NRMA Insurance Western Sydney Wanderers remain on top of the table after a late Brendon Santalab equaliser earned the Red & Black a 1-1 draw against Melbourne Victory.
It was a deserved point for Western Sydney and it could have been three if not for Jaushua Sotirio’s late strike being denied by a brilliant save at the death.
With Victory’s great home record at Etihad Stadium and potency in the first half an hour of matches at direct odds with Wanderers’ strong away form and league-high 11 goals in the final 15 minutes of games, it was going to be a contest for the ages.
It didn’t disappoint either.
Besart Berisha claimed an early lead for Melbourne Victory and, coupled with their deep-lying defence, looked to have earned a win until Santalab’s intervention late on.
One of the best impact players in Australian football, Santalab had made 11 appearances leading into the match, scoring four goals on the way to nine wins and zero losses. Upon his injection into the game it was obvious he didn’t want to give-up his undefeated record.
Santalab’s equaliser summed-up the forward’s attributes well: dogged, determined and all class. His efforts won the ball initially and when he received the ball in space to unleash a thunderous, curving strike, it was only ever going to end up in the net.
The match wasn’t without controversy either with a number of heavy tackles, contested decisions and fiery tempers leading to a coming together of players and a red card to Wanderers’ Alberto.
Combined with Dimas’ fifth yellow card of the season, it will mean the Red & Black will go into next week’s match against Wellington Phoenix without two of their three Spanish imports.
Regardless, it was a noteworthy fight back and one of the rare times in their entire history that Melbourne Victory have had to park the bus at home.
Melbourne Victory 1 (Besart Berisha 16’)
Western Sydney Wanderers 1 (Brendon Santalab 89’)