Melbourne Victory and Brisbane Roar have played out an entertaining 1-1 draw in their A-League clash on Saturday
|By GREIG JOHNSTON
The Melbourne Victory and Brisbane Roar have played out an entertaining 1-1 draw in their A-League clash at AAMI Park on Saturday.
Despite dominating the early going, the Victory fell behind 24 minutes into the contest when Ben Halloran scored following a defensive blunder from Diogo Ferreira, but a cracking strike four minutes into the second half from Mark Milligan secured a point for Ange Postecoglou's team.
Former Victory goalkeeper Michael Theo came back to haunt his old team, pulling off a string of quality saves throughout the match to keep out the home side.
In a fast and furious opening, it was the Victory who dominated the initial skirmishes as Brisbane struggled to gain a foothold in the match.
Gui Finkler was in everything early, and his left-foot shot from the edge of the area in the fourth minute forced the first save from Theo.
The 'keeper was called upon again moments later when Marco Rojas and Marcos Flores worked a neat one-two, with the former's low shot producing a good save.
Flores had a terrific chance 16 minutes in when the ball broke kindly for him in the box, but the Argentine's shot was deflected past Theo's upright.
Theo was on hand to deny the Victory again three minutes later when he brilliantly stopped a first-time Rojas shot after a wonderful cross-field ball from Adama Traore.
The Roar took the lead firmly against the run of play 24 minutes in when Ferreira failed to clear a loose ball in the penalty area and Halloran was on hand to smash the ball past Nathan Coe into the top right-hand corner of the net.
The goal seemed to spark Brisbane, who appeared more assured after going ahead.
Thomas Broich was fouled on the edge of the box 34 minutes in, but his free-kick was too high to bother Coe.
Broich, Halloran and Massimo Murdocca began to enjoy some possession in the attacking third, and although both sides were creating chances as the half drew to a close, the score remained 1-0 at the interval.
Milligan levelled four minutes into the second half with a fantastic strike.
He laid the ball off to Finkler, who played it back to him and the Australian international sprinted to the edge of the 18-yard box before unleashing a spectacular drive past Theo that almost burst the net.
Milligan almost grabbed a second two minutes later, but Theo produced a fine save to deny the midfielder's left-foot shot.
Adrian Leijer and Roar striker Besart Berisha came to grips soon after, with the Victory skipper appearing to throw the Albanian to the ground off the ball, forcing him to be substituted because of a shoulder problem.
The pace of the game slowed for a short spell after the hour mark as players felt the effects of the up-tempo affair.
Brisbane lost Mitch Nicholls to a suspected back complaint, and he was replaced by Do Dong-Hyung while the Victory injected young attacker Andrew Nabbout at the expense of Flores.
Theo brilliantly denied Finkler in the 74th minute, pulling a great save out of the hat when the Brazilian produced a great turn and shot after an Archie Thompson cross, and he was at it again moments later to keep out Thompson's effort.
The 'keeper did well once more in the 82nd minute to stop an awkwardly bouncing shot from Nabbout, and the 19-year-old almost won three points for Victory in stoppage time, but his delicate chip floated just over the crossbar.
The Victory had one last chance to seal the win in the fifth minute of stoppage time when Finkler floated in a free-kick.
Fittingly, it was Theo who came to the aid of his side once again - punching the ball clear to ensure honours remained even.