A dejected Nicolas Martinez reflects on the Wanderers’ draw with the victory after the full-time siren. (AAP: Craig Golding)
A 10-man Melbourne Victory have held Western Sydney to a 0-0 draw at Sydney’s Olympic stadium, locking in a top-two A-League finish and subsequent home semi-final.
The Wanderers had every chance to utilise their numerical advantage after Daniel Georgievski was shown a second yellow card with 35 minutes to play on Saturday night.
Their failure to capitalise erased any hopes Tony Popovic’s fifth-placed men had of catching Melbourne City in fourth and earning a home final, though they are at least now guaranteed a top-six spot.
For the Victory, one point is enough to ensure third-placed Brisbane Roar cannot catch them in their final two matches.
Meanwhile, A-League premiers Sydney FC were held to a 1-1 draw with the Phoenix in Wellington earlier on Saturday.
Both the Victory and Wanderers were enterprising but lacked polish in an opening half-hour underscored by the absence of a single shot on goal.
Besart Berisha was later denied his 100th A-League goal by the offside flag, before Vedran Janjetovic was finally called into action to tip over James Troisi’s curling effort.
The gloveman’s next stop was a stand-out, a brave dive to the left to punch the ball clear just as Berisha went to make contact with Troisi’s cross.
To the Wanderers’ credit, the hosts would not abate and could well have taken the lead after a Victory mix-up.
Rashid Mahazi, making his fourth start in midfield, delivered a pass straight to Martinez, who drew out custodian Lawrence Thomas but should have done more with it.
Just shy of half-time the well-performing Argentine turned James Donachie to set up Brendon Santalab, only for Georgievski to clear the danger with a timely slide.
Georgievski’s next challenge on Scott Neville in the 53rd minute spelt the end of his shift.
The Newcastle Jets-bound defender, who had already gone into the book for tripping up Japanese winger Jumpei Kusukami in the first half, thundered in and got to the ball first, though his challenge was deemed too reckless and he was promptly removed.
The hosts lifted a gear but could not make their advantage count as the speedy Jumpei made a meal of two excellent chances before Terry Antonis’ free kick was blocked by jack of all trades Leigh Broxham..
As the Wanderers pushed and probed, Victory’s reshuffled backline was unwavering, and the scoreline ensured both sides went home with a point.
“We created very good moments and we defended very well as a team,” Popovic said.
“We just couldn’t get the breakthrough.”
Victory coach Kevin Muscat questioned the legitimacy of Georgievski’s second yellow, which could not be reviewed by the video assistant referee because it was not a direct red card.
“In the replay I saw there didn’t seem to be much contact, if any at all,” Muscat said.
“Maybe he was a little bit aggressive in going in for the ball, but after that the game was ruined as a spectacle.
“But we defended very well and showed some good spirit and good qualities to keep Lawrence from making too many saves.”