Victory hang on in seven-goal thriller against Wanderers

Bruno Fornaroli became the third player in history to score 100 Isuzu UTE A-League goals, firing home all four goals as Melbourne Victory hung on to a thrilling 4-3 win over Western Sydney Wanderers at CommBank Stadium.

Fornaroli took his tally to 11 goals in just seven matches this season and by the same token, reaching his A-Leagues century as he fired Victory to all three points on Sunday evening.

It continues an incredible start to the campaign that has Fornaroli sitting well clear atop the Golden Boot standings after seven rounds and right in contention for a call-up to the Socceroos squad for next month’s AFC Asian Cup in Qatar.

It’s the second time ‘El Tuna’ has scored four goals in a single game this season, with his fourth goal in the 75th minute making him the third player to reach the feat after Melbourne City’s Jamie Maclaren and former Victory striker Besart Berisha.

However, Western Sydney almost spoiled the party with a late fightback.

Marcus Antonsson scored a brace either side of Fornaroli’s fourth to spark a late fightback, before Valentino Yuel’s first goal in Wanderers colours set up a grandstand finish in stoppage time but Victory were able to hold on to hand Western Sydney their first loss of the Isuzu UTE A-League season.

The win ends a run of four consecutive draws for Victory – who are also still undefeated – leapfrogging the Wanderers into fourth place in the standings.

Victory started strongly and almost had the lead through Zinedine Machach, forcing a great save from Lawrence Thomas to keep the scores level.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – DECEMBER 10: Lawrence Thomas of the Wanderers shows his emotion during the A-League Men round seven match between Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne Victory at CommBank Stadium, on December 10, 2023, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Minutes later, Victory had reward for their effort. Jake Brimmer’s cross to the back post found Machach, whose effort on goal was once again denied by Thomas, but the ball fell straight to Fornaroli to tap home.

The Wanderers – who battled back from two goals down to get a point against Brisbane last weekend – responded brilliantly as both Antonsson and Marcelo came close to an equaliser, with the latter having his header saved by Paul Izzo.

But Victory weathered Western Sydney’s storm and doubled their lead right as the first half was coming to a close.

Fornaroli was played through beautifully by Machach, leaving him in a two-on-one with Nishan Velupillay against Tate Russell. ‘El Tuna’ composed himself, feigned a pass to Velupillay, which created more space for Fornaroli to blast his effort back across Thomas and into the top corner.

And Bruno wasn’t done there.

Shortly after half-time, Jack Clisby handled Connor Chapman’s just inside the penalty area and referee Ben Abraham immediately pointed to the spot. After a check from the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), the decision was upheld.

Fornaroli stepped up and blasted home his third goal of the game, to take his season tally into double digits.

Victory’s three-goal advantage only lasted a matter of minutes after Chapman handled the ball inside the Wanderers penalty area, giving the home side a lifeline.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – DECEMBER 10: Nicolas Milanovic of the Wanderers dribbles the ball during the A-League Men round seven match between Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne Victory at CommBank Stadium, on December 10, 2023, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Antonsson buried the resulting penalty, setting up a frantic ending to the contest as the home side looked to cause a stunning turnaround.

Western Sydney had a pep in their step after the Swede’s goal and were inches away from bringing it back to a single goal, when Dylan Pierias fired his stinging volley against the crossbar.

But Fornaroli would cut short any fightback, nodding home Daniel Arzani’s free-kick to seemingly wrap up the win and reach the tonne.

With time expiring, Antonsson had the ball in the back of the net again, but his tap-in was disallowed after Marcus Younis – who played the pass to the Swede – was offside in the build-up.

However, the Swedish striker wouldn’t be denied a second of the game, nodding home Yuel’s cross in the 88th minute, before the latter helped himself to his first goal in Red and Black diving in to head home Jorrit Hendrix’s free kick in second-half stoppage time.

Western Sydney huffed and puffed, but Victory did just enough to hang on and come away with the win.