Arzani and Fornaroli strengthen Socceroos case to send Vuck top with Big Blue blowout


Melbourne Victory have moved top of the A-League table after an inspired first half saw them down Big Blue rivals Sydney FC at AAMI Park.

It was their big three who fired, with Daniel Arzani grabbing the first, Zinedine Machach the second and Bruno Fornaroli the third.

Arzani, who has so long threatened but underwhelmed, finally delivered with an excellent run and finish for the opener, while Machach, who might well be the best player in the competition, showed all of his skill to chip FC keeper Adam Pavlesic.

Fornaroli, who had spurned a superb chance to make it 3-0 before the break, finally got his too, ending the game as a contest just before the hour mark.

Both strengthened their case for inclusion in Graham Arnold’s Asian Cup squads, and if the manager is picking on form he will have to consider them.

Fornaroli now has 12 in eight games this season, five more than anyone else in the A-League, while Arzani is among the most talented players available and, finally, might have found some end product at the right time.

This was the performance that Victory have threatened to deliver. Their attack has never been in doubt – though their finishing has – and tonight, they allied efficiency in front of goal with security at the back, recording their first clean sheet since the opening weekend.

It was no surprise, however, that it came against Sydney FC. The Sky Blues drew a blank at home to Victory in Round 1 and have failed to score in all six of their defeats so far this season.

Though they have changed managers since, the results have barely altered.

For the first half, they were more than in the contest and had two very close calls, with Paul Izzo forced into several smart saves and Fabio Gomes denied a goal by the offside flag, but as the game went on, the threat receded.

Melbourne Victory’s Bruno Fornaroli celebrates a goal. (Photo by Jeremy Ng/Getty Images)

Where Victory are now top – at least until Macarthur FC play on Monday night – Sydney FC are third last. They have scored just eight goals all year, and five of them were in the same game, one of only two they have won.

“Most important was to win, we haven’t been at home for a month so it’s been a tough time,” said Tony Popovic.

“Sydney played well in the first half, Paul (Izzo) made some great saves and we’ve come away with a vital win. We were really keen on backing up our performance last week (winning at Western Sydney).

“We got the bonus of the clean sheet and after scoring four last week we scored three today, so the boys are in good goalscoring form.”

Jake Girdwood-Reich fluffed his lines at the back post and allowed Izzo to clear, and quick as a flash, Machach was free on goal at the other end. Only a last ditch effort kept the scoresheet blank.

It wouldn’t last as Victory went back to back with two excellent goals.

First, Fornaroli had the presence of mind to take a quick free kick and switch the ball to Arzani, who drove at the defence and picked out the bottom corner.

Before Sydney FC knew what had hit them, it was two. This time Brimmer was the architect, slipping a pass for the onrushing Machach, who dinked the keeper superbly to double the lead.

Though that would end the scoring for the half, it was not for lack of trying.

Fabio Gomes had the ball in the net but was pulled back for the most marginal of offsides and, at the other end, Fornaroli forced an excellent save out of Pavlesic when he could have given any of three teammates a tap in.

They went to the sheds with Victory leading 2-0, but it was a minor miracle that only two goals were scored after a madcap half.

Fornaroli needn’t have worried about his miss late in the first half. With Victory pressing high, Jake Girdwood-Reich gave the ball away, allowing Machach to expertly draw the two remaining defenders to him, slip the ball between them and get the striker into space. The rest was a formality.

With the scoreline secure, Victory focussed on the clean sheet that had eluded them for so long, and Sydney FC were all too happy to oblige.

They bossed the ball but played almost entirely in front of Victory’s defence, with only a Kucharski header off the post to show for the bulk of possession.

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