Victory downed Shanghai SIPG 2-1 at AAMI Park last night with goals to Ingham and Besart Berisha either side of Wu Lei’s equaliser.
It was Victory’s win but Ingham’s moment, signed by coach Kevin Muscat in January on a mature-age rookie contract and used sparingly since.
Ingham faced Victorian state league opposition as recently as September but, against the cashed-up Chinese Super League outfit, he took his chance.
Shanghai, coached by one-time England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, fielded a team laden with talent.
All three of their foreign attacking megastars – Elkeson, Dario Conca and Asamoah Gyan – started the match, along with six Asian internationals, and they quickly made an impact.
On 12 minutes, Elkeson missed a long-range shot wide and, shortly after, Yu Hai struck a first-time volley wide.
As the rain came down, an impressive contingent of red-clad Shanghai supporters outsang the usually voracious Victory fans.
But Victory stole the lead after countering with pace from Nick Ansell’s block of Elkeson’s shot.
Oliver Bozanic’s ball found Ingham and split the Shanghai defence, allowing the former state league player to cut in and lash home.
Danny Vukovic and Daniel Georgievski made last-gasp blocks to give Victory a scoreboard advantage at halftime.
Their lead lasted seven minutes after the break.
Shanghai’s Brazilian menace delivered a fine cross to the back post, allowing Chinese national team winger Wu to swoop past Georgievski to score.
Shanghai were level, but were forced to play the final half-hour without $500,000-a-week man Gyan, who was taken off on a stretcher with a groin complaint.
The visitors continued to carve out chances but came unstuck as Kosta Barbarouses rampaged into their penalty area.
The Kiwi was brought down by substitute Lu Wenjun on the edge of the box, with referee Abdulrahman Al-Jassim awarding the spot-kick.
The Qatari official had previously caught Victory’s ire for awarding Ingham a yellow card for a foul made by Berisha.
But there were no complaints when the foul was seen to be inside the box, with Berisha dispatching the penalty strongly.
The Albanian missed a terrific chance to wrap up the match five minutes later, trickling a one-on-one chance wide.
In a madcap finish, both Victory substitute Connor Pain and Conca hit the post, with Shanghai spurning a number of chances.
Shanghai led the shots count 22-11 but would leave Melbourne with no points from their campaign opener.
Muscat paid tribute to his side’s attacking spirit and pointed to fine performances from defenders Nick Ansell and Jason Geria.
“We beat an excellent team tonight – a very, very good team,” he said.
“When you work that hard, you come out on the right side of the ledger more often than not.”
In his 40 years in football, Eriksson said he had never seen an incident such as that which led to a disallowed Shanghai goal with the score at 1-1.
The referee stopped play as Shanghai attacked in the vicinity of a second ball on the pitch, leaving the Swede confused.
“It was a good football match… I don’t think we deserved to lose if you look at the football,” he said.
“Five games to go and we’ll have to take points somewhere else.”
Local News Matters
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