Ten-man Melbourne Victory clung on to defeat Brisbane Roar 3-2 in stormy circumstances after a controversial red card to frontman Besart Berisha.
There was no shortage of entertainment for the crowd at AAMI Park on Friday night, with four goals in the opening half-hour and five by half-time as the Victory toughed out their sixth consecutive win.
Victory coach Kevin Muscat said he was staggered by the decision to send Berisha off.
“Bes is really unlucky … I haven’t come across anyone who said it was a red card,” he said.
“We were dominating with a clear intent to attack.
“In the end we had to do it the hard way.”
Without a rescinding or a successful appeal from Berisha on grounds of an “obvious error” for the red card, the Albanian will now be sidelined for the title-chasers’ biggest week of the season, taking in trips to Wellington and Perth.
Brisbane coach John Aloisi, whose winless run at AAMI Park at both Melbourne Heart and Brisbane Roar lengthened to 14 games, said he was pleased with the team’s fightback.
“What character we showed and what good football we showed by getting back to the game,” he said.
“The sending off played a little bit in their favour because they defended well after that.”
A James Troisi-inspired Victory stormed to a 3-0 lead within half-an-hour but nearly threw their lead away before halftime, conceding two before the break.
Troisi scored the opener, set up Marco Rojas’ second and played in Berisha who netted the third from the penalty spot.
— Melbourne Victory (@gomvfc) January 13, 2017
The Roar replied through a Dimitri Petratos stunner and a James Donachie own-goal, but couldn’t find a third despite playing with a one-man advantage for 30 minutes.
Berisha was dismissed for a high arm on Luke DeVere, although contact appeared to be minimal in an incident reminiscent of Jade North’s dive against Melbourne City last month at the same ground.
The red card sent the partisan crowd into a frenzy, loudly booing DeVere’s every touch and with a bottle thrown onto the pitch.
Incredibly though, after the helter-skelter first hour, Victory held on for a sixth-straight win.
Troisi started Victory’s early rampage with an exquisite free kick, curled over the wall and past Michael Theo from just outside the box.
Five minutes later, he conjured Victory’s second.
Troisi turned his way out of close attention, playing a stunning through-ball around the Roar defence and catching Theo unaware.
The Roar gloveman was indecisive in the crucial moment, allowing Rojas to run onto the ball and slot home at the near post.
Berisha made it three from the spot shortly after, racing onto Troisi’s pass and being brought down brought down by DeVere.
The Roar looked to be playing in second gear but, out of nowhere, Petratos conjured a route back into the match with the contest’s best goal.
From a free kick 30 metres out, the 24-year-old unleashed a thunderbolt that screamed into the top right corner, giving Lawrence Thomas no chance.
Victory were flattened by the strike and, soon enough, their three-goal advantage was just one.
Brandon Borrello’s tricky ball into the hotspot proved too tricky for ex-Roar defender Donachie to deal with and he put it into his own goal.
It might have been all square at the break too, with Thomas narrowly deflecting a Matt McKay effort wide.
Berisha’s dismissal after the break changed the complexion of the game but there would be no sixth goal.
With just 10 men, Troisi hit the post after fine lead-up work by Rojas and Fahid Ben Khalfallah, while Thomas denied McKay with Brisbane’s best chance to equalise.
– with AAP