Gutsy Victory down United
Melbourne Victory's rollercoaster season has taken an upward curve, with a ten-man Victory outfit registering a 3-2 win over Gold Coast United at AAMI Park to move to third on the Hyundai A-League table.
After an underwhelming start to the season on the field and a catastrophic week off it, Victory looked to have put their best foot forward when they shot to a 2-0 lead in 22 minutes thanks to penalties from Harry Kewell and Carlos Hernandez.
But the match took a major turn when Melbourne defender Rody Vargas was sent off for a needless tough challenge on 33 minutes. That allowed Gold Coast to get back into the contest through a penalty, taken by Dylan Macallister on the stroke of half time, and a goal from Peter Jungschlager two minutes into the second half.
But just when they looked destined to have given up two points from a 2-0 lead, Hernandez rose to head home 11 minutes from time and give Victory their second win of the season and their first at home.
But while it may prove the win which turned their season around, it's a success which could come at considerable cost with Vargas set to miss at least one match through suspension, while right back Fabio suffered a serious ankle injury.
Gold Coast remain rooted to the bottom of the table after letting an excellent opportunity slip, particularly considering Maceo Rigters had two shots saved which would have put them in front midway through the second half.
It took just 35 seconds for the Victory to win the penalty for the first goal. Thompson got some space down the left and while trying to weave himself into a goalscoring position, was caught up with Paul Beekmans.
Beekmans' actions were adjudged a foul and Kewell stepped up to slot the penalty.
Gold Coast's first chance fell to their latest recruit Jonas Salley, who hit the post from a Mitch Bevan free kick.
Twenty-two minutes in, it was 2-0, with a quick counter attack leaving the Gold Coast defence under pressure again. Marco Rojas shot and Salley's desperate defensive lunge saw him booked and Victory taking another penalty. This time it was Hernandez who took the penalty in a typically lacklustre style.
But just after the half hour mark, the match took another turn when Vargas got his tackle of Golgol Mebrahtu horribly wrong, and was handed a red card. Minutes later, Leigh Broxham's attempted clearance almost resulted in an own goal.
Thompson and Kewell then both botched excellent chances, with Thompson almost lobbing Glenn Moss before Kewell failed to find Rojas for the final pass.
Meanwhile, Gold Coast were getting joy down the right following Vargas' departure and after winning a free kick from a Fabio foul which Salley headed over, Mebrahtu tempted Diogo Ferreira into an ill-advised challenge.
Kris Griffith Jones awarded his third penalty for the match and substitute Macallister, who had come on for Bevan just before the half hour, slotted the spot kick to end a remarkable half.
The visiting side maintained the momentum after the break as Ben Halloran set up the equaliser, breaking clear and wrong-footing Fabio before delivering a flat cross which Jungschlager slotted home.
Fabio's nightmare time concluded when he injured himself before the hour and Victory replaced himself and Kewell with the fresh legs of Isaka Cernak and Tom Pondeljak.
Covic, who had been reasonably quiet until that point, then pulled off two great saves from Rigters and a very busy Mebrahtu.
But Gold Coast seemed to lose their shape momentarily and after Billy Celeski's shot was deflected onto the woodwork by Glen Moss, Hernandez conjured an equaliser.
Again it was Thompson who set it up, breaking clear and chipping the ball for the Costa Rican to complete his brace.
There was still plenty of drama to come as Kristian Rees hit the post and then Thompson spoiled twin chances to make it 4-2, but the scoreline for Melbourne was immaterial so long as it was in their favour.
Melbourne Victory 3 (Kewell 3, Hernandez 22, 79)
Gold Coast United 2 (Macallister 45p, Jungschlager 47)
Crowd: 16,522 at AAMI Park.