A late goal constructed by Robbie Kruse has given Melbourne Victory a 2-1 win over Newcastle Jets at AAMI Park tonight. Against the run of play, the home side hit the lead in the 20th minute when Carlos Hernandez struck from about 35 yards for his fourth of the season but his superb goal was canceled out by another one of top quality from Ruben Zadkovich nine minutes into the second term.
However, there was to be some late drama when Robbie Kruse stepped around a few Jets defenders, taking the ball towards the byline before cutting back for Ricardinho who finished with a simple tap-in for the win.
The Victory's win was their third in a row and their sixth match undefeated, moving to fifth on the table, two points clear of rivals the Heart as the Jets stay seventh after their second loss on the trot.
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne Crowd: 16,378 Referee: Matthew Breeze Yellow cards:MV - nil NJ - Ljubo Milicevic 21'
Branko Culina made five changes to his side that lost 4-0 to Wellington Phoenix, getting Ljubo Milicevic, Kasey Wehrman and Jobe Wheelhouse back from suspension, whilst Ruben Zadkovich and goalkeeper Ben Kennedy returned from injury.
In the Victory camp, Surat Sukha (injury), Archie Thompson (injury), Grant Brebner (suspended), Matthew Kemp (injury) and Diogo Ferreira (bench) were all out of the team that beat Perth Glory 2-0 as Mate Dugandzic, Leigh Broxham, Tom Pondeljak, Roddy Vargas and Billy Celeski all returned to the starting line-up.
The Jets had a great chance to hit the lead in just the 6th minute when Milicevic played a beautiful long ball into the path of Tarek Elrich on the right flank before he teed up a flying Wheelhouse but his volley was sliced too far wide of the mark, letting off the Victory defence.
Jets striker Francis Jeffers lashed with his left foot on the turn in the 13th minute but Victory keeper Michael Petkovic was well-positioned to make the save as the visitors made their intentions very clear.
Five minutes later, Milicevic almost slipped one past Petkovic from outside the area until Victory star Carlos Hernandez scored with an absolute cracker against the run of play. GOAL The Costa Rican midfielder turned two would-be tacklers in the centre of the pitch before unleashing from 35 yards - his swerving shot dipping past Ben Kennedy and hitting the back of the net to open the scoring despite the Victory only having 25% of play until that moment.
The Victory picked up their act after that and Mate Dugandzic went close in the 25th minute after a good build-up from both Hernandez and Robbie Kruse and things were beginning to turn for the home side after a tardy start.
The visitors had another good session just after the half-hour mark before tempers frayed between opposing captains Milicevic and Kevin Muscat but it was really just handbags at 10 yards among old teammates.
There were a few half-chances late in the opening term but nothing of note as the players went into the dressing rooms for the break with the score at 1-0.
The Jets controlled the tempo of the match in the early stages of the second half and it proved decisive as they grabbed an equaliser less than ten minutes in through Zadkovich. GOAL The former Derby County midfielder received the ball from a nice headed Jeffers lay-off before knocking it up for himself and then volleying home from outside the area with a quality finish to make it 1-1.
Newcastle were still on top as the half progressed although the Victory were dangerous when they could manage to get forward but it was evident they were missing the spark and creativity of Archie Thompson.
It looked as though the Jets would be able to find a winner in the final 20 or so minutes although five minutes from time, the Victory had a golden opportunity to take maximum points when substitute Ricardinho played a neat from the right into the path of Kruse but the joint league leading scorer put it wide of the mark from point blank range under extreme pressure from Milicevic.
The AAMI Park crowd was right behind their team and it proved to be enough as Ricardinho netted a late winner. GOAL Kruse was the architect with some dazzling ball work in close corners before cutting it into the path of the Brazilian who basically ran it in to make it 2-1 at full-time.
MV Michael Petkovic (gk), Kevin Muscat, Mate Dugandzic (Ricardinho 76'), Leigh Broxham, Marvin Angulo (Ferreira 80'), Rodrigo Vargas, Billy Celeski, Tom Pondeljak, Carlos Hernandez (Berger 90+3'), Robbie Kruse, Adrian Leijer
Subs - Sebastian Mattei (gk), Ricardinho (76'), Diogo Ferreira (80'), Evan Berger (90+3')
NJ Ben Kennedy (gk), Adam D'Apuzzo, Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Ljubo Milicevic, Kasey Wehrman, Ruben Zadkovich (Haliti 89')Tarek Elrich, Jobe Wheelhouse, Marko Jesic, Ali Abbas (Fiorentini 76'), Francis Jeffers
Subs - Jack Duncan (gk), Marcello Fiorentini (76'), Labinot Haliti (89'), Sasho Petrovski