′), Ben WAINE, Sam SUTTON (Gary HOOPER 75′), Finn SURMAN

Unused Subs

Alexander PAULSEN, Matthew BOZINOVSKI

Feature image credit: Speed Media/Icon Sportswire

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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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