Melbourne Victory has leapt to the top of the A-League table with a comfortable 2-1 win over bottom of the table Adelaide United at Etihad Stadium.
First half goals to Besart Berisha, from the penalty spot early on, and Oliver Bozanic, from a terrific free kick just before the half-hour mark, effectively sealed this match with an hour to go. Marcelo Carrusca’s 86th minute consolation from the penalty spot was as good as it got for Adelaide.
The game might, however, be remembered more for the actions of Victory’s North Terrace group of supporters, who staged a dramatic walkout just seconds after Bozanic’s shot had hit the back of the net.
Several hundred of the fans in the area behind Victory goalkeeper Danny Vukovic’s goal stood, saluted their heroes and then turned their backs on the action on the pitch and marched out of the stand, many waving their scarves as they went.
Most of the remaining fans applauded their demonstration as the players carried on, trying to ignore the distraction.
The supporters are incensed at what they believe is a lack of backing from the FFA to the criticisms of the sport over the past week following the “name and shame” file of 198 banned supporters published in News Corporations Sunday Telegraph last week.
They are even more angry at the lack of an appeals process whereby supporters who have been banned from grounds for years for sometimes minor infractions have had no avenue to argue that their “conviction” was wrong.
The supporters’ core argument is that the FFA is hypocritical – happy to use footage of active supporters creating a loud and passionate environment in marketing the game – but sometimes passing draconian judgement on those same supporters without any right to redress. There was also plenty of comment about the heavy police presence around the ground given the paltry numbers of travelling Adelaide fans.
Victory boss Kevin Muscat has always said that he will reward players regardless of name or status if they perform, and he was true to his word in his selection.
Even though club captain Carl Valeri was fit and available, Muscat left him on the bench and retained Rashid Mahazi in midfield, although Berisha, who had missed the game against Central Coast, did come back into the side at the expense of George Howard.
The Reds, marooned at the foot of the A-League table and still to win a game this year, began in lively enough fashion. Winger Sergio Cirio forced Victory full back Daniel Georgievski into an early error but could not capitalise on the opening as his shot flashed across the face of goal.
But they fell behind in the 14th minute when defender Jordan Elsey felled Victory’s overlapping full back Jason Geria in the area after Kosta Barbarouses had found him with a pass.
Berisha stepped forward and beat Eugene Galekovic in regulation style for his sixth goal of the season, putting him level with Melbourne City’s Uruguayan striker Bruno Fornaroli.
Bozanic headed wide from a free kick after the dynamic Barbarouses was fouled by Adelaide youngster George Mells, and it was the Kiwi international’s marauding run that led to the second goal.
Barbarouses sped past a couple of challenges and bore down on the Adelaide goal when his run was ended by a Jimmy Jeggo foul. Up stepped Bozanic, who directed the set piece up, over, round and then down beyond the Reds wall.
Galekovic got a hand to the ball but could not stop it going in.
The Reds have now played eight games and taken just three points out of a possible 24.
Pressure has been building on their Spanish coach Guillermo Amor.
Victory, however, marches on and would have been glad with a straightforward win as their workload over the next three weeks is tough, with three away games – in Wellington, Western Sydney and Perth.