Fornaroli stars as 10-man Victory sink Mariners
Melbourne Victory have breathed life into their ailing A-League Men season with a 2-0 win over Central Coast but coach Tony Popovic isn't daring to dream of an unlikely finals berth.
Bruno Fornaroli's wonderful chip in the 16th minute gave Victory the upper hand before Fernando Romero notched his first ALM goal in the 55th in front of a sparse crowd at AAMI Park, though his game was marred by being sent off in the 66th.
Victory, who earned their first clean sheet in 14 games, remain bottom of the table but just six points outside the finals places with five games to play after the international break, plus the completion of their to-be-resumed controversial Christmas Melbourne derby.
"(The players) know the circumstances that we're in, and I thought the application and the mentality was just not of a team that's down the bottom," Popovic said.
"So a credit to every player involved and a credit to the entire staff.
"The players know where I sit and stand on the belief I have in them. That hasn't changed regardless of the result today or the result last week.
"But we haven't won two consecutive games and unless we can achieve that, we really don't have the right to be talking about finals.
"So we have an opportunity now to do it in Wellington in two weeks' time."
Romero's day was soured when he caught Max Balard with a studs-up tackle to the shin in the 63rd minute and after a VAR review, referee Jonathan Barreiro gave the Paraguayan a straight red card.
It was the 42nd red card of the season - an ALM record.
Mariners coach Nick Montgomery agreed with the decision, but Popovic was surprised it didn't remain a yellow card.
"Firstly, a very good goal. Fantastic goal, great movement and that's what the young kid's got. So very happy for him there," Popovic said.
"It's (the red card) a part of football for him, isn't it?
"It's a learning curve in terms of he ran back to cover for the team, he made a great tackle, it's just that the foot followed through. Definitely no intent."
Central Coast, who haven't won in Victoria since 2014, sit fourth, six points outside the top two.
They were awarded a penalty when Da Silva was ruled to have brought down Marco Tulio in the 79th minute but after a VAR review, Barreiro overturned it.
"If there's enough contact to stop you pulling your foot back and being able to pass the ball to someone, then I thought it was a penalty looking at it back," Montgomery said.
"Obviously the referee and the VAR didn't. So look, we move on. That happens,"
Victory defended staunchly from there to see out the game.
"I don't think if we'd have played for two days we'd have scored today," Montgomery said.
"It was just one of them games."