Melbourne Victory have come out on top in a simply frantic Friday night of A-League action at Suncorp Stadium, defeating 10-man Brisbane Roar 4-2.
It was a game that scarcely had a dull moment and was by some distance the most open game of the 2018-19 A-League season so far; six goals, two penalties, an own goal and a red card.
And while it was Victory who took the lead through Kosta Barbarouses, capitalising on a Thomas Kristensen error, it could so easily have been the Roar in front. They forced their visitors into not one, but three goal-line clearances to survive a third-minute corner.
The mountain gre taller for Brisbane soon after when Eric Bautheac was sent off for two bookable offences in a matter of seconds; a coarse challenge on Corey Brown followed by the raising of his hands to Ola Toivonen’s face.
But John Aloisi’s side found a way back in, equalising from the penalty spot via centurion Adam Taggart. They were not level for long though, with Toivonen expertly finishing off a crisp Victory move down the left.
Keisuke Honda, having given away the penalty not long previous, soon slotted a penalty of his own to make it 3-1 to Victory, though Toivonen’s own goal breathed life back into Brisbane.
Yet there was to be more drama in the half. Barbarouses scored his second, converting a short corner that came straight from the Victory training ground.
The second stanza by contrast was a more tame affair with neither team troubling the scorers; in fact, both teams combined managed just four shots on goal as Victory dominated territory until the final whistle.
A well timed advert
Thursday’s expansion announcement – with the Western Melbourne Group and Macarthur Southwest Sydney to join the A-League, one season after the other – divided fans in many respects but it nevertheless gave the league a timely boost.
So, just a day later, it was pleasing to see Brisbane and Victory ride those coat tails, though unintended, and fight out a chaotic first 45 minutes that ultimately decided the match. It had everything.
Brisbane vs Victory is a fixture that has traditionally delivered plenty of goals, and controversy too. They have fought out numerous 3-3 draws over the years and red cards have not been scarce, Bautheac being the latest victim.
The makeup of the game could easily have been different had Taggart converted from the corner after 120 seconds, but alas Victory made them pay not long after and eventually secured their sixth-straight win thanks to what was, at times, simply delightful play.
The Roar will be frustrated to emerge second-best after a promising start but still deserve some credit for pushing on, at least until the interval. That combined with Victory’s slick play made the match an attractive one for the neutral, even though both managers would have been displeased at the best of time.
It is just a shame the match did not have the reach of free to air TV.
Stylish, but not perfect
Eight games down and now with six wins on the spin, Victory are humming and are beginning to look like the championship challengers and ultimately defenders they were widely predicted to be in preseason.
Japanese star Honda did not have his best game in Victory colours but was still effective, and Toivonen has found his groove in front of goal. His cool finish for 2-1 was reflective of a man who just featured at a World Cup.
Impressive too is Barbarouses, who now looks settled in his new role as something of a second striker. He struck twice, and both goals were from the top draw in their creation.
But while Victory looked fluent, their set piece defending was worrisome and so easily could have snapped their winning streak. Brisbane really should have converted early to lead.
They could not scramble clear another corner soon after and Honda conceded a penalty. Once 3-1 up, Toivonen but the ball into his own net, thanks in part to a tasty Alex Lopez delivery.
Brisbane in danger of losing touch
The Roar are now second-bottom of the table and can boast just six points; only Central Coast Mariners have collected less points so far this campaign.
One can argue Brisbane are still just two points adrift of the top six, but Newcastle Jets, Wellington Phoenix or Western Sydney Wanderers can put a slither of distance between the chasing pack with wins in their respective games.
Worse still is that they will lose Bautheac for one match – a trip to Wellington before Christmas – after his moment of madness.
That is the first of two consecutive away games, the next being against Sydney FC, before ladder leaders Perth Glory visit Suncorp Stadium on 6 January.