Ten-man Victory land home final despite Roar draw

Anna Harrington |

Melbourne Victory’s Jason Geria was sent off in the 51st minute against  Brisbane.
Melbourne Victory’s Jason Geria was sent off in the 51st minute against Brisbane.

Melbourne Victory are guaranteed to finish in the A-League Men top four and host an elimination final, despite blowing their chance to seal third place in a lacklustre 0-0 draw with Brisbane Roar.

But they will be sweating on how the Match Review Panel assess Jason Geria’s 51st-minute challenge on Roar’s Corey Brown that drew a red card for the Victory defender.

A win at AAMI Park on Saturday against Brisbane, who are out of finals contention, would have sealed third place for Tony Popovic’s side.

But Victory rarely looked threatening in a stale performance, playing almost an entire half with 10 men after Geria was sent off.

The Roar had 22 shots (four on target) to Victory’s eight (two on target) and the Melbourne side were in danger of missing the top four altogether if the Bulls and Sydney FC had drawn on Saturday night, then both won next week.

But a nine-man Macarthur beat the Sky Blues 1-0 to confirm Victory’s top-four spot and home elimination final.

With one regular-season game remaining, Victory (42 points) are third, with Macarthur (41) fourth and Sydney (38) fifth.

Victory face seventh-placed Western Sydney at home next Saturday, while Macarthur travel to play second-placed Wellington.

Sydney host bottom-of-the-ladder Perth on Sunday.

Popovic admitted his side played better when reduced to 10 men, and praised their first clean sheet in eight games over two months.

Tony Popovic
Tony Popovic was delighted with his side’s first clean sheet in two months. (Will Murray/AAP PHOTOS)

“It’s a missed opportunity to win another game going into the finals, but we’ve kept a clean sheet and it might be 10-odd games since we’ve done that – and we did it with 10 men,” he said.

“So a lot of character. We’ve got to learn from this and take it into the Wanderers game, which is an important game. 

“Wanderers need to win to try and get in, so it’s a good game for us to play before the finals.”

Geria caught Brown in the shin with his studs in a sliding tackle and was initially booked, before being sent off after a VAR review.

He will be suspended for at least the Wanderers game, but if the panel takes a dim view of the incident, he could miss the elimination final. 

Brisbane had a plethora of chances to win the game.

Henry Hore hit the post in the 39th minute and Victory goalkeeper Paul Izzo made multiple saves, including an incredible leaping fingertip effort to deny Nikola Mileusnic in the 65th.

Bruno Fornaroli cleared a Mileusnic shot off the line just after halftime, before fumbling a chance of his own in the 76th minute.

“We were totally dominant, which was good,” interim Roar coach Ruben Zadkovich said, expressing his pride in his side’s performance.

“We’d like to take some of those chances, and I’m sure some of those boys would like a few of those moments over again.

“But to create the chances from things we’ve worked on is a massive positive.”