Three days after knocking out Adelaide United from the FFA Cup, A-League leaders Men Melbourne Victory were forced to settle for a 1-1 league draw with their fierce rivals at AAMI Park.
Nick D’Agostino’s thunderous strike gave Victory the lead in the 84th minute, before Javi Lopez was controversially denied the equalizer two minutes later and Craig Goodwin finally equalized with a brilliant volley to the 91st.
“I am extremely proud of the players for their efforts tonight. They have never given up,” said Adelaide assistant coach Ross Aloisi.
“We limited Melbourne Victory to a shot on target and that was the goal. Our goalkeeper didn’t save.
“We scored two goals, we could have had two more from set pieces but one hit the crossbar and Jacob Tratt should have scored in the first half.”
The game came to life late when Lleyton Brooks perfectly controlled a long ball and then sent it to D’Agostino, who made a few touches before unleashing a superb left-footed strike into the top corner.
Two minutes later, Lopez scored a brilliant strike but in the lead Stefan Mauk dived for a header and then got stuck between Kelava’s legs, forcing Victory’s keeper to jump on him.
Kelava protested that Mauk’s offside got in the way and the goal was scored.
“Stefan Mauk headed the ball, it fell to the ground. It’s part of the game,” said Aloisi.
“He’s not standing in front of the keeper, he’s not blocking him.
“It just happened that he was there and Javi Lopez scored a fantastic goal.
“I was told it didn’t go to VAR, I don’t know if it did or not. But we have to accept it and move on.”
Adelaide nonetheless equalized when Lopez fell to the right and lifted a cross to Goodwin, who smashed an accurate volley.
In the process, the veteran Reds Isaias received a second yellow card.
Aloisi said he understood referee Shaun Evans thought Isaias yelled “f *** off” in his face, but the veteran told him he actually celebrated by shouting “vamos”.
The Reds will consider whether they can appeal the card.
Winning coach Tony Popovic lamented his side’s poor decision-making and execution in the final third.
“In some areas there we were probably lacking a bit of experience in how to handle certain times, but it will come,” he said.
“Overall I thought we should have won the game.
An understaffed victory confirmed Jason Davidson, Matthew Spiranovic and Chris Ikonomidis were injured while “a number of players” were sidelined due to COVID-19 protocols.
Adelaide was also missing Michael Jakobsen, Mo Toure and Yaya Dukuly, as well as head coach Carl Veart, for COVID concerns.
Josh Cavallo from Adelaide suffered a concussion and blurred vision in one eye after an accidental elbow nudge to Brooks’ head in the 94th minute.
Louis D’Arrigo was assessed for a concussion and a knee injury after a late head clash with Jason Geria.
Associated Australian Press