Melbourne Victory offered another indication of their burgeoning championship credentials on Friday, grinding out a 1-0 win over title-holders Brisbane Roar despite being well below their best at Etihad Stadium.
Kevin Muscat’s team had to wait until late in the second half to finally break the deadlock and needed the assistance of their opponents to do so, Jade North unwittingly guiding the ball home to undo a night of hard work from the dogged visitors.
Billed as a showdown between Victory star Besart Berisha and his former team, the Albanian marksman couldn’t find the back of the net in a game that was all graft and no craft, surprisingly so for two such accomplished teams.
That will matter little to the hosts in navy blue and white though, who remain unbeaten in the league this season and placed the onus squarely on their nearest challengers – Adelaide United, Sydney FC and Perth Glory – to go out and win in Round 7.
1-0 (Jade North own-goal 77′)
Fahid Ben Khalfallah swung in a free-kick from the right wing, Besart Berisha got a touch and then the ball struck North, who was powerless to prevent it from going into his own net.
Berisha’s best chance to score against his old team came in the 22nd minute. Played in by Daniel Georgievski, he shot firmly across goal but was denied by the out-stretched boot of Roar keeper Jamie Young.
Approaching the hour mark Victory had the ball in the back of the net after Young caught a cross and carried it over his own line, only for offside to be given against Adrian Leijer.
Opta Data key stats
By half-time there had been more yellow cards (four) than shots on target (three), telling you all you need to know about a forgettable first half.
Ben Khalfallah should have killed the game off in injury time when played in one-on-one, only to shoot tamely straight at Young. Fortunately for the former Bordeaux man, Victory didn’t concede right at the death and he was spared Muscat’s wrath.
The Roar lost Shane Stefanutto in the 17th minute, the veteran fullback replaced by James Donachie.
Back to the drawing board
Dimitri Petratos played in midfield and struggled to impose himself against Mark Milligan and Carl Valeri, allowing Victory more of the ball than might be expected against the possession kings from Queensland.
The Final Word
The Big V’s next engagement is a crunch match at home to fellow frontrunners Adelaide United on Friday, while the Roar welcome Perth Glory to Suncorp Stadium in another big test for Mike Mulvey’s struggling champions.
Melbourne Victory: Coe, Galloway, Georgievski, Leijer, Broxham, Milligan, Valeri (Mahazi 86′), Finkler (Pain 67′), Ben Khalfallah, Thompson (Barbarouses 57′), Berisha.
Brisbane Roar: Young, Stefanutto (Donachie 17′), Bowles, Smith, North, Brattan, McKay (Lustica 81), Broich, Petratos, Henrique, Borrello (Kurtishi 62′).
Scorers: North (own-goal, 77′)
Red cards: None
Yellow cards: Valeri 10′, McKay 29′, Milligan 35′, North 45′
Conditions: 23 degrees, dry.
Attendance: 23,740@Etihad Stadium