Brisbane Roar have overtaken the Wanderers for the last spot in the A-League Final series after the Wanderers failed to defeat Melbourne Victory after the Roar overturned the Mariners earlier in the night.
A crazy first half saw a player from both sides sent off late after the intervention of the VAR, in the second Melbourne Victory cruised to an eventual 3-1 win.
After their insipid display last week against Melbourne City, Josep Gombau's men acted like they wanted to be on the pitch for once. After their failure to get a shot on target last week, that ignoble stat was beaten inside 45 seconds with a long range shot by Chris Ikonomidis. Kosta Barbarouses forced a great save out of Vedran Janjetovic in the 20th minute, the keeper flying to his left to turn the fierce shot over the bar.
It looked for all money that Ikonomidis would have put the visiting side one up in the 28th minute, he took a short pass from Alvaro Cejudo, weaved his way through the Victory defence and was denied when his through the legs shot caught the legs of Lawrence Thomas before it was cleared out of danger.
Unfortunately, minutes later Victory were in front against the run of play. Chris Evans awarded a free kick against Keanu Baccus for a push in the back on James Troisi. Leroy George stood over the ball and hammered a shot into the wall, it deflected off the head of Brendan Hamill and it left Janjetovic for dead as he was going the other way.
The bizarre stoppage time period began with a delightful goal from Alvaro Cejudo who finally looked like the marquee he is being paid to be. Riera knocked the ball down for Ikonomidis, and his touch found Lustica, after a lucky pinball rebound off Thomas Deng, Lustica passed over to Cejudo who lobbed over the onrushing Thomas, with just enough power & direction to keep it under the bar and away from the last ditch attempted karate clearance from Deng. It was a cultured finish, and one that will have Wanderers fans thinking where was that all this season?
Deep into stoppage time the Wanderers gave a corner, as Michael Thwaite completely misplayed a simply backpass from the midfield. Having earlier been carded after he stuck out a leg to cancel a Victory counter-attack, Thwaite was marched down the tunnel by Chris Evans after he rugby tackled Rhys Williams to the ground and was given a second yellow. He would feel hard done by as replays showed Oriol Riera being hacked from behind to start the counter-attack that Thwaite ended up stopping at the cost of the first card. Regardless of another example of poor officiating the experienced central defender should have known better and left Williams flailing on his own. There was yet more drama as the VAR took 5 long minutes reviewing the play, no-one in the stands, or watching at home on television had any idea of what was going on.
With the lack of information given by the officials when VAR reviews take place, it was assumed they were going over the Thwaite foul. Instead, they were examining an incident as the players lined up on the edge of the penalty area. Kosta Barbarouses was shown a red card of his own for a stomp on Keanu Baccus. Berisha eventually stepped up in the 51st minute to send Janjetovic the wrong way. Both the red card and the goal were historically the latest such events in the first half of an Australian top flight football game.
Western Sydney might have started the first half well, but with both teams a man down it was Victory in the lead who took control of the game. George & Terry Antonis combined to put the ex-Wanderers midfielder on the by-line at the edge of the penalty area. Josh Risdon jogged over to confront him, but stood off and watch Antonis stopped to being the ball back on his right foot and measured a cross that flew over the penalty area, finding fullback Deng who ran on and blasted a volley that flew into the top corner, a rocket that will go well in the goal of the year awards.
From that point on the Wanderers were at supreme risk of conceding on the counter, while doing little to threaten the scoreline. It was only the offside flag & and the far post that kept the scoreline at 3-1. Leroy George weaved another piece of magic after Kearyn Baccus lost the ball, George ran into the paddock he left Hamill for dead with a cut inside and his curling shot struck the post with a clang.
With just two games left in the regular season, next weeks clash between Western Sydney and Brisbane Roar on Saturday at the Olympic Stadium in Homebush looks set to determine the 6th place finisher. Picking a winner there looks tough, but the Wanderers will take some heart at their level of effort if not their technical application from tonight.