Lleyton Brooks has momentarily saved Melbourne Victory from being condemned to their first-ever A-League wooden spoon, rescuing a 1-1 draw against rivals Melbourne City.
Played behind closed doors, City seemed poised to come away with all three points after Nick Ansell’s own-goal and had a second disallowed only moments before Brooks’ equaliser as Anthony Lesiotis’ tap-in was ruled offside.
The Victory youngster saved their blushes with essentially the last-kick of the game – volleying home in a desperate goal-line scramble capping off a much improved performance from the previous Derby demolitions.
Brooks’ late equaliser also means City won’t win all three Melbourne Derby’s in a single-season for the first-time in their club’s history.
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Despite the point, Victory can still finish bottom of the league should the Jets not lose against City in their last game of the season next week.
The game will also serve as a final chance for Patrick Kisnorbo to have a look at his squad heading into finals as they gear-up for a home semi in two-weeks’ time.
For City it was yet another dress-rehearsal before finals as Kisnorbo looks to find the best mix to replace his Socceroos bound stars.
Kisnorbo made seven changes to the side that lost to Brisbane a little under a fortnight ago, bringing back many of his regular campaigners including keeper Tom Glover and captain Scott Jamieson.
Marco Tilio again shone leading the line, while 17-year-old Raphael Borges Rodrigues dazzled in his first A-League start on the left-wing in-place of Craig Noone who missed with soreness.
Naoki Tsubaki, who also got another chance with Andrew Nabbout still missing with injury played a hand in the own-goal as his cross deflected in off Ansell.
15-year-old Max Caputo and former Victory midfielder Lesiotis were also given chances, with the former being rewarded for solid NPL form to become the 12th youngest player to play in the top-flight of Australian football.
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However, despite rescuing a point it caps off Victory’s worst-ever campaign as they look ahead to the Tony Popovic era.
Caretaker boss Steve Kean will officially hand the keys to incoming coach Popovic after their FFA Cup play-off against Perth next-week as the latter faces the task of restoring a once dominant force to their lofty heights of seasons prior.
With players fighting for their future at the club, there was a much greater effort among the Victory side which has lacked throughout the season as the likes of Matt Acton and Ben Folami impressed again.
Out of contract foreigners Rudy Gestede and Jacob Butterfield were among the contingency playing for their futures but the former in particular squandered two chances from point-blank range.
Youngsters Nishan Velipullay and Brooks again impressed in their limited minutes – putting themselves right in contention to play a role in the Popovic era.
However, for some their futures may have already been decided with Popovic already putting his stamp on the squad he hopes to inherit next season – informing certain members of their futures at the club.