April 19, 2015 12:01:10 UK
Melbourne Victory are all-but guaranteed to pick up the Premier’s Plate after Mark Milligan’s penalty gave them a 1-0 win away to Brisbane Roar.
Kevin Muscat’s side, who are 2.75 to win the Grand Final, are three points clear of Sydney FC going into the final round of the campaign, with a seven-goal advantage over the Sky Blues in goal difference.
Barring a disaster in their final match at home to Central Coast Mariners next Sunday, combined with a big win for Sydney at third-placed Wellington Phoenix, Victory will celebrate their third premiership.
They showed today they can do a good job in the future.
They have done it the hard way, by beating defending champions Brisbane twice at Suncorp Stadium in the space of four days.
Roar coach Frans Thijssen left himself open to questions by making eight changes from the team that lost 2-1 to Victory on Wednesday, handing starts to the like of youth team players Shannon Brady and Patrick Theodore.
The home side almost snatched the lead in the first half when, from a well-worked free-kick routine, Steve Lustica curled his shot against the crossbar.
But they didn’t manage another shot on target until the 95th minute, and can have few complaints about the result even though the penalty decision itself was controversial.
Referee Ben Williams pointed to the spot in first-half injury time, ruling Carl Valeri had his ankle tapped from behind by George Lambadaridis as he prepared to shoot from close range. Replays suggested Lambadaridis was unlucky to be held responsible.
Milligan side-footed his spot-kick past Jamie Young for what proved the only goal, sealing their 14th and most crucial win of the season.
Victory fluffed their lines a week earlier, losing 1-0 at home to bottom side Newcastle Jets. The back-to-back wins in Brisbane, though, have surely wrapped up their first premiership since 2008-09.
Thijssen, defending his decision to rotate his squad ahead of Tuesday’s Asian Champions League clash with Beijing Guoan in China, said: “It’s not possible to play with the same players all the time. They showed today they can do a good job in the future.”
Victory are 1.40 to beat Central Coast in their next match, with the Mariners 6.50 and the draw 4.50.
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