A hectic schedule and a heavy pitch worked against Melbourne Victory in their latest A-League encounter.
MELBOURNE Victory’s unlikely bid for the A-League premiership suffered a significant blow on Monday when they were held to a 1-1 draw by the lowly Brisbane Roar at Moreton Daily Stadium.
While the Victory extended their unbeaten A-League run to 13 matches, a draw wasn’t the result the Tony Popovic-coached side was seeking in the three-horse race for the Premier’s Plate.
A win would have lifted the Victory to equal points with second-placed Western United.
Instead, Popovic’s men only added one point to their season tally. leaving them on 42, two adrift of United – who have played one game less – and four behind competition leaders and arch-rivals Melbourne City.
The Roar have proven to be a surprising nemesis to the Victory in the past fortnight, twice earning draws against their more fancied Melbourne opponent.
The Victory’s busy schedule has also been a factor, with Monday’s match on a wet and heavy pitch played less than 72 hours after the Melbourne club’s 4-1 win over Macarthur FC.
It was perhaps not a surprise then that the Victory made a slow start in difficult conditions to the Anzac Day battle, with the fresher Roar – who were playing for nothing but pride after a poor season – looking the livelier of the two teams.
“The pitch was extremely heavy, which made it difficult for us, considering we played on Friday night and had two and a half days between games,” Popovic said.
“When you assess all that, and Brisbane having nine or 10 days between games .., I’m very proud of the group.”
In-form Brisbane attacker Henry Hore had the first genuine chance of the match when he volleyed wide in the 36th minute.
His teammate Alex Parsons then failed to hit the target six minutes later when he seemed certain to score.
However, Parsons wasn’t to be denied in the 54th minute when he gave the Roar a deserved lead with a sweet left-footed strike that was too good for Victory goalkeeper Ivan Kelava.
Going behind seemed to spring the Victory to life, with Brendan Hamill equalising for the visitors in the 68th minute when he headed home a Francesco Margiotta cross.
The Victory then had a chance to win the game seven minutes later, but Marco Rojas’ shot was well saved by Brisbane goalkeeper Jordan Holmes.
“It was a one-on-one (situation) with the keeper and I’m sure Marco expected to finish it, but it’s not easy to score goals. It’s the hardest thing to do on the pitch,” Popovic said.
Roar coach Warren Moon said his side’s performance was a positive sign for the future.
“Finals for us were gone weeks ago” Moon said.
“It’s about performances now, it’s about pride in the shirt, finding people for next season … and finding players that want to stand up and be counted.”