Seven bookings, two disallowed goals and VAR intervention saw the fourth installment of the “Battle of the Bridge” end in a goalless yet action-packed stalemate.
The green-and-black were denied on two occasions with both Besart Berisha and Dylan Pierias ruled offside by the VAR either side of half-time after slotting – what they both thought – was the opening goal.
Pierias’ disallowed strike was the more controversial of the two, with the former City player judged to be marginally offside by the VAR after a brilliant individual play.
Both sides came out swinging from the word go with Victory’s youth brigade dazzling in the early stages, while Western United adopted a greater physical approach to assert itself into the contest.
A unique pre-game showcase which saw Western United look to further amp up the rivalry by blasting two Victory fan anthems – Seven Nation Army and Stand By Me – through the speakers set the tone for a tense 90 minutes.
Robbie Kruse was a late out and replaced by Luis Lawrie-Lattanzio, while young Brandon Lauton kept his place in the squad.
It was this pair who got the ball rolling for the Victory inside the opening ten minutes. Lawrie-Lattanzio forced an early routine save from Kurto before Lauton slammed the post from close range after a promising Marco Rojas counter attack.
Yet to score in 2021, Besart Berisha thought he had given his side the lead in the 36th minute when he tapped home a Connor Pain pass in front of his once beloved Victory fans.
Albeit celebrations were forced to a halt with VAR ruling Pain offside as he received a cutting Victor Sanchez ball prior to making the assist.
Desperate to break this game open, both managers looked to their respective benches in hopes of finding a winner.
Basque import Iker Guarrotxena nearly answered Mark Rudan’s prayers off the bench when his attempt from the six-yard box was parried away by Max Crocombe in the 71st minute.
Alessandro Diamanti gave a wry smile when his 73rd minute strike rattled the crossbar, though his expression would have quickly turned into something of disbelief when he repeated the feat some three minutes later.
Pierias – and the person in charge of the Western United pyro – then thought he had broken the deadlock in the 77th minute only to be ruled offside by the assistant, with the marginal decision upheld by the VAR.
At the other end, the Victory had the chance to win it late for the second consecutive week when last week’s hero Jake Brimmer laid off for substitute Birkan Kirdar, who forced a fabulous save out of Filip Kurto.
The point is the first Victory has taken off Western United and will now travel to Brisbane unbeaten in its last two, while Western United face the Central Coast Mariners in Gosford.
Filip Kurto, Tomoki Imai, Andrew Durante, Ivan Vuija, Tomislav Uskok (Lachie Wales 81′), Victor Sanchez, Alessandro Diamanti, Steven Lustica (Iker Guarrotxena 54′), Besart Berisha (Dylan Pierias 71′), Connor Pain
Ryan Scott, Brendan Hamill, Jerry Skotadis, Nicolas Milanovic
Max Crocombe, Adama Traore, Dylan Ryan, Storm Roux, Leigh Broxham (Jay Barnett 78′), Jacob Butterfield, Jake Brimmer, Brandon Lauton (Elvis Kamsoba 61′), Marco Rojas (Ben Folami 61′), Luis Lawrie-Lattanzio (Birkan Kirdar 65′)
Matt Acton, Aaron Anderson, Zaydan Bello