Young forward Ben Folami was involved in both of Melbourne Victory’s scores in the Tuesday night Big Blue draw, scoring one and assisting the other.
The 22-year-old winger is finding himself in the middle of a strong patch of form, kicking his second goal of the season after starting his third game straight (including FFA Cup matches).
Folami found himself perfectly positioned on the left side of the box in the 17th minute, taking the first touch of Marco Rojas’ long cross expertly and scoring accordingly.
It was an early highlight for a Victory side that was seeing off every Sydney FC attack with ease, Jason Geria and Leigh Broxham holding firm against Elvis Kamsoba’s strong runs and Anthony Caceres’ weighted passes.
Both coaches were left impressed by Folami’s efforts throughout the night.
“They [Victory] played well, especially in wide areas. Folami was excellent for them, caused us a lot of trouble along that left hand side,” Sydney coach Steve Corica said.
“They’ve got quality all over the pitch.”
Victory coach Tony Popovic echoed the sentiments of his counterpart, praising the way the youngster adding to his side’s scoring opportunities.
“Our goals were really good, Ben Folami was excellent. Great to see Robbie [Kruse] score,” the coach said.
Kruse came on as an impact substitute in the second half, drawing the lead back out for the Victory with a goal line finish off Folami’s expert dribbling.
Folami was the key instigator for a number of Victory’s attacks alongside the left side, forming a dangerous combination with fullback Jay Barnett as he moved more centrally throughout the first half.
The winger finished the night with four shots at an xG of 0.95, nine successful dribbles, and won 14 of his 19 duels.
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Coming out of the match with even just a point clearly meant a lot to Corica and Sydney after a slow and painful start to the season.
After losing midfielder Luke Brattan to an ACL injury and losing two of its first three games, the Sky Blues have only failed to pick up points in one of their past five matches, with two wins and two draws.
This was all kickstarted in the 3-0 win over Macarthur, in a gutsy victory which showcased just how deep this side can pull talent from.
Now this week, missing three first choice team members due to national call-ups in Rhyan Grant, Joel King, and Andrew Redmayne, as well as having Adam Le Fondre unavailable, the ability to fight back was even sweeter.
Both of Sydney’s goals came as equalisers. The first came from a scramble from Milos Ninkovic on the goal line, while the second was a well-executed header from Bobo.
“I thought the first half was really excellent, we created some really good chances,” Corica said.
“I thought [Trent] Buhagiar could have had a hat trick in that first half. I was pleased with that, pleased with the character they showed to come back twice.
“We’ve played five games in 13 days, and that’s not easy. I’m very proud of the performance tonight… we probably could have won it.”
For Popovic and his top of the table Victory, they would walk away feeling as though they had every chance to earn all three points against an undermanned Sydney.
They had four big chances at an xG of 2.72, with 1.75 of that coming in the second half. This included an attempted scissor kick from Nick D’Agostino, and Francesco Margiotta just barely failing to control a cross in from Rojas.
“It’s clear the way that it finished that it leaves a sour taste,” Popovic said.
“First half we were rusty, we looked like a team that hadn’t played in 17 days. It was a little bit difficult in the first half, but the start of the second half was a total turnaround.
“Unfortunately with Rai’s [Marchan] head injury the momentum stopped again… and gave them a chance to regroup.”
Marchan went down in the second half after colliding heads with teammate Jason Geria, the two going up for a header on the same ball.
Victory will now quickly regroup for an FFA Cup semi-final against Wellington on Saturday, while Sydney FC return home to face Central Coast on Sunday.
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